Barr goes beyond Mueller in clearing Trump on obstruction, drawing scrutiny

The New York Times reports:

Over the 22 months of their inquiry, Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators examined countless documents and interviewed dozens of witnesses, including some of the highest-ranking lawyers and aides in the White House, to determine whether President Trump obstructed justice. But in the end, the special counsel reached no conclusion — instead producing a report that merely marshaled evidence on both sides.

Then, Attorney General William P. Barr, a political appointee whom Mr. Trump installed less than a month ago and who began reading Mr. Mueller’s report on Friday, stepped in. With the concurrence of his deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein, Mr. Barr seized the opportunity to render a judgment — pronouncing Mr. Trump clear of committing any criminal offense.

The propriety of that move by Mr. Barr — who had written an unsolicited memo last year arguing that Mr. Mueller ought not be permitted to investigate Mr. Trump for obstruction of justice — is certain to be a focus of political contention as Congress grapples with what it now knows about the still-secret Mueller report.

Representative Jerrold Nadler, the New York Democrat who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, cited Mr. Barr’s memo as a reason for suspicion and suggested that Mr. Barr’s action may amount to a “hasty partisan interpretation of the facts.” [Continue reading…]

Renato Mariotti writes:

It appears that Mueller approached his role with an admirable sense of humility and caution, with the understanding that whatever conclusion he reached would have an immense impact on the nation. While he essentially punted on the issue, I understand why Mueller may have felt the obstruction of justice decision was one for the American people and their elected representatives to make.

What I don’t understand is why Barr decided to take it upon himself to make a decision hastily based on “discussions with certain [DOJ] officials” when Mueller, after spending almost two years interviewing countless witnesses and reviewing many thousands of documents, had amassed evidence on both sides.

Barr’s speedy decision that Trump did not obstruct justice perhaps is not surprising. Barr wrote a 19-page single-spaced memorandum to the Deputy Attorney General and Trump’s attorneys explaining why Trump did not obstruct justice long before he become Attorney General.

As a practicing lawyer, it would take me dozens of hours to create a 19-page single-spaced memorandum containing nuanced legal analysis on any subject. I would not do so for free unless I felt very strongly about the issue. Although Barr claims otherwise in his letter, it is hard to escape the conclusion that he prejudged the matter and let his strong feelings about the subject influence his judgment.

Barr’s poor reasoning in the four-page summary will reinforce the conclusion that he prejudged the matter. [Continue reading…]

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