Justice Department releases unredacted memo from Barr detailing decision not to indict Trump in Russian probe

The nine-page memo was released Wednesday as part of a lawsuit over public documents related to the Mueller investigation. A heavily redacted version of the memo had previously been released in 2021, but a federal court ordered the Department of Justice to release the full document.

“It would be rare for federal prosecutors to bring a lawsuit for obstruction that does not itself arise out of a separate crime proceeding,” senior Justice Department officials Steven Engel and Ed O’Callaghan wrote. in the document, which ends with a formal recommendation against indicting Trump, which Barr signed and approved on March 24, 2019.

It is the same date as Barr informed Congress of his decision not to prosecute Trump, which was later criticized by Mueller and legal analysts for cherry picking of the Mueller report.
The memo contains a legal analysis that was presented to Barr. Two federal courts involved in the public records case found that Barr did not trust the memo for legal advice, never seriously considered indicting Trump, already made up his mind before ordering the memo, and that he signed the memo after informing Congress of his decision.
Last week, in ruling that the full memo should be released, a federal appeals court described the memo as an “academic exercise” or “thought experiment” that was intended to bolster the public deployment of Barr’s controversial ruling. against Trump’s lawsuit. The court case was contributed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a government watchdog group.

How Barr broke up with Mueller

In the memo, Barr’s deputies criticized Mueller’s analysis of relevant obstruction cases and said Trump should not be charged because, among other reasons, “there is no precedent.” and claims that Mueller could not find a single comparable case with “similar remote circumstances”. ”

“In each successful obstruction case cited in the (Mueller) report, the corrupt acts were committed to prevent the investigation and prosecution of a separate crime,” Barr’s aides explained in their memo. “The existence of such an offense is not a necessary element to prove a charge of obstruction, but the absence of underlying guilt is relevant and powerful evidence.”

Mueller concluded that there were several incidents with strong evidence of obstruction by Trump. But Barr’s deputies argued that Trump had primarily “attempted to alter the process as the special counsel’s investigation progressed” but had not tried to “intentionally alter the evidence,” which would be more serious and could be criminal.
Specifically, Barr’s deputies concluded that Trump did not break the law in any of the incidents highlighted by Mueller. This includes Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey and his previous ask comey to go easy on the criminal investigation of his former senior adviser Michael Flynn.

“The President’s expression of ‘hoping’ that Comey ‘drops it’ did not clearly direct any particular action in the Flynn investigation, and Comey did not react at the time as if he had received a direct order from the president,” Barr said. deputies wrote in the internal memo.

Barr’s aides lent some credence to the idea that Trump might have obstructed by saying Don McGahn, his White House lawyer, to write a note saying he never tried to fire Mueller. Barr’s aides concede that Trump probably knew it was untrue, but “there is not enough evidence to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the president sought to induce McGahn to lie.”
The release of the unredacted memo comes as the Justice Department is once again investigating Trump for potential obstruction of justice – this time as part of the criminal investigation into if he mishandled classified documents which he took from the White House to Mar-a-Lago.

This story has been updated with additional details.

CNN’s Katelyn Polantz, Evan Perez, Hannah Rabinowitz and Holmes Lybrand contributed to this report.

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