Posts tagged with "Former AG Bill Barr"

Judge grants Trump’s request for special master to review Mar-A-Lago documents

September 6, 2022

A federal judge will appoint a special master to sift through nearly 13,000 documents and items that the FBI seized on August 8 from Donald Trump’s Florida residence and club, Mar-a-Lago, and identify any that may be protected by attorney-client or executive privilege, according to a court order posted on Monday, September 5, reports The Washington Post.

U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon—who was nominated by Trump in 2020—wrote in her decision that the Justice Department cannot continue reviewing the materials seized by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago or use them in its criminal investigation until the special master concludes his or her assessment.

But Cannon ruled that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence would be allowed to continue its ongoing assessment of the possible risk to national security posed by the removal from government custody of classified documents, some of them related to highly sensitive government and intelligence secrets.

In her opinion, Cannon sided with Trump’s legal team and said that the former president does retain some executive privileges after leaving office—a stance that the Justice Department disagrees with.

“The Court hereby authorizes the appointment of a special master to review the seized property for personal items and documents and potentially privileged material subject to claims of attorney-client and/or executive privilege,” the ruling states.

Justice Department spokesperson Anthony Coley said the government “is examining the opinion and will consider appropriate next steps in the ongoing litigation.” A representative for Trump immediately returned requests for comment on the ruling.

Trump’s lawyers have argued that an objective outside expert should review the thousands of White House and government documents that were kept at Mar-a-Lago despite months of efforts by the National Archives and Records Administration, and the Justice Department, to get them back.

In addition to identifying whether any of the documents should be shielded from prosecutors because of attorney-client or executive privilege, lawyers for the 45th president said, such a review would boost “trust” in the ongoing criminal investigation over the possible mishandling of classified documents after Trump left the White House.

Trump and his lawyers and allies have accused the Justice Department of having political motives in conducting the investigation and of unnecessarily escalating it into a criminal probe.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has declined to discuss the ongoing investigation, in keeping with general Justice Department practice. But he said days after the August 8 search of Mar-a-Lago that “Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly without fear or favor. Under my watch, that is precisely what the Justice Department is doing.”

While the FBI raid of Trump’s Florida residence and private club has triggered an outpouring of condemnation from the former president and his Republican allies, some Republicans have said the search may have been necessary.

In an interview that aired Friday, former Trump attorney general William P. Barr said there is no reason classified documents should have been at Mar-a-Lago after Trump was no longer president.

People say this was unprecedented,” Barr said in an interview with Fox News. “But it’s also unprecedented for a president to take all this classified information and put them in a country club, okay?”

In opposing the appointment of a special master, Justice Department lawyers told Cannon they had already sorted through the documents, using a “filter team” to separate out more than 500 pages of potentially privileged documents. That arrangement was approved by a U.S. magistrate judge who authorized the Mar-a-Lago search warrant.

Prosecutors said appointing a special master would be pointless, given the previous filter team review—but Cannon disagreed. They also said that there was no legal basis to appoint a special master in this case and that Trump had no rights to possess White House documents once he left office.

On Friday, September 2, Cannon unsealed a detailed inventory list of items seized from Mar-A-Lago. It showed that Trump intermingled classified and unclassified materials in boxes at Mar-A-Lago and had dozens of empty folders that bore a “classification” marking.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Why is DOJ still defending Trump in E. Jean Carroll lawsuit?

June 10, 2021

The Biden Justice Department is forging ahead with a controversial legal effort started under former President Donald Trump to intervene on Trump’s behalf in a defamation lawsuit brought against him by a writer who says Trump sexually assaulted her in the 1990s, NPR reports. But the question remains, why?

E. Jean Carroll leveled the accusations against Trump in her memoir published in Jean Carroll leveled the accusations against Trump in her memoir published in 2019. Trump denied the allegations and accused Carroll of lying to sell books.

