The liberal watchdog group that has been fighting in court to obtain internal Department of Justice (DOJ) documents from the Trump era criticized the Biden administration on Tuesday for trying to block the release of a legal memo that was used to clear the former president of wrongdoing after the Mueller investigation.
Noah Bookbinder, the president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), said the group was "deeply disappointed" that the DOJ is appealing a federal court decision ordering the release of the March 2019 memo.
"The Department of Justice had an opportunity to come clean, turn over the memo, and close the book on the politicization and dishonesty of the past four years," Bookbinder said in a statement. "Last night it chose not to do so. In choosing to fight Judge Jackson's decision, the DOJ is taking a position that is legally and factually wrong and that undercuts efforts to move past the abuses of the last administration. We will be fighting this in court.”
The DOJ said in a pair of court filings late Monday that it would appeal the decision written earlier this month by District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who accused former Attorney General William BarrBill BarrWoodward: Milley was 'setting in motion sensible precautions' with calls to China Barr-Durham investigation again fails to produce a main event Virginia governor's race enters new phase as early voting begins MORE and Justice Department attorneys of deceiving the public and the court about internal deliberations following the investigation led by former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE.
CREW filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in 2019 for internal DOJ documents that Barr had relied on in reaching the conclusion that the evidence supplied by the special counsel's office did not show that Trump had committed obstruction of justice.
The department fought in court to prevent the release of the 2019 memo, arguing that it was protected under exceptions to FOIA for documents involving attorney-client privilege or that were used as part of a deliberative decision-making process.
Jackson rejected those arguments earlier this month and ordered that the document be released in its entirety. In her May 3 decision, a fully unredacted version of which was released Tuesday, she said that the memo was formulated with the goal of providing advice on public relations strategy in response to the Mueller report, undercutting the government's position that it was privileged.
The DOJ did agree to release portions of the memo Monday night that show that the department's leadership wanted to issue a rationale for why Trump did not commit obstruction of justice, since Mueller declined to offer a conclusion on the issue.
“The limited portion of the memo that the Justice Department did disclose provides further evidence that Attorney General Barr's efforts were not aimed at making any real legal determination, but were instead aimed at publicly spinning the damning findings of the Mueller Report into a vindication of Donald TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE," Bookbinder said in his statement on Tuesday. "The deception needs to end now.”