Federal judge slams Barr-era DOJ for efforts to 'neutralize the impact of' Mueller’s report

Federal judge slams Barr-era DOJ for efforts to 'neutralize the impact of' Mueller’s report
William Barr in January 2020, Wikimedia Commons

On May 26, a portion of a recent court opinion by Judge Amy Berman Jackson was unsealed. And in that opinion, the federal judge — who is known for the prison sentences she gave to Donald Trump allies Roger Stone and Paul Manafort — is vehemently critical of former Attorney General William Barr and the Barr-era DOJ's handling of the Mueller Report in 2019.

In her opinion, Jackson discussed a 2019 DOJ memo to then-Attorney General Barr that came at the end of Mueller's investigation. Most of that internal memo remains redacted.

Jackson, CNN's Katelyn Polantz reports, lambasted the Barr-era DOJ for "getting a jump on public relations" by discussing a public rollout of the Mueller Report that would make the findings in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation less damning of then-President Trump.

Polantz reports, "This is the second time a federal judge has, months later, condemned Barr for spinning Mueller's documentation of Trump's attempts to obstruct the Russia investigation, allowing the president to claim he was exonerated before the facts were fully known. Jackson, in her decision May 3, also took issue with how the Department (of Justice) after the fact had tried to argue in court that some of its discussion with Barr was legal deliberations."

Jackson, in her opinion, said that that the Barr-era DOJ "made a strategic decision to pretend as if the first portion of the memorandum was not there and to avoid acknowledging that what the writers were actually discussing was how to neutralize the impact of the Report in the court of public opinion."

Polantz explains, "Top DOJ appointees Steven Engel and Ed O'Callaghan wrote the memo to Barr as they also prepared to summarize Mueller's findings to Congress in March 2019 — before releasing the full Mueller Report. At the time, Mueller had outlined several episodes where Trump tried to hamper the investigation into Russia and his campaign, but left a prosecution decision to Barr, noting that department policy said a sitting president couldn't be charged. When announcing the findings to Congress, Barr went further and said he had reasoned that there wasn't a case against the president. But Jackson made clear that that reasoning shouldn't have happened, because charging the president with a crime was already off the table internally."

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sued for the release of the 2019 DOJ memo. And in an official statement on May 26, CREW President Noah Bookbinder said, "The limited portion of the memo that the Justice Department did disclose provides further evidence that Attorney General Barr's efforts were not aimed at making any real legal determination, but were instead aimed at publicly spinning the damning findings of the Mueller Report into a vindication of Donald Trump."

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