October 2, 2022

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Why wasn’t Donald Trump indicted after the Mueller report

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday released a memo of a 2019 memo showing then-Attorney General William Barr’s decision not to charge President Donald Trump with obstruction of justice after the Mueller report.

The nine-page memo, dated March 24, 2019, was written by Steven Engel, then deputy attorney general of the Office of Legal Counsel, and Ed O’Callaghan, who was the senior deputy attorney general of the Department of Justice, according to NBC News.

It was released following a lawsuit by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which sought to reveal the legal guidance Barr received from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, according to The Hill. The lawsuit prompted the DOJ to release a redacted version of the memo in 2021.

What is written in that note

The memo, prepared by the two senior Justice Department officials, said the evidence in Mueller’s report “is not sufficient, in our view, to support a finding beyond a reasonable doubt that the president violated obstruction of justice statutes.”

Even if there were no constitutional barriers to impeaching a president, the memo argues, the Justice Department should decline to indict Trump. The memo’s authors also wrote that it was not clear Trump was trying to cover up any wrongdoing.

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“Furthermore, we believe that certain conduct examined by the special counsel could not, as a matter of law, support a charge of obstruction under the circumstances,” the memo continued. “Accordingly, if there were no constitutional bar, we would recommend, in accordance with the principles of federal prosecution, that you decline to initiate such a prosecution.”

Basically, much of the analysis in the memo focuses on a line in the Mueller report that indicates there is insufficient evidence to charge anyone in the Trump campaign, or even the then-president, with conspiring with members of the Russian government to intervene in the elections.

The 2019 memo to Barr came just two days after Mueller released his more than 400-page report to the DOJ and was completed just hours after Barr sent a letter to Congress saying he saw no reason for a criminal prosecution. Barr, the same day he received the note, called a press conference in which he said that the Department of Justice will not file charges against Trump, notes The New York Post.

CREW reaction

CREW President Noah Bookbinder called the memo “a stunningly generous view of the law and the facts of Donald Trump.”

“It interprets the facts and the law to Trump’s advantage and is inconsistent with a serious interpretation of the obstruction of justice law or the facts found by Mueller,” Bookbinder tweeted.

“The memo rests largely on the argument that there was no underlying criminal conduct and that it is difficult to charge obstruction without an underlying crime. Of course, that’s not what Mueller actually found. … Mueller found there was insufficient evidence to charge Trump and others with colluding with Russia. It’s not that he didn’t find any crime, he just didn’t find enough evidence for the charges,” he added.

What is the Mueller Report

The 448-page Mueller report, which was released in April 2019, nearly a month after Barr’s letter to Congress, examined several episodes of possible obstruction of justice, including Trump’s firing of then-FBI Director James Comey and his efforts to pressure then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

In the end, Mueller’s team wrote that it could not say definitively that Trump did not obstruct justice.

“While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it does not exonerate him,” the report said.

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