Politics Judge orders Justice Dept. to release Trump obstruction memo
Oklahoma court overturns two death sentences, citing McGirt
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Thursday overturned the death sentences of two more convicted killers, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Oklahoma lacks jurisdiction for crimes on tribal reservations in which the defendants or victims are tribal citizens. The court reversed the convictions of Benjamin Robert Cole Sr., 56, and 59-year-old James Chandler Ryder. Cole had been sentenced to death for killing his 9-month-old daughter in Rogers County in 2002. Ryder had been sentenced to death for the 1999 killing of Daisy Hallum, 70, and to life without parole for killing her son, Sam Hallum, 38, in Pittsburg County.
WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge has ordered the release of a legal memorandum the Trump-era Justice Department prepared for then-Attorney General William Barr before he announced his conclusion that President Donald Trump had not obstructed justice during the Russia investigation.
The Justice Department had refused to give the March 24, 2019, memorandum to a government transparency group that requested it under the Freedom of Information Act, saying the document represented the private advice of lawyers and was produced before any formal decision had been made and was therefore exempt from disclosure under public records law.
A federal judge ordered the DOJ to release a memo that Bill Barr used to clear Trump of obstruction of justice
"It is time for the public to see" the memo, Judge Amy Berman Jackson wrote in a searing opinion issued Tuesday.Barr said at the time that he'd come to his decision "in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel and other Department lawyers" but did not publicize the OLC's memo.
But U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the Justice Department had obscured “the true purpose of the memorandum” when it withheld the document. She said the memo from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel contained “strategic, as opposed to legal advice” and that both the writers and the recipients already had a shared understanding as to what the prosecutorial decision would be. She said this meant it was not — as the department had maintained — “predecisional,"
“In other words, the review of the document reveals that the Attorney General was not then engaged in making a decision about whether the President should be charged with obstruction of justice; the fact that he would not be prosecuted was a given,” Jackson said in an order dated Monday.
Barr memo saying not to charge Trump must be released, judge says
A federal judge this week rejected the Justice Department's attempts to keep secret a departmental opinion to not charge former President Donald Trump with obstruction at the end of the Mueller investigation, calling the administration's lawyers "disingenuous."A federal judge this week rejected the Justice Department's attempts to keep secret a departmental opinion to not charge former President Donald Trump with obstruction at the end of the Mueller investigation, calling the administration's lawyers "disingenuous.
The decision by Barr and senior Justice Department leaders to clear Trump of obstruction, even though special counsel Robert Mueller and his team pointedly did not reach that conclusion, was a significant moment for the president. The announcement, and a four-page summary of Mueller's report, preceded the release of the 448-page document and helped shape public perception of the investigation's conclusions. Mueller subsequently complained to Barr that his summary had not fully captured the investigation's findings and had caused “public confusion.”
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a public records request seeking communications about the obstruction decision after Barr said that he and other senior officials had reached that conclusion in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel. The group sued for access to two specific documents.
Donald Trump Obstruction Memo Was a Fig Leaf for Bill Barr, Judge Says, Ordering Release
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson had harsh words Monday for former Attorney General William Barr, saying the Justice Department should not have withheld a memo from a watchdog group. © Michael Reynolds/Getty Judge Amy Berman Jackson said former Attorney General William Barr, shown here at a news conference about the 1988 Lockerbie Bombing held December 21, 2020, was not correct to withhold a memo from a Freedom of Information Act request by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Jackson ruled that one of the documents, described by a Justice Department official as an “untitled, undated draft legal analysis," was properly withheld from the group.
But she ordered the release of the other memo, which was prepared for Barr by the then-head of the Office of Legal Counsel and another senior Justice Department official and which concludes that the evidence assembled by Mueller's team would not support an obstruction prosecution of Trump.
In her order, Jackson noted that the memo prepared for Barr and a letter to Congress that describes the special counsel's report are "being written by the very same people at the very same time.
“The emails show not only that the authors and the recipients of the memorandum are working hand in hand to craft the advice that is supposedly being delivered by OLC, but that the letter to Congress is the priority, and it is getting completed first,” the judge wrote.
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Judge's decision on Barr memo puts spotlight on secretive DOJ office .
A small but powerful section of the Justice Department is under renewed scrutiny after a federal judge tore into former Attorney General William Barr and ordered the DOJ to release a memo that let President Trump claim he was exonerated by the Mueller probe.Critics of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), which provides legal advice to the White House and cabinet agencies, have long argued it acts as a rubber stamp for the president and essentially drafts laws behind closed doors. The judge's accusation this week that the OLC was tasked with clearing Trump's name is only likely to increase calls for reform and greater transparency.