The federal judge ruled the DOJ to release the legal memo from March 2019, clearing President Trump of justice charges after the Mueller investigation. Also, the judge accused former Attorney General William Barr of deceiving the public.
On Monday, Amy Berman Jackson, the District Judge, ruled the DOJ to release the legal memo in the next two weeks responding to the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by CREW.
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In court, the DOJ discussed that the memo portion that has been released has to be withheld because it falls under exceptions to the public records law for the lawyer-client privilege and deliberative government decision making.
However, on Monday, Jackson said that the claims weren’t consistent with her review of the underacted memo.
Also, they weren’t compatible with the timeline revealed by the emails among top JD officials.
Jackson wrote in a scathing decision of 41-page, that “not only was the Attorney General being disingenuous then, but DOJ has been disingenuous to this Court with respect to the existence of a decision-making process that should be shielded by the deliberative process privilege.”
“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.”
In May 2019, CREW filed a lawsuit asking the internal DOJ data linked to Barr’s public statements about the release of the Mueller report.
While Trump was in office, the JD fought back vigorously against the CREW lawsuit, but no one knows how the agency could handle the case after the decision, which can be appealed.
Justice Department spokesperson didn’t want to comment.
OLC prepared the 2019 memo. They are a section of the Justice Department, providing the federal government with binding and secret legal interpretations.
The OLC managed to keep that the criminal charges cannot be brought against a current (sitting) president. The office reaffirmed that position in a 2000 legal memo.
Precisely on March 24, 2019, Barr sent a letter to Congress, consisted of four pages, summarizing the conclusion of the investigations concluded by Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Barr received harsh critics for changing the investigation results, which will remain a secret for three weeks, casting Trump in a positive light.
In the letter, Barr explained that after the conversation with the OLC, he determined that the facts didn’t support bringing obstruction of justice charges against the sitting president.
The judge explained it as a foregone conclusion between DOJ leadership that there won’t be a prosecution against Trump.
“Moreover, the redacted portions of Section I reveal that both the authors and the recipient of the memorandum had a shared understanding concerning whether prosecuting the President was a matter to be considered at all,” Jackson 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.”
Furthermore, the judge read internal emails showing that the OLC memo and Barr’s letter to Congress were prepared simultaneously and by the exact officials. She also said that she doubted the DOJ’s argument that the memo should be hidden from the public.
Jackson further added that the memo contained a blend of legal and strategic recommendations about how Barr was supposed to handle the Mueller report.
“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 said.
However, in the decision, the judge didn’t say whether the misrepresentations she thought the DOJ made in court warrant sanctions against its lawyers.
CREW’s spokesperson declared that the 2019 memo “is a key piece to understanding the Department of Justice’s actions around potential obstruction of justice charges for then-President Trump,” adding, “We are grateful that the judge agreed that the public deserves to see it.”
The ruling on Monday wasn’t the first time when the judge questioned the reliability of Barr’s statement about the Mueller report.
Last year, District Judge Reggie Walton said that his comments weren’t consistent with the actual findings.
“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 assess 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,” reads Walton’s decision.
“These circumstances generally, and Attorney General Barr’s lack of candor specifically, call into question Attorney General Barr’s credibility,” he concluded.