The Department of Justice must release the secret memo it prepared in 2019 discussing whether then-President Donald Trump obstructed a special counsel probe into his campaign's dealings with Russia during the 2016 presidential election, a federal appeals panel ruled Friday.
The Hill reported Judges Sri Srinivasan, Judith Rogers and David Tatel held that the DOJ failed to meet its legal burden to show that the memo was protected because it concerned internal deliberations advising then-Attorney General William Barr over whether to charge Trump with obstructing special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of the Trump-Russia relationship.
Trump was never charged in Mueller's probe — a longstanding DOJ legal opinion rules out federal criminal charges against a sitting president.
"Because the department did not tie the memorandum to deliberations about the relevant decision, the department failed to justify its reliance on the deliberative-process privilege," Chief Judge Srinivasan wrote.
Liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking the DOJ memo in 2019. District Judge Amy Berman of the District of Columbia ordered the agency to release the memo, but paused that ruling while the DOJ appealed her decision.
Srinivasan said that the DOJ's claim that it was intended to counsel Barr on what public statements to make about the case came too late in litigation.
"Ordinarily, the government would have little difficulty establishing that a prosecutor's views about the sufficiency of the evidence form part of a privileged decisional process about whether to initiate or decline a prosecution," wrote Srinivasan, an appointee of President Barack Obama. "This, however, is the rare case that falls outside of that typical understanding," the judge added.
© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.