The Justice Department late Monday night released part of a key internal document used in 2019 to justify not charging President Donald Trump with obstruction, but also signaled it would fight a judge’s effort to make the entire document public, reports the Washington Post. The Justice Department filing is likely to both fuel and frustrate Trump’s biggest critics, particularly Democrats who have long argued that Barr stage-managed an exoneration of Trump after Mueller submitted a 448-page report into his findings about his investigation into whether the 2016 Trump campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the election, and whether Trump tried to obstruct that investigation.
The central document at issue is a March 2019 memo written by two senior Justice Department officials arguing that aside from important constitutional reasons not to accuse the president of a crime, the evidence gathered by Mueller did not rise to the level of a prosecutable case, even if Trump were not president. The parts of the memo released Monday night indicate that the decision not to accuse Trump of a crime had been the subject of previous conversations among Justice Department leaders. While Justice Department policy has held that sitting presidents could not be charged with a crime, the memo went beyond that constitutional position, arguing “certain of the conduct examined by the Special Counsel could not, as a matter of law, support an obstruction charge under the circumstances. Accordingly, were there no constitutional barrier, we would recommend, under the Principles of Federal Prosecution, that you decline to commence such a prosecution.”