A watchdog group has filed a brief opposing the Justice Department
's effort to keep secret former Attorney General William Barr
's memo about ex-President Donald Trump
's possible obstruction of the investigation
into Russian election
meddling in 2016.
“The DOJ must produce the document, clean up the department, and demonstrate that it will not be used for the personal protection of any president,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
said in a statement Friday after filing the brief. CREW had originally sought release of the memo through the Freedom of Information Act.
The issue is Barr's decision to ignore any obstruction of justice issues involving Trump, despite strong evidence against him revealed by then-special counsel Robert Mueller. Critics claim Barr misled the public by cherry-picking quotes from Mueller's report to protect Trump, and that he made a political decision rather than a legal one.
Barr claimed that the memo, which had previously only been made public in heavily redacted form, carefully considered and spelled out the justification for not taking action against Trump.
However, according to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson
, who ordered the release of the nine-page memo earlier this month, Barr's decision was predetermined. Barr had already decided not to prosecute Trump before considering any of the advice or analysis that he claimed informed his decision, she said in her order.
Jackson went on to say that the memo contained “strategic, rather than legal, advice,” and that both the writers and the recipients were already aware of the prosecutorial decision.
The judge wrote in his order that a “review of the document reveals that the Attorney General was not 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.”
The Justice Department moved for a stay on May 24 to prepare arguments to keep the memo's contents hidden. A small portion of the memo that the department did release included a discussion "aimed at publicly spinning the damning findings of the Mueller Report
into a vindication of Donald Trump," CREW said in a statement last Tuesday.
CREW said in a statement on Friday that “Trump’s obstruction of justice” in the Mueller investigation, as well as Barr’s role in “distorting” Mueller’s findings about it, “prevent both Trump and Barr from being held fully accountable for their actions.”
“Releasing the memo in its entirety is an essential step toward accountability,” the group added.