The Justice Department partially appealed a court order to publicly release a controversial memo on why then-President Donald Trump was not charged with obstruction of justice in special counsel Bob Mueller’s probe, CNN reports.
The Justice Department released some sections of the memo on Monday in response to the order but filed an appeal to keep the full memo under wraps. The appeal means the memo cannot be released unless a court denies the appeal.
The memo in question reportedly details discussions inside the DOJ on why the department decided not to charge Trump even though Mueller found strong evidence that he obstructed his investigation.
The redacted version of the two-page memo released Monday included mostly bureaucratic reasoning for the memo and does not include a section where Trump’s actions were analyzed.
The memo shows that top Trump appointees at the department told then-Attorney General Bill Barr that Mueller’s "failure to take a position" on whether to charge Trump "might be read to imply such an accusation if the confidential report were released to the public" and that "therefore, we recommend that you examine the Report to determine whether prosecution would be appropriate.”
Judge ordered full memo released:
Earlier this month, Judge Amy Berman Jackson lit into the Justice Department for misleading her about the memo to keep it secret.
Justice Department lawyers argued that Barr relied on the memo to decide whether Trump should be charged but Jackson said Barr had already made the decision not to charge Trump.
“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,” Jackson wrote in her decision.
Jackson said Barr was also misleading in his initial description of Mueller’s findings before the report was released.
“Not only was the Attorney General being disingenuous then, but DOJ has been disingenuous to this Court with respect to the existence of a decision-making process that should be shielded by the deliberative process privilege," she wrote. "The agency’s redactions and incomplete explanations obfuscate the true purpose of the memorandum, and the excised portions belie the notion that it fell to the Attorney General to make a prosecution decision or that any such decision was on the table at any time.”
The DOJ appealed the ruling but acknowledged in a court filing that it should have provided more clarity.
"In retrospect, the government acknowledges that its briefs could have been clearer, and it deeply regrets the confusion that caused. But the government's counsel and declarants did not intend to mislead the Court," the filing said.
The appeal does not mean that Biden’s DOJ leaders support their predecessor’s handling of the memo but the judge’s decision could influence other cases.
Some on the left criticized Attorney General Merrick Garland for not releasing the full memo.
“DOJ's fighting a decision by Judge Amy Berman Jackson so that it can preserve its ability to lie to you,” tweeted former White House ethics chief Walter Shaub. “DOJ has problems that go much much deeper than Barr, as Garland proved yesterday.”