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Judge stays release of controversial Barr memo to allow for appeal

A federal judge has stayed the release of a memo then-Attorney General William Barr cited in 2019 as aiding the Justice Department's decision to not prosecute then-President Donald Trump. Pool Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI
A federal judge has stayed the release of a memo then-Attorney General William Barr cited in 2019 as aiding the Justice Department's decision to not prosecute then-President Donald Trump. Pool Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

June 15 (UPI) -- A federal judge has agreed to temporarily stay an order for the Justice Department to release a controversial 2019 memo arguing against prosecuting then-President Donald Trump for obstruction of justice.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court of Columbia issued her ruling Monday to allow for the the Justice Department's appeal process to play out.

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"While there may be some additional public benefit in revealing the contents of Section II, the court will not deny the department the opportunity to challenge its ruling in order to advance that interest at this time," she said.

The ruling comes in a case involving watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, who is suing the department for a memo written by the Office of Legal Counsel that Trump administration Attorney General William Barr cited in 2019 as aiding his decision to not prosecute Trump on charges of obstructing an investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

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CREW had filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the memo after Barr mentioned it while delivering to Congress the report of former special counsel Robert Mueller's two-year investigation that said there wasn't enough evidence to charge the Trump campaign with collusion but listed some 10 episodes in which obstruction of justice charges against the president could be considered.

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In early May, Jackson, in a strongly worded ruling, gave the department two weeks to hand over the memo to CREW while rejecting its arguments of attorney-client and deliberative process privileges.

Late last month, the Justice Department filed a partially redacted version of the nine-page memo as part of its filing for an appeal, stating the court misunderstood its arguments due to imprecise language in its court filings.

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In her order on Monday, Jackson said she is allowing for the appeal to go forward but that the court did not make its ruling to release the rest of the memo because it was confused by the department's declarations -- it ordered the memo released because it found the department "misleading."

"The department chose not to tell the court the purpose of the memorandum or subject it addressed at all, and no amount of apologizing for 'imprecision' in the language it did use can cure the impact of that fundamental omission," she wrote, adding, the department "had an opportunity to dispel the misimpression it created with its own language once before, and it did not seem to think its position was confusing then."

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