A federal judge has ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to release a March 2019 legal notice releasing the former President TrumpDonald Trump Will Biden provide strategic clarity or further ambiguity for Taiwan? Taliban launch massive offensive over missed US troop withdrawal deadline Republicans push for investigation into Amazon government’s cloud computing offer: report MORE for potentially obstructing justice charges following Mueller̵
District Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Monday ordered the Justice Department to release the legal note within two weeks in response to a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act filed by the liberal Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility Control Group in Washington (CREW).
The DOJ had argued in court that the full note – parts of which have already been released – should be retained, as it falls outside the law on public registers for the privilege of a client lawyer and advisory decision-making by the government.
But Jackson said Monday that the allegations were inconsistent with her own review of the unedited note or the deadline revealed by internal emails from senior Justice Department officials.
Jackson, who was appointed to the federal district court in Washington by former President Obama, wrote in the sharp 41-page ruling that “not only was the Attorney General dishonest, but the DOJ was dishonest with that court regarding the existence of a trial.” of decision-making, which must be protected by the privilege of the deliberative process. “
“The agency’s edits and incomplete explanations obscure the true purpose of the memorandum, and the cut-outs believe that the attorney general has made a charge or that any such decision is on the table at all times,” she added. .
CREW filed a lawsuit in May 2019, seeking internal documents from the DOJ regarding Barr’s public statements regarding the publication of Mueller’s report. During the Trump administration, the Justice Department vigorously fought the lawsuit, but it is unclear how the agency intends to deal with the case after the decision can be appealed.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice declined to comment.
The 2019 note was prepared by the Office of the Legal Council (OLC), a section of the Department of Justice that provides the entire federal government with binding and often secret legal interpretations.
The OLC has maintained, at least since the Nixon era, that no criminal charges can be brought against a sitting president. The Office confirmed this position in a 2000 legal note.
On March 24, 2019, Bar sent a four-page letter to Congress summarizing the conclusions of the investigation, which was recently closed by the then special lawyer Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Mueller Why a special adviser is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones, while AG Barr eavesdrops on a lawyer investigating the origins of the Russian probe as CNN’s special adviser Toobin warns that McCabe is in a “dangerous condition” with an encouraged Trump MORE in Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Barr was later widely criticized for turning the findings of the investigation – which will not be made public for another three weeks – in a way that cast Trump in a positive light.
In a letter to Congress, Barr said he had found, in consultation with the OLC, that the facts of the investigation did not support the imposition of an indictment against the president, regardless of what the service had said before whether such an accusation would be constitutional.
But in Jackson’s ruling Monday, the judge said there seemed to be a preconceived conclusion among the DOJ leadership that there would be no prosecution against Trump.
“Furthermore, the edited sections of Section I reveal that both the authors and the recipient of the memorandum had a shared understanding of whether prosecuting the president is an issue that needs to be addressed at all,” she wrote. “In other words, a review of the document reveals that at the time, the attorney general was not involved in deciding whether the president should be charged with obstruction of justice; the fact that he will not be prosecuted is a given.”
The judge cited internal emails showing that OLC’s note and Barr’s letter to Congress were drafted at the same time and by the same officials, further questioning DOJ’s argument that the note should be protected by the public as part of internal process to help heads of government make a formal decision.
Jackson also said the note did not just contain legal advice, but was a combination of legal and strategic recommendations on how Barr should deal with Mueller’s report.
“Together with the revised parts of the memorandum, the chronology undermines the allegation that the authors were involved in providing their legal advice in connection with some pending decision of the prosecution, and this misrepresentation, combined with the lack of openness about any legal advice, is provided. either for or about, exempts the Court from the respect normally given to declarations by FOIA case agencies, “the judge wrote.
In her ruling, the judge did not say whether the distortions she believed the DOJ made in court imposed sanctions on her lawyers.
CREW spokesman Jordan Libovitz said in an email that the 2019 note “is a key element in understanding the Justice Department’s actions to potentially obstruct the prosecution of then-President Trump,” adding that “we are grateful that the judge agreed that the public deserved to see him. “
Monday’s ruling is not the first time a federal judge has questioned Barr’s honesty over Mueller’s report. In a ruling last year in a separate FOIA case, District Judge Reggie Walton said Barr’s early comments on the report contradicted his actual findings.
“The discrepancies between the statements of Attorney General Bar, made at a time when the public did not have access to the edited version of Mueller’s report to assess the veracity of his statements, and parts of the edited version of Mueller’s report that contradict these statements make “The court should seriously question whether Attorney General Barr has made a calculated attempt to influence the public discourse on Mueller’s report in favor of President Trump, although some findings in the edited version of Mueller’s report are the opposite,” Walton wrote in his ruling.
“These circumstances in general, and the lack of openness of the Chief Prosecutor Bar, call into question the confidence of the Chief Prosecutor Bar,” he added.
Updated at 4:15 p.m.