Attorney General William Barr and Donald Trump (Drew Angerer/Getty)
Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson rules that former Attorney General William Barr misled her and Congress over the Trump-Russia affair.
Jackson, of the US District Court in Washington DC, concluded that Barr was deceptive about advice from Justice Department officials, over whether Donald Trump should have been charged with obstruction of justice in his attempts to discredit and bury the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The judge said Barr’s actions were part of a wider pattern in which he and other senior officials were untruthful in their statements to Congress and the public.
The Justice Department tried to block Barr’s memorandum from scrutiny, arguing that it consisted of private advice from lawyers. Jackson ruled that the memo contained strategic advice, and that Barr and his aides already knew that they would cover for Trump
“The fact that [Trump] would not be prosecuted was a given,” Jackson wrote.
She found that the Justice Department tried to invoke confidentiality to prevent scrutiny of Barr’s deception: “[It] has been disingenuous to this court with respect to the existence of a decision-making process that should be shielded by the deliberative process privilege”.
Burying the Mueller Report
Jackson described Barr’s attempts to pre-empt the 448-page Mueller Report before it was released in April 2019, with a deceptive four-page memorandum in March that it found “no collusion” between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russian officials.
In fact, Special Counsel Mueller said he was not considering “collusion”, as the term had no legal standing.
Mueller concluded that there was no criminal conspiracy, as the Trump campaign did not plan Russia’s intervention with Moscow. But his investigation detailed direct and indirect contacts between the Trump camp and the Russians, and cited the campaign approval’s of Moscow’s operations — including the hacking and dissemination of e-mails from the Democratic National Committee and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s staff.
The Mueller Report also documented evidence of Trump’s obstruction or attempted obstruction of justice in at least eight cases, including his firing of FBI Director James Comey to prevent an investigation. Mueller told legislators that Trump could be prosecuted from the “first day” that he left the Presidency.
Judge Jackson’s ruling bolstered the March 2020 finding of Judge Reggie Walton, also of the US District Court in Washington, that there were “inconsistencies” between Barr’s statements and the content of hte Mueller Report. Walton said Barr’s “lack of candor” called into question his “credibility”.
Jackson gave the Government until May 17 to respond if its plans to appeal her ruling, which came in a lawsuit by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington seeking Justice Department documents.