Mueller hopes to deny media attempts to unseal documents in Russia probe

Posted at 8:58 PM, May 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-24 21:58:11-04

The Special Counsel's Office is hoping to deny an attempt by several media organizations, including CNN, to unseal documents in the Russia probe, by arguing that the documents need to remain private because of the breadth of still-secret parts of the ongoing investigation.

"The Special Counsel's investigation is not a closed matter, but an ongoing criminal investigation with multiple lines of non-public inquiry. No right of public access exists to search warrant materials in an ongoing investigation," Robert Mueller's team wrote in a filing Wednesday night.

The prosecutors wrote in the firmest language yet about how their yearlong investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election continues and includes several interconnected parts, some of which may link back to searches of the belongings of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort that were also used to build cases against him unrelated to his work for the campaign.

Manafort faces criminal indictments in Virginia and DC federal courts related to his foreign lobbying business from before the campaign. He's pleaded not guilty in both.

Prosecutors have previously revealed that the Justice Department directed Mueller to look into allegations that Manafort coordinated with Russians during the campaign, yet they have not previously hinted that others besides Manafort could be central to the Russia probe. Wednesday's court filing acknowledges multiple relationships that are part of investigative threads.

"The investigation consists of multiple lines of inquiry within the overall scope of the Special Counsel's authority. Many aspects of the investigation are factually and legally interconnected: they involve overlapping courses of conduct, relationships, and events, and they rely on similar sources, methods, and techniques. The investigation is not complete and its details remain non-public," prosecutors wrote.

If they were to be unsealed, "warrant materials reveal investigative sources and methods, preliminary factual and legal theories, and evidence that has already been gathered -- including from grand jury processes. They show what has been searched -- including electronic facilities where the search itself is protected by a non-disclosure order -- and indicate what has not been searched. And the dates and volume of warrants reveal an investigation's direction."

The Special Counsel's Office said it wouldn't oppose formally unsealing two search warrants that were made public through recent court filings in Manafort's case, though parts of them remain heavily redacted.

CNN, along with The Associated Press, Politico, The Washington Post and The New York Times, initially asked the court to unseal all the search warrants used in the investigations and other sealed documents related to Manafort's two federal criminal cases.