When former Special Counsel Robert Mueller delivered his final report for the Russia investigation, he declined to deliver a judgment on whether President Donald Trump should be prosecuted for obstructing justice. Attorney General Bill Barr decided to usurp this responsibility, declaring that the facts didn’t warrant bringing such a charge — but he never explained why.
And according to Conor Shaw and Anne Weismann of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the Justice Department has now “confirmed the existence of a memo laying out its rationale for not bringing charges against President Trump” but “refuses to make its reasoning public.”
“The Mueller Report catalogued numerous instances in which President Trump may have obstructed the Russia investigation, including by asking associates to curtail it or to fire the special counsel,” Shaw and Weismann explain. “The memo obtained by CREW explains the legal reasoning behind Attorney General Barr’s suspect claim that ‘the evidence developed during the special counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense.’ The memorandum is also presumably the supposed vindication of President Trump’s claim, after Barr’s announcement, that there was ‘No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION.’”
No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2019
However, Shaw and Weismann add that the “DOJ produced redacted copies of the first and last pages of the nine-page document and withheld the other seven. If Barr and Trump are so confident in the rationale used for clearing the president, why did DOJ go to considerable lengths to conceal the existence of this memorandum — and why is it continuing to hide the legal basis for the president’s supposed exoneration from the American people?”
Possibly, Shaw and Weismann write, the DOJ’s memo “would not withstand scrutiny from legal experts, including those who worked on” Mueller’s investigation.
“Another possibility is that the memorandum contributes to a body of evidence suggesting that Barr was hand-picked by Trump to discredit and undermine the eventual findings of the special counsel — especially with respect to the obstruction case against the president,” Shaw and Weismann assert. “In the summer preceding Barr’s nomination to run DOJ, Barr penned a lengthy memorandum asserting that Mueller’s theory of obstruction of justice was ‘fatally misconceived.’ Barr sent this letter to a number of individuals, including attorneys for the president, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel Stephen Engel. The secret March 24, 2019 memorandum recommending Trump not be charged was authored in part by Engel and approved by Rosenstein.”