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A federal judge in Washington, D.C., wants the Department of Justice to make up its mind about whether or not it plans to indict former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, warning that he'll start releasing documents about the motives behind McCabe's firing if the agency doesn't decide his fate by next month.
"So the government will have to make a call. If it doesn't, I'm going to start ordering the release of information" after the next court hearing on the case on Nov. 15, Judge Reggie Walton warned the Justice Department's lawyers, according to a transcript of Monday's hearing. “I think our society, our public does have a right to know what's going on.”
The hearing was part of an ongoing lawsuit brought by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington against the Justice Department over records related to McCabe's firing. He was terminated in March of last year by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, two days before he was scheduled to retire, on the grounds he'd made an unauthorized disclosure to the media and then lied about it.
The CREW suit aims to find out whether the firing was politically motivated, since President Donald Trump had been calling for McCabe's ouster.
Lawyers for the Justice Department have contended that those documents should not be made public because McCabe still might be charged criminally.
McCabe's attorneys urged the Justice Department not to indict their client last month following reports that prosecutors had presented the case to a grand jury that declined to indict him.
Anne Weismann, a lawyer for CREW, told Walton that McCabe has had "the sword of Damocles over his head," and the public should know what's been happening behind the scenes.
"We're in dark times where there's growing evidence that the president aided by the attorney general is using the power of his office to go after perceived political enemies. He's going after the intelligence community. He's going after the law enforcement community. And we believe that Mr. McCabe was swept up in that," Weismann said.
"Going after the courts too," added the judge, a former federal prosecutor who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush.
"I would send this message to those in positions of authority in the U.S. attorney's office and the Justice Department that on the next occasion if the government has not made a call, I'm going to make a ruling ... I do think it's been a long time and this is just dragging too long. And those who have to make these hard decision need to do it. And if they don't, I'm going to start ordering the release of information," Walton said.
"So you all have got to cut and make your decision. It's not a hard decision, and I think it needs to be made.”