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Why DOJ Didn't Charge Trump With Obstructing Justice

Justice Department officials who evaluated then-President Trump’s actions during the Russia investigation concluded that nothing he did, including firing the FBI director, rose to the level of obstruction of justice and that there was no precedent for a prosecution, the Associated Press reports. A memo prepared for then-Attorney General William Barr by a pair of senior Justice Department officials and released Wednesday offered a legal analysis on whether Trump had criminally obstructed the investigation into potential ties between Russia and his 2016 presidential campaign. Barr agreed with the March 24, 2019, memo and announced that same day that Trump’s conduct did not break the law.


Though the decision to clear Trump of obstruction has been well-documented, the newly disclosed memo offers additional details about how two senior DOJ leaders arrived at that conclusion. Special counsel Robert Mueller, who led the Russia investigation, declined to decide whether Trump had obstructed justice but pointedly did not absolve him either. Mueller's report scrutinized 10 instances in which Trump lashed out or otherwise injected himself into the Russia investigation. Those include his May 2017 firing of then-FBI director James Comey; his request to Comey three months earlier to drop an investigation into his administration’s national security adviser Michael Flynn; and his subsequent efforts to have Mueller fired. The DOJ officials said the facts in the Trump investigation did not match up with any other prior obstruction prosecutions. Most of the obstruction cases cited by Mueller, they said, involved instances in which there was an inherently wrongful effort to hide or destroy evidence or to thwart the investigation of an underlying crime. Those factors do not exist in the Trump case, they wrote.

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