WASHINGTON – A federal judge ordered the release of a legal memorandum that the Department of Justice prepared for then-chief William Barr before it released its conclusion that then-President Donald Trump had failed to obstruct justice during the investigation of their ties to Russia.
The Justice Department had refused to deliver the March 24, 2019 memo to a government transparency group that had requested it under the Freedom of Information Act, noting that the document represented the private recommendation of attorneys and was drafted earlier. any formal decision to be made, so he was exempt from the public records law.
However, Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson, in a harsh reprimand of Barr, said the Justice Department had overshadowed “the true purpose of the memorandum” by withholding the document.
The judge indicated that the memo from the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel contained “strategic and non-legal recommendations” and that both the writer and the recipient were already clear that Trump would not be prosecuted. Although government agencies can refrain from disclosing documents detailing internal deliberations before a decision is made, that protection does not apply in this case because a conclusion had already been reached, the judge wrote.
“In other words, the review of the document reveals that the Secretary of Justice did not participate at the time in making decisions about whether the president should be charged with obstruction of justice; the fact that he would not be prosecuted was obvious, ”Jackson said in his order dated Monday.
The decision by Barr and other senior Justice Department officials not to prosecute Trump for obstruction, even though special counsel Robert Mueller and his team had not reached that conclusion, was a significant moment that the president presumed as his vindication. .