William Barr’s unpublished memo about Trump deserves more outrage

A 2019 Unamended Justice Department MemoHe was relied upon by then-Attorney General William Barr to justify his decision not to accuse former President Donald Trump of obstructing justice after Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation was released Wednesday.

Release made possible thanks a A 2019 lawsuit filed in Washington by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics(Crew) under the Freedom of Information Act.

This unpublished memo may go unnoticed by many Americans because both Trump and President Joe Biden’s Justice Department have delayed its release until now — when the Mueller investigation feels like ancient history.

This unpublished memo may go unnoticed by many Americans because both Trump and President Joe Biden’s Justice Department have delayed its release until now — when the Mueller investigation feels like ancient history. But the content of the memo should anger every American, and the Justice Department’s misguided efforts by Biden to oppose its release give us all a reason to worry about Attorney General Merrick Garland’s approach.

For those familiar with the Byzantine organizational hierarchy of the department, the positions of the authors of the memorandum – the Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel and the Chief Associate Deputy Attorney General – are important. For those who aren’t familiar with these two positions: If this were high school, there are “nerds” in the legal counsel’s office and “jocks” in the deputy attorney general’s office.

The head of legal counsel office The OLC does not prosecute cases because the OLC is the egg-head think tank of the Department of Justice, tasked with advising not only the Attorney General but the Office of the President and all executive branch agencies. In short, it is a group of lawyers for lawyers – the legal department of the law firm of the country.

Importantly, OLC does not decide to charge in cases. The principal associate deputy attorney general is the top advisor to the deputy attorney general, who is second in the Justice Department. Known as “PADAG” in department parlance, this job is an extremely powerful position and is actively involved in high-level prosecution decisions. The fact that the memo was co-authored by these two officers indicates that Barr – a two-time attorney general well versed in the department’s bureaucracy – sought maximum credibility.

But the resulting work product is an embarrassment.

First, the legal analysis is ridiculously bad. In essence, the memo takes the position that despite the evidence uncovered by the Mueller investigation of Mueller’s attempts to obstruct justice and tamper with witnesses, the prosecution would be unfair as Mueller concluded that there was no evidence of collusion in Volume I. was. The memorandum argues that it would be unfair to allege obstruction of justice without any offense or criminal conspiracy (collusion) “towards which any obstruction or attempt was made to obstruct.” It doesn’t take a legal scholar to understand that the whole point of interfering in a criminal investigation is to avoid charge, so the memo rewards those potentially obstructing justice.

Second, from an integrity standpoint, the memo reads, as a New York Times reporter Charlie Savage tweeted, “Like a defense attorney’s brief.” It’s a sentiment that’s not unlike the sentiment shared by Amy Berman Jackson, the federal judge overseeing the Crew trial seeking access to the memo. Last year, as the Justice Department continued to struggle for a full release of the memo through Jackson’s appeal did not vote That his review of the evidence in the case showed that the Justice Department’s real priority at the time the memo was written was not legal analysis, but political cover for Barr when he told Congress that the department had determined that Trump was obstructed. should not be accused. of Justice.

Biden’s Justice Department, led by Garland, could have halted the fight and not continued with an appeal of the lower court’s decision. But instead, the current Department of Justice stay on course Initially chartered by Barr. Now, I understand why the department does not want to agree to issue OLC memos. It doesn’t want to create a slippery slope of hoping to release them every time the public wants to see what’s happening at the Justice Department, but the Barr memo seems like a bad case to stand on principle.

Perhaps the Biden Justice Department’s efforts to resist the release of this evidence of the corrupt politicization of Barr’s department stem from Garland, as described by a commenter“A kind of radical institutionalist, a staunch adherent to regular order, a true believer in the norms and procedures followed in the aftermath of Watergate, who weathered almost every storm until Trump.”

But institutions like buildings require a solid foundation. And the Justice Department’s foundation was damaged by Trump and Barr, much the way a hurricane can damage the foundation of a building. That kind of damage cannot be repaired by just covering it up. Failing to address the serious damage to buildings and institutions leaves the structures in ruins.

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