Power Wars Blog by Charlie Savage

Obama fights giving copy of torture report to courts for safekeeping

It looks like the  Obama administration is going to leave office without giving a copy of the torture report to the judiciary for safekeeping.

In late December, Judge Royce Lamberth of the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia ordered the Obama administration to deposit a copy of the full, still-classified, 6,000-word Senate Select Committee on Intelligence torture report with the judiciary to be preserved by the court’s information security officer. (I was out of the country at the time, but here’s Josh Gerstein’s write-up.) That was significant because there is a chance that the Trump administration and the now Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee will destroy the report. Obama has entered it in his presidential records, and the National Archives are an independent agency, meaning it would be harder for Trump to fire an Archivist who refused to carry out such an order than it would be for an ordinary agency. But you never know ….

Anyway, today the Obama Justice Department decided to fight Judge Lamberth’s order rather than comply with it. It filed a motion asking to Judge Lamberth to reconsider his order, arguing that it raised constitutional  concerns (interfering with communications between Congress and the executive branch) and was unnecessary anyway given the presidential records thing. And it said that if he didn’t reconsider, the executive branch will appeal. With a week to go in the Obama era, that means even if Judge Lamberth doesn’t budge, the clock will run out before the legal process is exhausted.