A federal judge on Thursday questioned whether the U.S. Justice Department had “manipulated” him into stalling the release of records related to Andrew McCabe, the former deputy FBI director who has faced a criminal investigation since last year centered on whether he lied to federal agents.

At a hearing in Washington’s federal trial court, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton grew animated as he grilled Justice Department lawyers about their recent shift in a lawsuit brought by the watchdog group Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington. The group is seeking records related to an internal FBI inquiry into McCabe’s dealings with the news media.