On Wednesday, all 11 Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, demanding that he turn over a secret memo from Attorney General William Barr on why former President Donald Trump was not prosecuted for obstruction of former special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
The letter argues that "the Senate Judiciary Committee has equities in this matter" — and gave Garland 15 days to either turn over the memo, or explain his justification for not doing so.
"Although these memos predate your confirmation as Attorney General, the Department you now lead bears responsibility for ensuring the [Office of Legal Counsel] is not misused to justify harmful policies or inappropriately conceal information from Congress," said the letter. "Please provide the memo, or your legal justification for withholding it, to the Committee by June 30, 2021 ... We look forward to a prompt reply."
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson already ordered the memo to be released, but the Justice Department is appealing the decision — a controversial move that has earned sharp criticism from some legal experts.
Writing for The Washington Post, opinion columnist Greg Sargent highlighted Senate Democrats' move as significant.
"The memo is important because it could shed light on how the department — and, more broadly, the rule of law — were deeply corrupted to help Trump escape accountability for potential crimes," wrote Sargent. "After special counsel Robert S. Mueller III documented extensive potential criminal obstruction by Trump, Barr declined to prosecute. Importantly, in clearing Trump, Barr sent a letter to the Senate and House judiciary committees that badly misrepresented Mueller's findings, while declaring that his decision not to prosecute was not driven by precedent dictating that sitting presidents are immune from prosecution."