Department of Justice
Judge Orders Release of Justice Department Memo on the Mueller Report
On May 3, Judge Amy Berman Jackson released an opinion chastising former Attorney General William Barr for his handling of the Mueller Report in 2019. The opinion specifically concerns Barr’s four-page public summary of the report released on March 24, 2019, which found that “the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”
Judge Jackson handed down her opinion in a case concerning a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which sought records relating to Barr’s reported “consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel and other Department lawyers” before he released the four-page summary. The Justice Department had declined to produce a March 24, 2019 memorandum to Barr about his summary letter to Congress. In the opinion, Judge Jackson writes that “It is time for the public to see” the March 24 memo. The Justice Department tried to block the request by claiming that the memorandum should be withheld under “the deliberative process privilege” and under attorney-client privilege.
Discussing the memorandum, Judge Jackson writes, “the 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.” A review of email communications also led the judge to conclude that “the ‘predecisional’ March 24 memorandum advising the Attorney General that … the evidence does not support a prosecution are being written by the very same people at the very same time.” On these grounds, she ruled that, “one simply cannot credit the declarant’s statement that the Attorney General made the ‘decision’ he announced based on the advice the memo contains.” Judge Jackson concludes that the court’s decision “turns upon the application of well-settled legal principles to a unique set of circumstances that include the misleading and incomplete explanations offered by the agency, the contemporaneous materials in the record, and the variance between the Special Counsel’s report and the Attorney General’s summary.”
The opinion also contains an attachment that lists a summary and timeline of relevant Justice Department emails. You can read the opinion here and below.