Justice Department lawyers made a rare apology to a federal judge Wednesday for an “inadvertent oversight” that occurred in a freedom of information lawsuit involving President Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel.
That “oversight” came after the government attempted to withhold the names and email addresses of various Trump transition team members in an ongoing Freedom of Information Act battle against ethics watchdog group American Oversight. Several of those names were already publicly listed on Trump’s website, greatagain.gov.
American Oversight first filed suit against the U.S. General Services Administration last June as part of an effort to gain access to communications between the agency and members of Trump’s transition team.
The GSA faced ethics questions last year after it decided to OK a 2013 lease with the Trump Organization to convert the federally-owned Old Post Office into the Trump International Hotel, despite Trump’s election as president.
U.S. Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the District of Columbia issued an order directing the U.S. Department of Justice to explain the “apparent discrepancy.”
“Defendant, through counsel, attempted to make clear that GSA was arguing that Exemption 6 applied because these persons were not government employees and not because they were nonpublic, conceding the public availability of their identities,” according to the notice, submitted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia on Wednesday.
The agency’s earlier assertion “was a result of inadvertent oversight. Defendant regrets this error and its failure to submit a corrected response,” the filing added.
The government filed a corrected response, and “again apologizes to the court for any confusion its filings, and its first attempt to clarify its filings, caused,” it said.
The Justice Department’s apology to the court is posted in full below: