The nine-page memo was released Wednesday as part of a lawsuit over public records linked to the Mueller investigation. A heavily redacted version of the memo was released earlier in 2021, but a federal court ordered the Justice Department to make the full document public.
“It is rare for federal prosecutors to bring an obstruction charge that does not itself arise from a proceeding related to a separate crime,” then-top Justice Department officials Steven Engel and Ed O’Callaghan wrote in the document. that ends with a formal recommendation to impeach Trump, which Barr signed and approved on March 24, 2019.
That’s the same date Barr notified Congress of his decision not to prosecute Trump, which was later criticized by Mueller and legal analysts for plucking from Mueller’s report.
The memo contains a legal analysis submitted to Barr. Two federal courts involved in the public records have concluded that Barr did not really rely on the memo for legal advice, never seriously considered suing Trump, made a decision before ordering the memo, and that he signed the memo upon notification to Congress of its decision.
Last week, in ruling that the full memo must be released, a federal appeals court described the memo as an “academic exercise” or “thought experiment” designed to promote the public rollout of Barr’s controversial decision against Trump’s prosecution. to reinforce. The lawsuit was filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a government watchdog group.
How Barr broke up with Mueller
In the memo, Barr deputies criticized Mueller’s analysis of relevant obstruction cases, saying Trump should not be charged because, among other things, “there is no precedent” and claiming Mueller could not find a single comparable case with “far similar circumstances.”
“In every successful obstructionist case cited in the (Mueller) report, the corrupt acts were taken to prevent the investigation and prosecution of an individual crime,” Barr’s aides argued in their memo. “The existence of such a crime is not a necessary element to prove an obstruction charge, but the absence of underlying guilt is relevant and strong evidence.”
Mueller concluded that there were several incidents with strong indications of obstruction by Trump. But Barr’s deputies argued that Trump mainly “tried to modify the process as the special counsel’s investigation progressed,” but did not attempt to “deliberately alter evidence,” which could be more serious and could be criminal.
Specifically, Barr’s delegates concluded that Trump was not breaking the law in any of the incidents highlighted by Mueller. This includes Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey and his earlier request to Comey to slow down the criminal investigation of his former top adviser Michael Flynn.
The expression of the president’s “hope” that Comey would “let this go” did not clearly lead to any particular action in the Flynn investigation, and Comey did not respond at the time as if he had received a direct order from the president. Barr’s deputies wrote in the internal memo.
Barr’s associates believed in the idea that Trump may have obstructed by telling Don McGahn, his attorney at the White House, to write a memo saying he never tried to fire Mueller. Barr’s aides admit Trump probably knew this wasn’t true, but “there is insufficient evidence to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the President intended to incite McGahn to lie.”
The publication of the unedited memo comes as the Justice Department is re-examining Trump for possible obstruction of justice — this time in connection with the criminal investigation into whether he has classified documents he sent from the White House to Mar. -a-Lago took, mishandled .
This story has been updated with additional details.
Katelyn Polantz, Evan Perez, Hannah Rabinowitz and Holmes Lybrand of CNN contributed to this report.