by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is slow-walking its response to a federal court order mandating that the agency forfeit records pertaining to President Joe Biden’s March 2021 executive order that directed federal agencies to develop plans for federal interference in state election administration.
On Thursday evening, the agency filed a motion for summary judgement with the Fort Myers Division of the U.S. Middle District Court of Florida in an attempt to conceal communication records related to Executive Order 14019, which required all federal departments to “consider ways to expand citizens’ opportunities to register to vote and to obtain information about, and participate in, the electoral process.” In law, “summary judgment” is a decision issued by a court based on statements and evidence for one party against another without going to a full trial.
The move to shield the records in question from the public comes after a federal judge mandated in July that the agency must turn over documents related to Biden’s order to the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA), which sued the DOJ back in April after its officials failed to respond to FGA’s July 2021 open records requests. While the DOJ ultimately turned over a few of the records to FGA last month, the documents were heavily redacted and did not include the DOJ’s 15-page “strategic plan” on how the agency intends to comply with Biden’s executive order.
In their Thursday legal filing arguing for a summary judgment, the DOJ claimed that its Civil Rights Division (CRT) “has submitted a reasonably specific declaration” describing the search that CRT “conducted for records responsive to FGA’s [Freedom of Information Act] request” and that documents withheld or redacted by the DOJ are protected under the “presidential communications privilege.”