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Senate Judiciary Democrats demand DOJ turn over Trump obstruction memo

The Hill logo The Hill 6/16/2021 Harper Neidig
Dick Durbin wearing a suit and tie: Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) © Bloomberg/Pool Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.)

All 11 Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are demanding that the Justice Department turn over to Congress an internal legal memo related to former special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation that is said to have cleared then-President Trump of criminal wrongdoing.

The group sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday requesting an unredacted version of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memo as the Department of Justice (DOJ) fights against its release in court.

"Although these memos predate your confirmation as Attorney General, the Department you now lead bears responsibility for ensuring that OLC is not misused to justify harmful policies or inappropriately conceal information from Congress," the letter reads. "In the interest of transparency and given the March 24, 2019 OLC memo's apparent role in misleading the Committee about Mueller's findings, the Committee requests that you produce the full memo without redactions. Please provide the memo, or your legal justification for withholding it, to the Committee by June 29, 2021."

The DOJ did not immediately respond when asked for comment.


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A group of Democrats on the committee had written to Garland last month urging him not to fight a district court judge's order to release the document.

But the DOJ ultimately filed an appeal weeks after Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued a decision blasting it and former Attorney General William Barr, accusing them of making misrepresentations about the memo and the ultimate Mueller report.

In their letter on Wednesday, the group of Democrats, led by Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (Ill.) expressed concern about the memo, which is said to have concluded that Trump did not commit obstruction of justice during the special counsel probe, and whether it was used by Barr to mislead Congress in the weeks before the DOJ released the Mueller report.

The DOJ often fights to keep OLC memos from public view. The office is tasked with providing the executive branch with legal advice on policy decisions, but it has been widely criticized over its lack of transparency and for acting as a rubber stamp on controversial decisions.

"The transparency of OLC memos remains of utmost concern to the Committee given the role OLC plays in justifying executive branch policies of enormous consequence," the Democrats wrote on Wednesday. "Only in rare circumstances should OLC legal opinions be kept confidential, and even then they should be provided to the Committee, which has a constitutional responsibility to oversee DOJ on behalf of the American people."

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