Biden DOJ Keeping Trump DOJ's Secrets? Awesome.
It's redaction day at Wonkette! Or rather, UN-redaction day! If you haven't seen all the new UN-redactions about exactly what Paul Manafort lied to Robert Mueller's investigators about to blow up his plea deal, click here.
As for this post, it's an update on a story from a few weeks ago, when DC District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson essentially called former Attorney General Bill Barr the liar he is, specifically regarding his handling of the release of the Mueller Report. In a ruling in response to a FOIA request from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the judge outright accused Bill Barr of lying to her and to Congress about his decision not to charge Donald Trump with obstruction of justice, even though the Mueller Report laid out umpteen times how Trump absolutely did that.
And to prove it, she cited a memo from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that she had read in its entirety, which — far from being the deliberative advice Barr claimed he had gotten from top DOJ people on whether Trump should be charged — she said was little more than an after-the-fact justification for a decision Barr had already made. She said DOJ's obfuscation about this memo was part of a pattern of lies from Barr, who misrepresented just about everything about the Mueller Report he hid from the American public for weeks.
And she ordered DOJ — the Biden DOJ, under AG Merrick Garland — to either release that memo, or tell her why they shouldn't.
And their answer was kiiiind of both, but mostly "why they shouldn't."
They're appealing the ruling, first of all. But Garland's DOJ also released a bit of the memo, as the AP reports, "showing senior Justice Department leaders concluded that the evidence could not support an obstruction prosecution." Yeah OK.
In its motion Monday, Justice Department lawyers said the government never meant to mislead the court but acknowledged that some of its language could have been clearer.
The department said the decision before the attorney general was not whether to prosecute Trump since the indictment of a sitting president is precluded by longstanding Justice Department policy. Rather, the question that the memo set out to address was whether the facts gathered by Mueller could warrant a criminal case. That question, the government says, was a genuine decision that had to be made.
"The Attorney General's determination on that point — and on what, if anything, to say to the public about that question — undoubtedly qualifies as a decision, even if it could not have resulted in an actual prosecution of the sitting President," Justice Department lawyers wrote.
"There was no legal bar to determining that the evidence did or did not establish commission of a crime, a determination the Attorney General made and announced," they added.
As Zoe Tillman explains at BuzzFeed, the DOJ's brief says yes, Barr wasn't going to prosecute Trump because of a memo in OLC that says sitting presidents can't be prosecuted. Granted. But he HAD NOT EITHER decided whether Trump had committed obstruction of justice of the Russia investigation. They are sorry if they did an "imprecision" in explaining that. The brief says "regret" five times.
"In retrospect, the government acknowledges that its briefs could have been clearer, and it deeply regrets the confusion that caused," DOJ wrote.
OK, so let's just go with "DOJ is full of shit" and skip right to MERRICK GARLAND, WHAT ARE U DOIN'? Why are you hiding bullshit after-the-fact justifications on not prosecuting Donald Trump from a dumpy Roy Cohn substitute who was literally only hired to do cover-ups for the most criminal president in US history? Weren't you wanting to run a much better DOJ than this?
Well. It's probably quite simple. We'll let Tillman explain it, since she is the Justice Department reporter:
Historically, DOJ defends the prerogatives and power of the executive branch across presidents. So the department i… https://t.co/dmjTeQbaRC— Zoe Tillman (@Zoe Tillman) 1621914305.0
She writes, "Historically, DOJ defends the prerogatives and power of the executive branch across presidents. So the department is arguing to keep this memo sealed with an eye to some future DOJ memo that Biden or some future admin will believe should be sealed."
In shortened form, it's executive branch, executive power bullshit. Awesome.
Elections matter, but they don't solve every single fucked up thing that exists in our system as it's currently constituted. And it is a truism in American politics that once executive power is expanded, it is never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever
And yeah, Donald Trump made it much worse.
But Biden's DOJ just doesn't want to break precedent and have that used against them at some as-yet-undetermined later date!
If you'd like to go be with somebody who is very, very mad about this, may we suggest the Twitter feed of ethics expert Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE)?
To Biden's credit, he's stayed out of DOJ's work (or at least appears to have done so). That means this debacle is… https://t.co/Pap63dkkFA— Walter Shaub (@Walter Shaub) 1621949384.0
That's the nicest tweet Shaub's sent all day.
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