A federal judge in Washington aired broad concerns Thursday about diminishing confidence in government institutions as he grappled with secrecy surrounding the firing and criminal investigation of Andrew McCabe, a former FBI leader who was terminated in 2018 following an internal inquiry into his contacts with the news media.

During an hourlong hearing, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton weighed releasing transcripts of three closed-door discussions he had with Justice Department lawyers last year in a Freedom of Information Act case seeking records related to McCabe’s termination. In those private discussions, held between July and September, Justice Department lawyers argued that records concerning McCabe’s firing should be withheld because they related to an ongoing law enforcement proceeding.