Carroll sued the then-president for defamation, but the suit has been caught up in litigation since the Trump-era Justice Department attempted to step in on Trump’s behalf and make the government the defendant instead of the now-former president.

In its filing late Monday, the Justice Department—now led by Attorney General Merrick Garland under the Biden Administration—sought to continue its defense of Trump while distancing itself from his alleged actions.

“Then-President Trump’s response to Ms. Carroll’s serious allegations of sexual assault included statements that questioned her credibility in terms that were crude and disrespectful,” Brian Boynton, the acting head of the department’s Civil Divisionwrote in the brief. “But this case does not concern whether Mr. Trump’s response was appropriate. Nor does it turn on the truthfulness of Ms. Carroll’s allegations.”

Instead, Boynton said, it boils down to a few legal questions, including whether a president is an “employee of the government” and whether Trump’s denials were made within the scope of his office. The department said the answer to both questions is yes, and therefore under federal law it said the government should be able to replace Trump as defendant in the case.

If the department were to succeed in its efforts, legal experts said the move would effectively end the case because the federal government can’t be sued for defamation.

According to NPR, Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, slammed the Justice Department’s decision to continue the Trump-era effort to intervene.

“The DOJ’s position is not only legally wrong, it is morally wrong since it would give federal officials free license to cover up private sexual misconduct by publicly brutalizing any woman who has the courage to come forward,” she said on Twitter.

“Calling a woman you sexually assaulted a ‘liar,’ a ‘slut,’ or ‘not my type’—as Donald Trump did here—is NOT the official act of an American president.”

The new filing is the latest development in the case since the Trump-era Justice Department first took the unusual step of seeking to intervene in the lawsuit last year.

The Justice Department and then-Attorney General William Barr came under fierce criticism for the move, which opponents argued was one in a series of actions the department took under Barr that benefited Trump or his friends.

A federal judge in October denied the Justice Department’s initial attempt to step in on Trump’s behalf. Trump appealed the decision to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, where the matter now stands.

Research contact: @NPR

Secret Bill Barr memo instructing DOJ staff ‘not to charge Trump’ must be released, judge says

May 6, 2021

A federal judge this week rejected the Justice Department’s attempts to keep under wraps a departmental opinion written while Bill Barr was attorney general that instructed staff not to charge former President Donald Trump with obstruction at the end of the Mueller investigation—calling the administration’s lawyers “disingenuous.”

According to a report by CNN, the department had argued in court that the largely redacted March 2019 memo was legal reasoning that helped then-Attorney General William Barr make a decision about Trump.

But federal District Judge for the District of Columbia, Amy Berman Jackson said she believed Barr and his advisers had already decided they wouldn’t charge the President with a crime before he got the written advice, and the memo was partly strategic planning instead of legal reasoning—and, therefore, could be made public.

The decision adds to the criticism federal judges and others have had about Barr and his handling of the end of the Mueller investigation. Jackson and others have repeatedly questioned Barr’s motives to keep documents related to the investigation —including Mueller’s findings and Barr’s reactions to them—secret or by delaying their release.

“The agency’s redactions and incomplete explanations obfuscate the true purpose of the memorandum, and the excised portions belie the notion that it fell to the Attorney General to make a prosecution decision or that any such decision was on the table at any time,” Jackson wrote in a 35-page opinion released on Tuesday, May 4.

“The fact that [Trump] would not be prosecuted was a given,” she added.

The judge’s opinion comes in a lawsuit where the government transparency group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is seeking access to DOJ documents through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

CNN reports that CREW and several other groups are still trying to pry new records from the Mueller investigation and make them available to the American public, through lawsuits and other challenges. The case Jackson decided this week deals with documents around Barr’s decision to decline to charge Trump.

The memo of supposed legal reasoning prepared for Barr should be released, Jackson ruled. A draft legal analysis from the Office of Legal Counsel would stay secret, Jackson also decided.

Research contact: @CNN