Appeals court orders release of key memo Bill Barr used to justify refusal to prosecute Trump in Mueller probe
Bill Barr (Photo via AFP)

The Department of Justice must release a full copy of a March 2019 memo supporting then-attorney general William Barr's conclusion that Donald Trump should not be prosecuted in the Russia investigation.

The District of Columbia Circuit court affirmed a 2021 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordering the release of the Justice Department memo, which concluded the former president should not be prosecuted for obstruction of justice by special counsel Robert Mueller.

"The court determined that the Department had failed to carry its burden to show the deliberative-process privilege applied," the appeals court found. "In particular, the court held that the Department had not identified a relevant agency decision as to which the memorandum formed part of the deliberations. The Department’s submissions, the court explained, indicated that the memorandum conveyed advice about whether to charge the President with a crime. But the court’s in camera review of the memorandum revealed that the Department in fact never considered bringing a charge."

"Instead, the memorandum concerned a separate decision that had gone entirely unmentioned by the government in its submissions to the court — what, if anything, to say to Congress and the public about the Mueller Report," the court added.

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Jackson's ruling two years ago accused Barr of being “disingenuous” when describing Mueller’s findings and found the DOJ was not candid about the purpose and role of the memo, which was prepared by the department's Office of Legal Counsel.

“Not only was the Attorney General being disingenuous then, but DOJ has been disingenuous to this Court with respect to the existence of a decision-making process that should be shielded by the deliberative process privilege,” she wrote. “The agency’s redactions and incomplete explanations obfuscate the true purpose of the memorandum, and the excised portions belie the notion that it fell to the Attorney General to make a prosecution decision or that any such decision was on the table at any time.”

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