Legal News

DOJ Must Turn Over Secret Trump-Era Memo This Judge Finds’Calls Into Question’ Bill Barr’s Statement to Congress About Obstruction, Mueller Report

US Attorney General William Barr testifies during a US House Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the Department of Justice Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 10, 2019.

The Department of Justice should generate a memo cited by then-attorney general Bill Barr as his justification for not billing then-president Donald Trump together with obstruction of justice following the release of their Mueller report, a federal judge ruled on Monday.
After special counsel Robert Mueller published his findings at March 2019, Barr supposed to”summarize the main conclusions” from a letter to congressional leaders that condensed the almost 400-page report to more than three pages, that did not include a single finished sentence by the report.
“[Barr’s] characterization of everything he had barely had enough time to skim, less, study carefully, prompted an immediate reaction, since politicians and pundits took to their own microphones and Twitter packs to decry that which they feared was an attempt to conceal the ball,” U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson wrote in a scathing 41-page order.

After that first refusal, CREW sued, alleging wrongful withholding of different documents not subject to FOIA exemptions. After years of legal wrangling, the team”admitted the bulk of” the DOJ’s efforts to withhold a variety of pieces of data , the court notes, except for Document 6 and Document 15. The court ruled that DOJ was correct to withhold Document 6 under a relevant FOIA exception-but that the agency has to provide CREW together with Document 15.

As indicated from the portions of this memorandum which were published, it was submitted to the Attorney General to assist him in determining whether the facts set forth in Volume II of Special Counsel Mueller’s report”would encourage initiating or decreasing the prosecution of the President for obstruction of justice under the Principles of Federal Prosecution.” The published portions also indicate that the memorandum includes the authors’ recommendation in favor of a judgment that”the evidence created by the Special Counsel’s analysis isn’t enough to demonstrate that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.” The withheld portions of this memorandum contain legal advice and prosecutorial deliberations in service of this recommendation. Following receipt of this memorandum, the Attorney General declared his decision openly in a letter to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees…
DOJ argued that Document 15 is”predecisional” and consequently subject to a particular exemption by the national law.
Judge Jackson, however, disagreed”because the materials from the document, including the memorandum itself, reexamine the [DOJ’s] assertions that the decision-making procedure they’ve identified was in fact underway” and also”the document provides motive to question if the communicating preceded any decision that has been made.”
CREW contended, on the other hand, that Mueller”already had left closing prosecutorial decisions, and also the timing [Barr] to challenge those judgments had passed.”
“The absence of a pending conclusion for [Barr] to create necessarily means the memo did not make an apology or express an opinion about a valid policy or legal issue,” one of CREW’s court filings stated. “Rather, it was part of a larger campaign initiated by Attorney General Barr to undermine the Special Counsel’s report also rehabilitate the President.”
The court usually agreed with CREW regarding Document 15.
Jackson, without even describing the contents of the document itself, explains that one of the segments of this memo”offers tactical, rather than legal information, about if [Barr] must have a specific course of action, and it made recommendations with regard to that determination.”
That very first part, the court is vital for comprehending the”appropriate context” of this next segment, where the Justice Department discusses whether Mueller’s proof”would amount to obstruction of justice.”
“Moreover, the redacted parts of Section I show that both the writers and the recipient of this memorandum had a shared understanding concerning whether [Trump] was a issue to be considered in any way,” Jackson continues. “In other words, the inspection of this document shows that the Attorney General wasn’t then engaged in building a determination about whether the President should be charged with obstruction of justice; the simple fact that he would not be prosecuted was confirmed.”
The judge noted that the Justice Department’s prior description of this memo”served to obscure the real aim of the memorandum.”
Jackson discovered that her secret”in camera inspection of this document, which DOJ strongly resisted, raises serious questions about how the Department of Justice will make this set of representations into a courtroom.”
Jackson went on to note that”while CREW had never laid eyes to the document, its outline was much more accurate than the sole” awarded by the Justice Department into the courtroom.
“What remains at issue now is a memorandum to the Attorney General dated March 24, 2019, which especially addresses the issue matter of this correspondence sent to Congress,” the order notes. “It’s time for people to see that, too.”
The Justice Department has two months to react to the court order.
[Picture via Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images]
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