The Department of Justice on Wednesday posted a note from 2019 outlining the case for not prosecuting former President Donald Trump for obstruction of justice in the Russia investigation of then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The nine-page memo dated March 24, 2019 was authored by two senior Trump Justice Department officials: Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel and Senior Associate Deputy Attorney General Ed O’Callaghan.
They conclude that none of Trump’s actions are documented in the Mueller report – his firing of FBI Director James Comey; his leadership of the White House’s top lawyer to fire Mueller; his witnesses urging not to return – must be considered an obstruction.
“We conclude that the evidence described in Volume II of the report is not, in our view, sufficient to support a finding beyond a reasonable doubt that the President violated the obstruction of justice laws,” the report said. memo. “Furthermore, we believe that some of the conduct examined by the special advocate could not, as a matter of law, support a charge of obstruction in the circumstances.”
The watchdog group Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sued under the Freedom of Information Act to have the memo made public. The Justice Department has long fought its release, arguing that the memo was part of the department’s internal deliberative process.
A district court judge and a panel of circuit court judges disagreed and ordered his release.
Then-Attorney General William Barr ultimately declined to sue Trump for obstruction of justice stemming from Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump and his supporters welcomed the decision, but many legal experts questioned the reasoning and the conclusion. More than 1,000 former federal prosecutors signed a letter in 2019 saying the conduct described in Mueller’s report would normally result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.
The memo concludes that there was insufficient evidence to establish that Trump obstructed justice during the Mueller investigation. It says obstruction cases are typically brought when someone prevents the investigation and prosecution of a separate crime, and the Mueller investigation did not establish an underlying crime or criminal conspiracy.
It also indicates that there is considerable evidence that Trump took official action, such as asking the White House attorney to fire Mueller, “not for an unlawful purpose, but rather because he thought the The investigation was politically motivated and undermined his administration’s efforts to govern.”
The memo points out that none of Trump’s requests to change the investigation have been made.
The document was released as the former president faces criminal and congressional investigations over other issues, including storage presidential documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence.