The DOJ is hiding a key memo explaining why Trump wasn't prosecuted for obstructing justice

The DOJ is hiding a key memo explaining why Trump wasn't prosecuted for obstructing justice
Robert Mueller (Image via Screengrab)

When former Special Counsel Robert Mueller delivered his final report for the Russia investigation, he declined to deliver a judgment on whether President Donald Trump should be prosecuted for obstructing justice. Attorney General Bill Barr decided to usurp this responsibility, declaring that the facts didn't warrant bringing such a charge — but he never explained why.


And according to Conor Shaw and Anne Weismann of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the Justice Department has now “confirmed the existence of a memo laying out its rationale for not bringing charges against President Trump” but “refuses to make its reasoning public.”

“The Mueller Report catalogued numerous instances in which President Trump may have obstructed the Russia investigation, including by asking associates to curtail it or to fire the special counsel,” Shaw and Weismann explain. “The memo obtained by CREW explains the legal reasoning behind Attorney General Barr’s suspect claim that ‘the evidence developed during the special counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense.’ The memorandum is also presumably the supposed vindication of President Trump’s claim, after Barr’s announcement, that there was ‘No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION.’”

However, Shaw and Weismann add that the “DOJ produced redacted copies of the first and last pages of the nine-page document and withheld the other seven. If Barr and Trump are so confident in the rationale used for clearing the president, why did DOJ go to considerable lengths to conceal the existence of this memorandum —  and why is it continuing to hide the legal basis for the president’s supposed exoneration from the American people?”

Possibly, Shaw and Weismann write, the DOJ’s memo “would not withstand scrutiny from legal experts, including those who worked on” Mueller’s investigation.

“Another possibility is that the memorandum contributes to a body of evidence suggesting that Barr was hand-picked by Trump to discredit and undermine the eventual findings of the special counsel — especially with respect to the obstruction case against the president,” Shaw and Weismann assert. “In the summer preceding Barr’s nomination to run DOJ, Barr penned a lengthy memorandum asserting that Mueller’s theory of obstruction of justice was ‘fatally misconceived.’ Barr sent this letter to a number of individuals, including attorneys for the president, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel Stephen Engel. The secret March 24, 2019 memorandum recommending Trump not be charged was authored in part by Engel and approved by Rosenstein.”

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close