Judge denies feds' motion to dismiss Just the News suit for Russia collusion records

Solomon sued the DOJ and NARA in March of last year, alleging that the agencies had wrongly withheld materials related to alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. Former President Donald Trump declassified and ordered the material to be released.

Published: April 7, 2024 11:25pm

A federal judge has denied a motion by the Department of Justice and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to dismiss a suit filed by Just the News editor-in-chief John Solomon seeking to obtain records related to the FBI's investigation of alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.

"Upon consideration of [10] Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, it is hereby ORDERED that the motion is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE as duplicative of the issues and arguments raised in the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment," wrote U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon on March 29. "The Court will address all such issues and arguments together, including the Government's jurisdictional grounds for dismissal, in a future order resolving the summary judgment motions."

"To the extent the Government believes there are additional arguments raised in its motion to dismiss that are not addressed in the summary judgment briefing or the Court's future order, it will have the opportunity to renew those arguments after the Court's decision on the parties' motions for summary judgment. SO ORDERED," he continued.

Gene Hamilton, executive director of the America First Legal public interest law firm that represented Solomon, hailed the decision  

“The Court knows the law gives our client an explicit right to access presidential records. The Archives wrongly believes that because the DOJ received records from the President--that no expert would disagree were presidential records--those records were transformed into DOJ records. That is not how the law works,” he said.

Just the News has sought comment from the Department of Justice.

Solomon sued the DOJ and NARA in March of last year, alleging that the agencies had wrongly withheld materials related to the FBI's probe of alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign that former President Donald Trump declassified and ordered be released.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia with assistance from America First Legal. If further named Attorney General Merrick Garland and acting Archivist Debra Steidal Wall as defendants in their official capacities.

"This is a case about two government agencies apparently colluding to evade the Presidential Records Act," the suit stated, highlighting that "[t]he Act mandates that a former President’s records 'shall' be made available to him or to his designated representative."

"[Solomon] is President Trump’s designated representative in his capacity as a journalist. He has duly requested Presidential records. Therefore, under 44 U.S.C. § 2205(3), the records must be released," the suit contended.

At issue is a trove of documents related to the FBI's probe that Trump declassified in January of 2021. Despite Trump's order to release them, only a fraction of the documents ever became public. Among the documents were records of the FBI's dealings with Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous Steele Dossier that featured prominently in the Trump-Russia collusion hoax. The materials also include text messages between FBI personnel and copies of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant.

Trump designated Solomon and former advisor Kash Patel as his representatives to NARA in June of 2022, authorizing them to access the records. NARA ultimately provided Solomon with a memo indicating that White House chief of staff Mark meadows had sent the documents to the FBI for a privacy review to redact personally identifiable information with instructions to release the materials upon completion.

"I am returning the bulk of the binder of declassified documents to the Department of Justice (including all that appear to have a potential to raise privacy concerns) with the instruction that the Department must expeditiously conduct a Privacy Act review under the standards that the Department of Justice would normally apply, redact material appropriately, and release the remaining material with redactions applied," the memo read.

They were never released.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter.

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