Project Veritas is urging a federal court to make the U.S. government pay for all the costs associated with a review of materials government agents seized from the journalism group’s founder and two former employees.
Special master Barbara Jones, a retired lawyer appointed last month as a special master in the case, proposed Project Veritas and the government split the costs.
But government lawyers pushed U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres, an Obama nominee overseeing the case, to force Project Veritas to pay everything. They cited how the government opposed the appointment of a special master.
“In light of the circumstances presented, the Petitioners should bear the full cost of the Special Master’s compensation and expenses, principally because they are ‘responsible … for the reference to a master,’” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams, a Biden nominee, told Torres in a recent letter.
Project Veritas lawyers criticized the move in a letter sent to Torres on Jan. 17.
“Not satisfied with defiling the First Amendment and attacking a news organization, its journalists, and a free press through its diary investigation, and unhappy with this Court’s recognition of the important First Amendment issues implicated by the government’s actions, the government now objects to the Special Master’s recommendation that the government bear half of the cost of her fees and expenses. Instead, the government seeks to tax Project Veritas for the procedural safeguards necessitated by its attack. The government’s position is its latest attempt to punish and restrain a news organization critical of the current administration,” they wrote.
The case stems from an investigation into the diary of Ashley Biden, the daughter of President Joe Biden.
Project Veritas says it received materials that purportedly were penned by the younger Biden last year but ended up not publishing them because the group could not verify the veracity of the materials.
The group says it handed over the documents to local law enforcement in Florida.
FBI officials claim the diary was stolen and raided the homes of Project Veritas founder and CEO James O’Keefe and two men who used to work for the group.
The Department of Justice had claimed that it would use a “filter team” to sift through the materials and separate out any subject to attorney-client privilege or other rules but Torres sided with Project Veritas and agreed to appoint a special master to do the sifting, finding the appointment would “ensure ‘the perception of fairness.’”
Project Veritas lawyers pointed out that the government cited no case authority in its attempt to make the group pay for the special master costs and said the appointment was only necessary “because the government improperly executed search warrants on journalists in violation of the law and Department of Justice (“DOJ”) regulations that safeguard First Amendment principles.”
“The government argues that an upstart journalism organization with a current annual budget that recently hovers around $22 million is better suited to fund Special Master proceedings than a goliath arm of the U.S. government featuring a long-standing bloated budget, currently at $31.1 billion,” they added later.
Torres is expected to rule on the matter in the coming weeks.