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US Justice Dept appeals order faulting former U.S. Attorney General Barr By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Attorney General William Barr listens to testimony during a House Judiciary Committee hearing, in Washington, U.S., July 28, 2020. Chip Somodevilla/Pool via REUTERS

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By Jan Wolfe

(Reuters) -The U.S. Justice Department on Monday said in a court filing it would appeal a court decision faulting former U.S. Attorney General William Barr’s handling of the 2019 special counsel report on then-President Donald Trump, a move congressional Democrats had opposed.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson had given the Justice Department until May 24 to appeal a decision she issued earlier this month that faulted Barr for how he publicly summarized Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 2019 report.

As part of her ruling, she ordered the release of a related internal memo that Barr said he relied on in deciding how to handle the Mueller report.

A group of U.S. Senate Democrats on May 14 urged U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland not to appeal Jackson’s decision, saying in a letter that Barr’s actions need to be exposed quickly.

“To be clear, these misrepresentations preceded your confirmation as Attorney General, but the Department you now lead bears responsibility for redressing them,” the letter stated.

The special counsel’s April 2019 report outlined 10 episodes in which Trump tried to get the special counsel fired, limit the scope of his investigation, or otherwise interfere with the probe.

Mueller stopped short of concluding that Trump had committed the crime of obstruction of justice, but did not exonerate him of wrongdoing either, leaving Barr or Congress the option to take action against the Republican president.

Before publicly releasing Mueller’s report, Barr sent a letter to congressional leaders and held a news conference that summarized Mueller’s findings. Many Democrats accused Barr of misrepresenting Mueller’s findings in order to change the public narrative at the time.

Jackson validated this view in her stinging May 3 decision. She said Barr misrepresented the Mueller report in his letter to Congress, and ordered the release of a 2019 legal memorandum to a government accountability group.

The judge said the memorandum, prepared for Barr as he considered his decision, did not qualify as a protected attorney-client communication.

In her decision, Jackson characterized the memo as a “strategic” document, concluding that Barr had come to a predetermined conclusion not to charge Trump with obstruction of justice.

Her ruling came in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal watchdog group.

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