Politics Donald Trump Obstruction Memo Was a Fig Leaf for Bill Barr, Judge Says, Ordering Release
Redacted Justice Department memo on Trump and obstruction raises fresh questions about Barr's handling of Mueller probe
A federal judge's ruling this week ordering the release of a redacted Justice Department memo recommending that former President Donald Trump should not be charged with obstruction of justice could place new scrutiny on then-Attorney General William Barr's handling of the Mueller investigation. © Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images Attorney General William Barr participates in a press conference at the Department of Justice along with DOJ officials on February 10, 2020 in Washington, DC.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson had harsh words Monday for former Attorney General, saying the Justice Department should not have withheld a memo from a watchdog group.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) requested a March 24, 2019 memo prepared for Barr via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), but the request was denied. At the time, the DOJ said the memo was protected from being disclosed as it was legal advice.
Ted Lieu Says 'History Will Not Be Kind' to Bill Barr Following Mueller Report Memo Order
Lieu responded to a federal judge's order to release a memo about the ex-attorney general's decision not to charge Donald Trump over 2016 election interference.Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered the Justice Department to turn over a memo from March 2019 that Barr had cited as the reason for not charging Trump following the investigation by former special counsel Robert Mueller into claims of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
However, Jackson ruled that the memo actually contained "strategic, as opposed to legal advice." In addition, she said the writers of the memo already knew that Presidentwould not be prosecuted.
"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," she said.
Jackson also criticized Barr's summary of the report by special counsel, pointing out that in March 2020, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said Barr seemingly made a "calculated attempt" to make the report appear favorable to Trump.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
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.
A federal judge has ordered the release of a legal memorandum the Trump-era Justice Department prepared for then-Attorney General Barr before he announced his conclusion that 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.
But Jackson, in a sharp rebuke of Barr, 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 understood that Trump would not be prosecuted. Though government agencies may withhold from disclosure documents that reflect internal deliberations before a decision is made, that protection does not apply in this case since a conclusion had already been reached, the judge wrote.
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.
"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.
The decision by Barr and senior Justice Department leaders to clear Trump of obstruction, even though Mueller and his team pointedly did not reach that conclusion, was a significant moment for the president that he touted as vindication.
Barr issued a summary of Mueller's report a full month before the entire 448-page document was released, helping shape the public perception of the investigation's conclusions in a way that was favorable to Trump. Mueller subsequently complained to Barr that his summary had not fully captured the investigation's findings and had caused "public confusion."
In her order this week, Jackson chastised Barr for his general handling of the Mueller report, saying his "characterization of what he'd hardly had time to skim, much less, study closely, prompted an immediate reaction, as politicians and pundits took to their microphones andfeeds to decry what they feared was an attempt to hide the ball."
Judge orders Justice Dept. to release Trump obstruction memo
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. But U.S.
She also noted that another judge had rebuked Barr last year for what he said were misleading public statements that spun Mueller's findings in the president's favor.
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, which provides legal opinions to executive branch agencies.
At issue in a lawsuit pending before the judge were two particular documents the group wanted.
Jackson ruled that one of the documents, described by a Justice Department official as an "untitled, undated draft legal analysis" that was submitted to the attorney general as part of his decision-making, was properly withheld from the group.
But she ordered the release of the other memo, 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 legal memo prepared for Barr, and the letter from Barr tothat describes the special counsel's report, were "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.
Justice Department ordered to release memo on why Trump wasn’t charged in Mueller probe
Former Attorney General William Barr leaned heavily on the memo in declining to charge Trump with a crime, but Barr never released the document publicly.A federal judge has ordered the Justice Department to release a confidential memo that former Attorney General William Barr cited as justification for not charging ex-President Donald Trump with obstructing Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia.
The judge said the Justice Department has until May 17 to file any motion to stay the order.
NHL's COVID protocol-related absences for May 7, 2021 .
Players in the COVID protocol are: Colorado's Devan Dubnyk and Washington's Evgeny Kuznetsov.Anaheim – TBA