Prosecutors in special counsel Robert Mueller’s office have asked a judge for more time to respond to a request for records related to their investigation of former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, saying they’re too busy with “other work” right now.
“The government respectfully requests an extension of time — through and including April 1, 2019 — to respond to the motion,” Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben, a member of Mueller’s team, wrote in the filing. “The counsel responsible for preparing the response face the press of other work and require additional time to consult within the government.”
The filing relates to a March 7 request filed by The Washington Post asking that U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson unseal a bevy of records related to Manafort’s trial. Many have been sealed or heavily redacted, but the Post argued the documents were of a “profound public interest.”
“The investigation, which concerns the integrity of this country’s elections, goes to the core of the interests protected by the First Amendment,” the newspaper said in its motion.
A response was due on March 21.
It’s unclear what “work” the special counsel might be chipping away at, and Mueller has been notoriously tight-lipped about the investigation until the moment a subpoena or indictment drops. But his office has reportedly been nearing the conclusion of its investigation, begun in May 2017, into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Manafort was sentenced to a total of more than seven years in prison in two criminal trials that saw the longtime lobbyist convicted of mortgage fraud and conspiracy, among other charges. He faced far more time in prison for his crimes, but one of the judges said that federal sentencing guidelines of 19 to 24 years would be “excessive.”
Mueller’s report has ensnared several major players in the Trump orbit, including the president’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen and longtime Republican strategist Roger Stone.
The U.S. House voted unanimously last week to make the findings of Mueller’s report public, although the resolution was largely symbolic. Attorney General William Barr is the ultimate decision-maker on such matters, and he has publicly suggested that he thinks the full document should be kept confidential.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) blocked the House resolution when it reached the Senate last week.