The Department of Justice should generate a memo cited by then-attorney general Bill Barr as his justification to not charging then-president Donald Trump together with obstruction of justice following the launch of their Mueller report, a federal judge ruled Monday.
After specific counsel Robert Mueller released his findings at March 2019, Barr supposed to”outline the principal conclusions” in a letter to congressional leaders who condensed the nearly 400-page report into just over three pages, which did not incorporate a single completed sentence by the report.
“[Barr’s] characterization of what he had hardly had time to skim, much less, study closely, prompted an immediate reaction, as politicians and pundits took to their own microphones and Twitter feeds to decry what they feared had been an attempt to hide the ball,” U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson wrote in a scathing 41-page order.
The nonprofit government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)”promptly dismissed” a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for any records associated with Barr’s considerations but the DOJ”demurred on the grounds of the deliberative process and attorney-client privileges,” the court noted.
After that initial denial, CREW sued, alleging wrongful withholding of various records not subject to FOIA exemptions. After decades of legal wrangling, the group”accepted the bulk of” the DOJ’s attempts to withhold a variety of pieces of data , the court notes, except for Document 6 and Document 15. The court ruled the DOJ was correct to withhold Document 6 under a relevant FOIA exception-but the bureau must provide CREW together with Document 15.
As indicated in the parts of the memorandum that were released, it had been submitted to the Attorney General to assist him in ascertaining whether the facts put forth in Volume II of Special Counsel Mueller’s report”would support initiating or declining the prosecution of this President for obstruction of justice under the Principles of Federal Prosecution.” The released portions also indicate that the memorandum comprises the authors’ recommendation in favor of a judgment that”the proof produced by the Special Counsel’s investigation is not enough to demonstrate the President committed an obstruction-of-justice crime” The parts of the memorandum include legal counsel and prosecutorial deliberations in support of this recommendation. Following receipt of the memorandum, the Attorney General announced his decision publicly in a letter to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees…
DOJ contended that Document 15 is”predecisional” and consequently subject to a certain exemption by the national transparency law.
Judge Jackson, however, disagreed”because the materials in the document, including the memorandum itself, reevaluate the [DOJ’s] assertions the decision-making procedure they have identified was in fact underway” and”the document provides motive to question if the communicating lacked any conclusion that was made.”
CREW argued, on the other hand, that Mueller”had made closing prosecutorial judgments, and the time [Barr] to battle those conclusions had passed”
“The absence of a pending decision for [Barr] to create necessarily means the memo did not make a recommendation or state an opinion to a legitimate legal or policy issue,” one of CREW’s court filings stated. “Rather, it had been a part of a larger effort initiated by Attorney General Barr to undermine the Special Counsel’s report and rehabilitate the President.”
The court generally agreed with CREW about Document 15.
Jackson, with no describing the contents of the record itself, explains that one of those sections of the memo”offers strategic, instead of legal information, about if [Barr] must require a specific course of actions, and it made recommendations with regard to that decision.”
That very first part, the court noted, is critical for understanding the”appropriate context” of the next segment, in which the Justice Department discusses whether Mueller’s proof”would amount to obstruction of justice”
“Moreover, the redacted portions of Section I reveal that both the writers and the recipient of the memorandum had a mutual understanding regarding whether prosecuting [Trump] was a issue to be considered at all,” Jackson continues. “Quite simply, the review of the record reveals the Attorney General wasn’t then engaged in making a determination about whether the President ought to be charged with obstruction of justicethe simple fact he would not be prosecuted was confirmed.”
The judge noted that the Justice Department’s earlier description of the memo”served to obscure the real intention of the memorandum.”
Jackson discovered that her secret”in camera review of the record, which DOJ strongly resisted, raises serious questions about the way the Department of Justice can create this series of representations into a court.”
Jackson went on to note the”while CREW had never laid eyes to the record, its outline was considerably more accurate than the one” awarded from the Justice Department into the court.
“What remains at issue today is a memorandum to the Attorney General dated March 24, 2019, that addresses the subject matter of the letter transmitted to Congress,” the sequence notes. “It is time for the public to see that, too.”
The Justice Department has two weeks to react to the court’s order.
[Picture via Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images]
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