A federal judge on Wednesday rejected the Justice Department’s bid to keep secret an internal memo on the decision not to charge former President Donald Trump with obstruction of justice in the Muller probe, CNN reports.
The Justice Department argued in court that the mostly-redacted 2019 memo that prompted then-Attorney General Bill Barr to decide not to charge Trump included legal backing for the move but Judge Amy Berman Jackson said she believed Barr already made the decision not to charge Trump before he received the memo.
Jackson argued that the memo “was partly strategic planning instead of legal reasoning -- and therefore could be made public,” according to CNN.
"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," Jackson wrote in her ruling. "The fact that [Trump] would not be prosecuted was a given.”
Judge orders memo released:
Jackson ruled that the memo should be released.
The ruling came in response to a lawsuit from the government watchdog group Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, which sought to obtain the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request.
"We requested these records and filed this lawsuit due to serious doubts about the official story coming out of Barr's DOJ. While we do not yet know what is in the memo, the Court's opinion gives us confidence that we were right to have questions," CREW spokesman Jordan Libowitz said on Tuesday.
Memo backed Barr announcement:
The memo is at the heart of Barr’s announcement that Trump would not be indicted in the Mueller probe.
The DOJ argued that it should be redacted because it contained internal legal discussions and was intended to help Barr decide whether to charge Trump.
But Jackson said the DOJ did not mention in court that the memo’s redactions included “strategic, as opposed to legal advice"
The DOJ’s handling of the memo "served to obscure the true purpose of the memorandum," Jackson wrote.