The FBI must produce the documents by April 23, U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant ordered.
The order came in a case brought in federal court by Brian Huddleston. The Texas resident filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in April 2020 asking the FBI to produce all data, documents, records, or communications that reference Seth Rich or his brother, Aaron Rich.
Seth Rich was working for the Democratic National Committee when he was gunned down in Washington in 2016 in a murder that’s never been solved. Interest in Rich centers around the theory that he was the source of internal DNC communications later published by WikiLeaks. Rich’s family has denied that theory, and the FBI has said the communications were hacked by Russians, based on analysis by the firm Crowdstrike.
The FBI said it would take up to 10 months to produce the documents requested by Huddleston, triggering the lawsuit.
The FBI asked the court to delay the deadline for producing documents related to the Rich brothers for at least three months, saying the bureau requires time to complete the FOIA requests. The bureau was previously ordered to produce the documents by Dec. 28, 2020.
The FBI said it found approximately 50 cross-reference serials, with attachments totaling over 20,000 pages, in which Seth Rich is mentioned. It has also “located leads that indicate additional potential records that require further searching.” Agents are working on getting files from Rich’s personal laptop into a format to be reviewed.
“In summary, FBI has made significant progress in the search, but there is still much work that lies ahead, including (1) processing the approximately 50 crossreferences (with thousands of pages to ingest and sort through), (2) undertaking some level of review of the personal laptop, and (3) completing all remaining searches. Unfortunately, these efforts are hampered by FBI FOIA office’s reduction to a 50% staffing posture due to Covid,” it said in a motion for a delay.
The plaintiff opposed the requested extension, arguing that the FBI “has acted in the utmost bad faith over a period of three years, going so far as [to] perpetrate frauds on two federal courts.” The plaintiff was referencing how FBI officials had said the bureau did not have files on Rich in earlier court cases before saying it does in the current case.
Mazzant, an Obama nominee, ruled Feb. 1 that the FBI could have until April 23 to produce the documents, but objected to the bureau’s request for additional time beyond that.
“The vague and dragged-out timeline Defendants suggest cannot be sustained without a greater showing of exceptional circumstances because ‘stale information’ produced pursuant to FOIA requests ‘is of little value,'” he wrote, citing previous cases. “Granting the relief Defendants seek would thwart FOIA’s ‘basic purpose’ of ‘open[ing] agency action to the light of public scrutiny.'”
Ty Clevenger, the attorney representing Huddleston, told The Epoch Times via email: “The judge gave the FBI less than three months to produce everything related to Seth Rich. That smells like a win!”