Congress Criminal Justice & the Rule of Law Democracy & Elections Executive Branch

2019 Trump Obstruction of Justice Memo Released

Hyemin Han
Wednesday, August 24, 2022, 6:23 PM

The newly released memo reveals the reasoning that then Attorney General Bill Barr relied on to decline to prosecute former President Donald Trump for obstruction of justice in the Mueller investigation.

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

A March 2019 memo that then-Attorney General Bill Barr used to justify the lack of prosecution against former President Donald Trump for obstruction of justice in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential 2016 election interference has been made public. Penned by then-Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel and then-Principal Associate Deputy General Edward O’Callaghan, the memo argues that Volume II of the Special Counsel’s Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election was not sufficient "to support a conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt that the President violated the obstruction-of-justice statutes” based on a lack of “corrupt intent” from Trump, and requested that Barr decline to prosecute the matter.

In the memo, the Justice Department officials concluded that evidence from none of Trump’s 10 “episodes” in relation to the investigation identified by Mueller—including when Trump had attempted to fire Mueller during his investigation and had allegedly made efforts to “flip” investigation witnesses—would sufficiently support prosecution. The memo also asserted that any obstruction of justice prosecution would not only be “novel” but also “unusual” given the lack of precedent for an obstruction case based on a similar fact set. 

The memo was released through a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington following an appeals court decision. You can read the memo here or below:

Hyemin Han is an associate editor of Lawfare and is based in Washington, D.C. Previously, she worked in eviction defense and has interned on Capitol Hill and with the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. She holds a BA in government from Dartmouth College, where she was editor-in-chief of The Dartmouth independent daily.

Subscribe to Lawfare