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Justice Department Can Withhold National Monument Documents

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. government doesn't have to turn over documents to an environmental law firm involving legal arguments behind President Donald Trump's decision to shrink national monuments.

U.S. District Court Judge David Nye on Monday ruled the records are protected presidential communications, making them exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests.

The conservation group Advocates for the West sought 12 documents from the U.S. Department of Justice. The group said Tuesday it hasn't decided whether to appeal.

Trump in December ordered drastic reductions to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, both in Utah.

The law firm says documents written during the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations may justify why they made those monuments as large as they did and undercut Trump's decision.