Government lawyers want a federal judge to block the release of memos written by former FBI Director James Comey about his conversations with President Trump, claiming that disclosing the documents would be “detrimental” to an investigation into Russian interference in the presidential campaign as well as an ongoing obstruction of justice probe.
The attorneys made the argument in a court filing submitted late Friday in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed for the Comey memos by several news organizations, including The Daily Caller News Foundation, CNN, and USA Today.
The lawsuit sought the release of all of the memos that Comey wrote following his encounters with President Trump. Comey, who was fired by Trump on May 9, has testified that he wrote the memos following in-person meetings and phone conversations with Trump.
Just after his ouster, Comey gave a memo he wrote on Feb. 14 — just after the firing of national security adviser Michael Flynn — to a friend with instructions to leak it to The New York Times. Comey says he wrote in that memo that Trump asked him to shut down an investigation into Flynn.
Comey testified in June that he gave the document to his friend, a Columbia Law School professor, because he wanted to force the appointment of a special investigator to continue the probe into Russian interference in the campaign. On May 17, Comey’s predecessor, Robert Mueller, was appointed special counsel.
Mueller is reportedly investigating the circumstances surrounding both the Comey and Flynn firings.
The government’s attorneys argued in Friday’s court filing that releasing the Comey documents could “reveal the scope and focus of the investigation and thereby harm the investigation” and potential prosecutions.
The lawyers suggested in their filing that an FBI employee could testify before U.S. District Judge James Boasberg about why Comey’s memos are so sensitive.
“Publicly explaining in any greater detail why the release of the Comey Memos would be detrimental to the pending investigation would itself disclose law enforcement sensitive information that could interfere with the pending investigation,” the government lawyers wrote.