(USA Features) A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the Justice Department to release a confidential memo written by former Attorney General William Barr justifying his decision not to pursue obstruction of justice charges against then-President Donald Trump.
The order from Obama-appointee U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson comes after the Justice Department refused to hand over the March 24, 2019 memo to a left-leaning advocacy group under a Freedom of Information Act request.
In refusing, the DoJ insisted that the document was the product of private advice from lawyers and was written before a formal decision was made regarding the allegation of obstruction, therefore it is exempt from being disclosed under public records law.
But Jackson issued a sharp rebuke of Barr in particular, accusing the department of obscuring “the true purpose of the memorandum” when officials refused to turn it over.
Jackson ruled that the memo from the DoJ’s Office of Legal Counsel contained “strategic, as opposed to legal advice,” and as such the writers and recipients already believed and understood that Trump would not be charged and prosecuted.
And though federal agencies can withhold disclosure documents that contain internal deliberations ahead of a formal decision, such protections from disclosure don’t apply in this particular case because a conclusion had already been reached, Jackson wrote.
“In other words, the review of the document reveals that the Attorney General was not then 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,” Jackson said in an order on Monday.
“The decision by Barr and senior Justice Department leaders to clear Trump of obstruction, even though special counsel Robert Mueller and his team pointedly did not reach that conclusion, was a significant moment for the president that he touted as vindication,” the Associated Press reported.
In her order, Jackson ripped Barr over the manner in which he handled Mueller’s report, saying his “characterization of what he’d hardly had time to skim, much less, study closely, prompted an immediate reaction, as politicians and pundits took to their microphones and Twitter feeds to decry what they feared was an attempt to hide the ball.”