- A federal judge ordered the DOJ to hand over an internal note related to Mueller’s investigation.
- Bill Barr cited the note as the basis for his decision to release Trump from obstruction of justice.
- “It’s time for the public to see that, too,” the judge said in Tuesday’s ruling.
- See more stories on the Insider business page.
On Tuesday, a federal judge ordered the Department of Justice to hand over an internal note, which Attorney General Bill Barr cited in 2019 as an excuse to release President Donald Trump from obstruction of justice.
At the time, Barr said he made his decision “in consultation with the office of the department̵
In Tuesday’s ruling, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said OLC’s unissued note, which Bar used to free Trump from obstacles, contradicted his claim that the president’s decision to prosecute was within his jurisdiction because the special lawyer Robert Mueller “has not resolved the question of whether the evidence will support the charge.”
Bar announced the decision in a four-page letter to Congress in March 2019, summarizing Mueller’s findings in the FBI investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election.
The letter alleges that the Special Counsel “did not conclude – in one way or another – whether the conduct being examined constituted an obstacle”, and continued to communicate his own opinion to the Prosecutor General that “the evidence developed during the Special Investigation it is not enough to establish that the president has committed a crime that obstructs justice, “Jackson wrote.
However, the OLC note “calls into question the accuracy of Attorney General Bar’s March 24 representation in Congress” and “raises serious questions about how the Department of Justice can make this series of representations in court,” the ruling said.
Jackson said Mueller himself had criticized Barr’s actions in making the report public and describing the special lawyer’s findings.
On April 18, 2019, Bar “appeared before Congress to present the report,” Jackson wrote. He claims that he and the deputy chief prosecutor came to the conclusion he announced in a letter dated March 24 “in consultation with the Office of Legal Advisers and other lawyers from the department”.
“What remains in question today is a memorandum to the Attorney General dated March 24, 2019, which specifically addresses the subject of the letter submitted to Congress,” she added, citing an OLC note.
She continued, “It’s time for society to see that, too.”
Mueller’s findings in the obstacle investigation were widely discussed when his final report was published in April 2019. He outlined 11 potential cases of obstruction by Trump, but refused to make a “traditional indictment.”
Barr told reporters that Mueller’s decision was not influenced by the Justice Department’s long-standing guidelines that no incumbent president could be charged. He said that in fact Mueller’s decision – or lack thereof – was prompted by the unconvincing nature of the evidence.
But in his report, Mueller did not cite the nature or lack of evidence as the reason why he did not decide on an obstacle. However, he quoted an OLC note from 1973, which said the current president could not be charged with a crime.
Moreover, the special adviser’s team said that “if we had confidence after a thorough investigation into the facts that the president had clearly not obstructed justice, we would have stated.” The team continued: “However, based on the facts and applicable legal standards, we cannot reach this decision.”