A former Department of Justice prosecutor is calling on the DOJ to re-open its efforts investigating Donald Trump’s potential connections to Russian election interference, arguing there’s “vast evidence” the former president should be convicted.
“Nothing is more important for the future of our democracy than ensuring that Trump does not escape justice forever simply because he was once elected president. There is vast evidence that Donald Trump committed crimes,” wrote Noah Bookbinder, a former prosecutor in the DOJ’s public integrity division, in USA Today on Friday, adding, “Now is the moment for America to see equal justice in action. It’s time to finish what Mueller started.”
Following two years of investigation, and a massive final report of findings, neither special counsel Robert Mueller, nor the Trump DOJ, elected to charge Donald Trump with any crimes, though the Mueller report documented extensive contacts between Trump associates and figures connected to Russian interference efforts, as well as the ex-president’s own attempts to quash the investigation.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr Bookbinder, now at the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW), argues that Mr Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, sought to neutralise the impact of the Mueller report and give the public a false sense the former president was totally exonerated.
His comments come after CREW, in a lawsuit, secured the release of internal DOJ documents describing its deliberations on ultimately not making a decision on charging Mr Trump with any crime.
Federal judge Amy Berman Jackson agreed with this analysis, writing in a recent decision on releasing the documents that “what the writers were actually discussing was how to neutralize the impact of the Report in the court of public opinion."
Mr Mueller criticised Mr Barr’s public comments on the findings as well, writing in a letter at the time that, “There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation.”
Mr Barr could not be immediately reached for comment.
Since the release of the Mueller report in 2019, there have been calls for the DOJ to use its findings as the basis for criminal charges against the former president, who is now no longer protected by a DOJ precedent shielding sitting presidents from prosecution.
A group of more than 1,000 former federal prosecutors, for example, penned a letter saying that the Mueller report detailed what would amount to multiple felonies, including the former president’s apparent efforts to impede the investigation, such as directing officials to fire Mr Mueller, firing FBI director James Comey, and pressuring his former attorney Jeff Sessions to un-recuse himself.
Meanwhile, during his time in office, Mr Trump, who regularly called the Mueller probe a “witch hunt,” appointed John Durham, a prosecutor, to investigate the investigation, arguing bias impacted the FBI’s early efforts in 2016 to probe links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
An FBI inspector general report found that agents made errors as they secured secret warrants to surveil a former Trump campaign aide, but that the investigation into the campaign’s links to Russia, the early basis of the Mueller report, was not biased.