Former Attorney General William Barr on Friday distanced himself from reports that the Trump Justice Department seized communications records belonging to two prominent Democratic lawmakers who were spearheading investigations into then-President Donald Trump.
In a phone interview, Barr said he didn’t recall getting briefed on the moves.
Barr’s comments came after The New York Times reported that in 2017 and 2018, the Justice Department secretly seized the records of at least 12 people connected to the House Intelligence Committee, including its current chair. Barr became attorney general in 2019….
Barr said that while he was attorney general, he was “not aware of any congressman’s records being sought in a leak case.” He added that Trump never encouraged him to zero in on the Democratic lawmakers who reportedly became targets of the former president’s push to unmask leakers of classified information.
Trump “was not aware of who we were looking at in any of the cases,” Barr said. “I never discussed the leak cases with Trump. He didn’t really ask me any of the specifics.”
Yeah, right. I don’t believe a word of that bullshit.
From Evan Perez and Katelyn Polantz at CNN: Barr pushed investigators to finish leak probes.
(CNN)The Justice Department’s leak investigation that targeted lawmakers was more than a year old when Attorney General William Barr took office in 2019. Barr had vowed early on to help answer lingering questions from conservatives about the fairness of the Justice Department’s handling of politically sensitive investigations.
Barr pushed for briefings from national security prosecutors and urged them to move quickly to complete investigations, according to people briefed on the matter. In some cases, he sought to bring in outside prosecutors to help reinvigorate investigations he thought weren’t moving quickly enough….
The probe looking into whether lawmakers briefed on classified information leaked information to reporters was among several that were launched early on during the era of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was overseeing matters related to Russia, since Attorney General Jeff Sessions was recused….
As part of his effort to crack down on leakers, Barr brought in a well-regarded New Jersey prosecutor, Osmar Benvenuto, in early 2020 to help oversee leak investigations, which raised some eyebrows among Washington-based prosecutors because the line prosecutor had not had extensive counterintelligence or leak investigation experience. Like Trump, Barr had suspicions about leaks and believed the department’s credibility was at stake if it couldn’t show it fully investigated them, people briefed on the matter said.
He also found a set of aggressive career prosecutors leading this and other leak cases who were willing to take extraordinary steps to try to complete the probes.
Good old Rod Rosenstein. He turned out to be a loyal Trumpist too.
An op-ed at by former federal prosecutor Elie Honig at CNN: Bill Barr’s despicable conduct is now on full display.
It was already a matter of record that William Barr abused his power as attorney general under former President Donald Trump. Turns out, it’s even worse than we knew.
There’s no question that Barr was fundamentally dishonest (to put it charitably). Federal judges nominated to the bench by presidents of both political parties have found that Barr “lack(ed) … candor“; that his public and in-court statements were “disingenuous,” “incomplete,” “inconsistent” with truth and “called into question Attorney General Barr’s credibility.” Others, including former special counsel Robert Mueller, thousands of former Justice Department officials (including me), and members of Congress have expressed doubt or worse about Barr’s truthfulness and integrity.
We already knew that Barr politicized the Justice Department. He used it defensively to shield Trump from potential criminal exposure by misleading the public about Mueller’s findings, and by declaring, contrary to the evidence and the law, that Trump had not obstructed justice. (In his report, Mueller detailed extensive evidence of obstruction, but declined to clearly state whether he concluded that Trump had committed a crime). And Barr intervened in unprecedented fashion to undermine his own Justice Department’s prosecutions of Trump’s political allies Michael Flynn and Roger Stone.
But recent revelations — that prosecutors in Trump’s Department of Justice subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of Democratic members of Congress, their staffs and families — are different in kind. According to The New York Times, Barr even moved a New Jersey-based attorney to the main Justice Department to work on a case related to Rep. Adam Schiff of California, one of the House Democrats whose data was sought. (Barr, the Justice Department and Apple declined to comment on the story to the Times, though the Justice Department’s inspector general has said it will investigate.)
In taking such action, Barr used the staggering power of his position to selectively pursue Trump’s perceived political rivals. This is eerily similar to former President Richard Nixon’s “enemies list” and his efforts at retributive action.
Read the rest at CNN.
In other news, a number of media outlets recently reported that an IG report exonerated Trump of accusations that he ordered protesters cleared from Lafayette Square last year so he could do his despicable photo-op holding up a bible. Not so fast.
On June 1, 2020, as the Black Lives Matter protests were escalating, President Donald Trump, in an effort to project power and restore a sense of “law and order,” decided to walk across the street from the White House and hold aloft a Bible outside St. John’s Church, which had been damaged during a protest the night before.
He was able to do so because the crowd of protesters in Lafayette Square, which abuts the church, had been forcibly cleared by law enforcement in what some outlets referred to as an “attack” — officers from various law enforcement groups used horses, riot shields, batons, pepper spray, and tear gas to clear the area.
Reporters and onlookers understandably linked Trump’s desire to hold a photo op with the operation to forcibly clear protesters. But the new IG report has prompted a reevaluation of that linkage with its conclusion that “the evidence we obtained did not support a finding that the USPP (United States Park Police) cleared the park to allow the President to survey the damage and walk to St. John’s Church.”
“Instead, the evidence we reviewed showed that the USPP cleared the park to allow the contractor to safely install the antiscale fencing in response to destruction of property and injury to officers occurring on May 30 and 31,” it says.
Again, not so fast.
But the report does not clarify everything about what happened on June 1. For example, it does not offer perspective on whether the injury to officers actually necessitated clearing the park — a question raised immediately after protesters were removed. Nor does it definitively state that Trump had nothing to with how the clearing was carried out.
In fact, the report also suggests that other law enforcement agencies that were on the scene that day, such as the Secret Service, may have had reasons for taking aggressive action to clear protesters that went beyond the desire to install new fencing.
But because the IG report is limited to the actions of the USPP and did not include interviews with the Secret Service or the attorney general at the time of the incident, Bill Barr — who spoke with law enforcement before the operation began — important questions about the chain of events that led to protesters being forcibly cleared from the area on that day remain unanswered.
There’s much more at the link. See also this piece by attorney Luppe B. Luppin: Reading the Park Police IG Report More Closely. It doesn’t support the headlines, and this article at The Week by Ryan Cooper: Trump’s false Lafayette Square exoneration.
I wish we could be permanently rid of Trump and his family and cronies, but it doesn’t look like that will happen for a very long time.
Have a nice weekend, everyone!!