The Justice Department intends to appeal an order requiring the government to disclose a memo that was cited as a reason not to pursue obstruction of justice charges against former President Donald Trump, it said Monday.
William Barr, then the attorney general, cited the memo, written by the department’s Office of Legal Counsel, as one reason he did not intend to pursue obstruction charges after he received the report of special counsel Robert Mueller, who investigated interference in the 2016 presidential election and other matters.
A page and a half of the 2019 memo was released in a subsequent filing Monday night. The Justice Department is appealing a judge’s order over the rest of it.
It says the memo was written to evaluate whether the facts in Mueller’s report would support initiating prosecution of the president, without regard to any constitutional barrier — and concludes that they would not.
The memo says that although the Mueller report declined to reach a conclusion, the Justice Department should.
The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sought the memo under the Freedom of Information Act.
The Justice Department said it fell under an exception for deliberative materials, but the judge said the memo treated Barr’s decisions as a foregone conclusion and was not that kind of legal advice.
Barr declared that the evidence described in Mueller’s report did not support a charge of obstruction, even leaving aside a policy against indicting a sitting president.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said this month that the memo should be released. She ruled that it did not fit the exemption for “deliberative” documents.