DOJ hits back at lawsuit seeking Mueller report

Department is already working on it, officials say

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A federal judge has denied a Justice Department request, because of the shutdown, to pause all deadlines in a DC federal court case challenging the administration's asylum restrictions.

The Justice Department on Friday hit back at the first lawsuit seeking the full release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying, in essence, that they're already working on it.

The Department of Justice said in its response to a transparency group's Freedom of Information Act complaint that the court shouldn't "circumvent this orderly process" of Attorney General William Barr's plan to release a redacted version of the report in the coming weeks.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, which brought the suit hours after Mueller announced he had completed his investigation, "inexplicably ignores the Attorney General's statements that the Department and the Special Counsel 'are well along in the process' of preparing the Mueller Report for release, and that he anticipates that the report will be released 'by mid-April, if not sooner,' " the Justice Department wrote to a federal judge on Friday.

"There is simply no reason for this Court to allow Plaintiff to circumvent this orderly process."

The Justice Department accuses the center of filing the lawsuit as "an attempt to leap-frog ahead of other FOIA requesters."

A hearing is set for Tuesday regarding the FOIA request.

Justice Department lawyers even note that the timing of Barr's planned release of a redacted version of the report is well before politically charged dates, such as Barr's possible testimony to Congress in May, and the 2020 primaries and general election.

The Justice Department says that, as of the end of March, it's working on 415 records requests related to Mueller's office, with almost half of those received the last week of the month.

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