A federal judge is ordering the Department of Justice to release a memo from 2019.
District Judge Amy Berman Jackson is ordering the Department of Justice to release a memo from 2019 that cleared then-President Donald Trump of obstruction of justice.
At the time, Justice Department officials said that releasing the full memo would compromise attorney-client privilege and deliberative government decision-making.
In a 41-page decision, Judge Jackson wrote that the DOJ has been disingenuous to the Court.
“The agency’s redactions and incomplete explanations obfuscate the true purpose of the memorandum, and the excised portions belie the notion that it fell to the Attorney General to make a prosecution decision or that any such decision was on the table at any time,” the judge wrote.
“Moreover, the redacted portions of Section I reveal that both the authors and the recipient of the memorandum had shared understanding concerning whether prosecuting the President was a matter to be considered at all,” she wrote. “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.”
Judge Jackson says the memo was just a recommendation about how Attorney General William Barr should handle the situation.
“Along with the redacted portions of the memorandum, the chronology undermines the assertion that the authors were engaged in providing their legal advice in connection with any sort of pending prosecutorial decision, and this misrepresentation, combined with the lack of candor about what any legal advice provided was for or about, frees the Court from the deference that is ordinarily accorded to agency declarations in FOIA cases,” the judge wrote.
District Judge Reggie Walton said that Barr’s initial comments about the report were inconsistent with the findings from the investigation.
“The inconsistencies between Attorney General Barr’s statements, made at a time when the public did not have access to the redacted version of the Mueller Report to access the veracity of his statements, and portions of the redacted version of the Mueller Report that conflict with those statements cause the Court to seriously question whether Attorney General Barr made a calculated attempt to influence public discourse about the Mueller Report in favor of President Trump despite certain findings in the redacted version of the Mueller Report to the contrary,” Judge Walton wrote in a decision last year.
“These circumstances generally, and Attorney General Barr’s lack of candor specifically, call into question Attorney General Barr’s credibility,” he added.
Jordan Libowitz, Communications Director at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), is grateful that the judge ordered the DOJ to release the memo. Libowitz says that the memo “is a key piece to understanding the Department of Justice’s actions around potential obstruction of justice charges for then-President Trump.”