The decision adds criticism from federal judges and others about Barrral and his handling of the termination of the Mueller investigation. Jackson and others have repeatedly questioned Barr’s motives to keep documents related to the investigation secretly or by delaying their release – including Mueller’s findings and Barr’s reactions.
“The agency’s edits and incomplete explanations obscure the real purpose of the memorandum, and the cut-outs pass on the perception that it is the Attorney General’s job to make the prosecutor’s decision, or that such a decision was on the table at any time,” Jackson wrote in a 35-page opinion released Tuesday.
“The fact that the [Trump] where appropriate “, he added.
The judge’s opinion is voiced in a lawsuit in which the Transparency Group of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics Government in Washington seeks access to DOJ documents through the Freedom of Information Act.
CREW and several other groups continue to try to bring the new records of the Mueller investigation into the public eye through lawsuits and other challenges. The case that Jackson decided this week is about documents that dismiss Trump’s accusation because of Barr’s decision.
A note on the alleged legal argument for Barr needs to be released, Jackson ruled. The draft legal analysis by the Office of Legal Advisers remains secret, Jackson also decided.
“We have requested these records and brought them to court due to serious doubts about the official story coming from the Barr DOJ. Although we do not yet know what is on record, the Court’s opinion gives us confidence that we were right to our questions.” CREW spokesman Jordan Libowitz said on Tuesday.
Behind the note
The 9-page note, which Jackson says should be released freely, was handed to Congress the same day by two senior political leaders in the Department of Justice – Steven Engel of the Legal Advice Bureau and Ed O’Callaghan, Deputy Attorney General – Adviser to Mueller on Mueller’s findings on Russian intervention about the 2016 election and Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice.
The Department of Justice argued in court that much of Engel and O’Callaghan’s note should be obscured because there are protected internal debates about law and politics. One DOJ lawyer, Paul Colborn, told the court that the purpose of the note was to help Barr persecute Trump.
Engel and O’Callaghan’s note did not initiate proceedings, saying Mueller’s findings are beyond reasonable doubt not evidence.
Jackson read the document that was the subject of the case to himself, he remarked. The judge said the changed pages were “strategic in nature, as opposed to legal advice” to Barr. Not to mention that in court, Jackson wrote that the DOJ pretended that strategic discussion did not exist.
As the Department of Justice has handled the debate over public access to the document, “it serves to obscure the true purpose of the memorandum,” Jackson added.
It’s not worthy of credibility, Jackson says
Jackson’s emphatically articulated opinion, while largely about techniques around government secrecy, is close to accusing the Department of Justice of secrecy.
The judge wrote that while senior DOJ officials were preparing the legal opinion that Barr had secured for Trump not to be taken to court, at the same time they sent an email about a higher priority: the president was exempted from briefing Congress.
Jackson thoroughly reviewed the decision-making process, examining court statements from attorneys in the department and internal emails between Barr’s top advisers.
“Statements” by Ministry of Justice officials [in court about the memo] they are so inconsistent with the evidence on the record, they are not worthy of authenticity, ”Jackson wrote.