After the first section of a memo written about the Mueller probe was released last month by the Department of Justice, speculation began to circulate about the contents of a sealed second portion.
Those hoping to see what that second section might reveal, however, will be disappointed following a federal judge’s ruling this week that it will remain sealed for now.
“There may be some additional public benefit”
According to Fox News, the memo, written by Justice Department lawyers under former Attorney General William Barr, addressed the special counsel probe conducted during the Trump administration into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential race.
Part of the 2019 memo was released last month but the remainder was kept under wraps. It had been written by attorneys in the Office of Legal Counsel who argued that Robert Mueller’s report did not provide sufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges against Trump.
D.C.-based advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics has pursued legal action to compel the full release of the memo.
U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia Amy Berman Jackson originally ruled in favor of having the redacted section released, but apparently changed her mind and gave the Justice Department time to appeal its decision.
“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,” Jackson determined.
“The fact that he would not be prosecuted was a given”
Although there is a long-standing unwritten rule that the Justice Department will not file criminal charges against a sitting president, the OLC wrote in the memo that even if the rule was not in effect, there still was not enough to charge Trump with obstruction of justice.
Under President Joe Biden, the Justice Department attempted to argue that the memo was used to advise Barr on whether or not to bring charges against Trump. Jackson seemingly brushed off that argument.
“The review of the document reveals that the Attorney General was not then engaged in making a decision about whether the President should be charged with obstruction of justice; the fact that he would not be prosecuted was a given,” the judge wrote in her ruling.
Throughout his presidency, Trump repeatedly referred to the Mueller investigation as a partisan “witch hunt,” a claim that Mueller directly disputed in public statements.
Only time will tell if the sealed portion of the memo is ever released, but Jackson indicated that it would be unlikely to have any significant outcome on the original investigation.