William Barr, President Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Justice Department, has provided lawmakers a copy of his June memo to department officials, lambasting special counsel Robert Mueller III’s possible inquiry into whether Trump committed obstruction of justice.
The letter, which Barr wrote as a “former official,” is addressed to U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Steven Engel, a former Dechert partner who now heads DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel. The Kirkland & Ellis lawyer provided a copy of the memo to lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee panel that will question him during his confirmation hearing.
The memo, first reported by the Wall Street Journal and other outlets, will likely attract new scrutiny for Barr’s nomination. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a top Democrat on the committee, described the memo in a statement Thursday as “very troubling.”
“We need answers as to why Barr proactively drafted this memo and then shared it with the deputy attorney general and President Trump’s lawyers,” Feinstein said.
The former U.S. attorney general told lawmakers in a Senate questionnaire that if a potential conflict of interest were to arise, he would “consult with the appropriate Department of Justice ethics officials and act consistent with governing regulations.”
Rosenstein, speaking at a press conference Thursday on the indictment of Chinese hackers, said the memo reflects Barr’s personal opinion:
“Lots of people offer opinions to the Department of Justice, but they don’t influence our own decision making. We have very experienced lawyers and obviously our decisions are informed by our knowledge of the actual facts of the case, which Mr. Barr didn’t have. I didn’t share any confidential information with Mr. Barr. He never requested that we provide any nonpublic information to him, and that memo had no impact on our investigation.”
The memo is posted in full here: