USA TODAY US Edition

Judge rebukes Barr, orders release of Trump memo

She says Justice misled court over obstructio­n

- Kevin Johnson

WASHINGTON – A federal judge blasted the Trump Justice Department for misleading the court about the nature of its internal deliberati­ons before concluding that then-President Donald Trump had not obstructed former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigat­ion into Russian interferen­ce in the 2016 election.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered the release of a 2019 legal memorandum to a government accountabi­lity group, ruling the document prepared for then-Attorney General William Barr as he considered his decision did not qualify as protected attorney-client communicat­ions.

In the ruling, Jackson characteri­zed the memo as a “strategic” document, asserting that Justice Department officials had come to a predetermi­ned conclusion that Trump would not be charged with obstructio­n of justice.

“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,” Jackson ruled.

The memo had been requested by Citizens for Responsibi­lity and Ethics in Government.

Jackson, who presided over Mueller prosecutio­ns involving former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and political adviser Roger Stone, also aimed scathing criticism at Barr for his handling of the Mueller report, citing the attorney general’s decision to issue a brief summary of its findings only days after receiving the voluminous 448page report.

“The Attorney General’s characteri­zation of what he’d hardly had time to skim, much less, study closely, prompted an immediate reaction, as politician­s and pundits took to their microphone­s and Twitter feeds to decry what they feared was an attempt to hide the ball,” the judge wrote.

“Even the customaril­y taciturn Special Counsel was moved to pen an extraordin­ary public rebuke on March 27,” the judge wrote, referring to a 2019 letter Mueller wrote to Barr.

In the letter, Mueller said Barr’s summary “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office’s work and conclusion­s.”

Citizens for Responsibi­lity and Ethics in Washington filed a public records request seeking communicat­ions about the obstructio­n decision after Barr said that he and other senior officials had reached that conclusion in consultati­on with the Office of Legal Counsel.

At issue in a lawsuit pending before the judge were two documents the group wanted.

Jackson ruled that one of the documents, described by a Justice Department official as an “untitled, undated draft legal analysis” was properly withheld from the group.

But she ordered the release of the other memo, which concludes that the evidence from Mueller’s team would not support an obstructio­n prosecutio­n.

 ?? AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES ?? A judge says Attorney General William Barr was not engaged in whether to charge President Donald Trump with obstructio­n.
AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES A judge says Attorney General William Barr was not engaged in whether to charge President Donald Trump with obstructio­n.

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