Sonam Sheth writes at Business Insider:
‘Pure insanity’: Intelligence veterans are floored by Barr’s ‘off the books’ overtures to foreign officials about the Russia probe
Intelligence veterans were puzzled by reports that Attorney General William Barr personally urged foreign officials to cooperate with a Justice Department investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation. “This is unheard of,” one former senior Justice Department official who worked closely with the former special counsel Robert Mueller when he was FBI director, told Insider. The Washington Post reported that Barr had already made overtures to British intelligence officials about the
Read in Business Insider: https://apple.news/AbSuy-8PHRYa0vX1p8I-F5Q
Harry Litman in the Washington Post:
Did William Barr break any rules? Only the most important one.
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By Harry Litman
October 1 at 11:35 AM
Multiple news agencies reported Monday that Attorney General William P. Barr has had extensive personal involvement in the Justice Department’s investigations into the origins of the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
That involvement — including trips abroad for personal meetings with foreign officials — is certainly “fairly unorthodox,” in the words of a former Justice Department official. Is it also inappropriate?
After all, part of an attorney general’s job is to liaise with foreign counterparts. It’s not unusual to have in-person meetings, especially at the beginning of an attorney general’s tenure, both to meet and greet and to discuss mutual priorities.
Moreover, Barr is the head of the Justice Department. No department business is beyond his concern. Unlike, say, the barriers that are supposed to stand between the White House and the Justice Department, there is no out-of-bounds area for the department’s political appointees, much less the attorney general.
Thus, during Barr’s first tenure as attorney general, he personally argued a case in the Supreme Court, a task normally reserved to the solicitor general and his or her assistants. No one took him to task for weeding in the solicitor general’s garden.
So what, if anything, might be worrisome about Barr’s conduct now?
Well, plenty. For starters, while attorneys general do meet with foreign officials to cement working relationships and even communicate shared general priorities, transatlantic trips to ask for help on an individual investigation are beyond rare. It would even be unusual for an attorney general to pick up the phone to call a counterpart about an individual case.
Barr’s personal globe-trotting mission necessarily communicates that this one matter — of all the ongoing business of the Justice Department — is an unsurpassed priority of the department.
Second and relatedly, Barr already has appointed a respected U.S. attorney, John Durham, to undertake the investigation. Many Justice Department investigations require cooperation with our most important foreign friends, and there are established channels of communication for Durham to work through if he needs help from intelligence agencies of other countries.
Third, the attorney general’s personal involvement compromises the whole idea of Durham’s independence. How is Durham supposed to ignore the bear riding piggyback on his shoulders?
That would be so even if the attorney general had no particular prejudice or bias with respect to the investigation. But the next problem, larger still, is that this attorney general brings strongly held preconceptions into an investigation that is supposed to be free of them.
Barr has repeatedly expressed suspicions of impropriety in the initiation of the Russia probe, including his inflammatory suggestion that the probe constituted “spying” on the Trump campaign.
It is hard not to conclude that Barr’s driving motivation is to turn up some nefarious aspect to the probe’s origins, backed by the imprimatur of a foreign government. And of course, nothing would please President Trump more.
Which brings us to the next big problem with Barr’s unusual campaign. Its animating idea, in fact obsession, is simply wacky. No one has ever shown any satisfactory basis for the various conspiracy theories that Trump defenders have trotted out to argue that the investigation into Russian meddling was rotten at the core.
Indeed, the whole enterprise of trying to discredit the probe is half-cocked. The revelations in the Mueller report of extensive efforts by the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election are beyond dispute and extraordinarily grave. It is fortunate that the FBI undertook the probe with the seriousness it merited.
Finally, the attorney general has not simply inserted himself into Durham’s probe. He has entered into a working partnership with Trump. Thus, we learned that the president’s recent call to the Australian prime minister to urge him to assist Barr apparently came at Barr’s urging. And again, that Barr asked Trump to contact other countries to ask them to introduce the attorney general and Durham to appropriate officials.
The president should not be within a million miles of this probe. Barr’s improper tag-team approach links the attorney general to Trump’s goal of smearing anyone involved in investigating him and can only further undermine public confidence in the department’s evenhandedness.
The overall rule that Barr has broken isn’t found in so many words in the Code of Federal Regulations or the Department of Justice Manual. But it’s the first rule for any attorney general: the rule of sound judgment and impartial apolitical administration of justice.
Barr’s enabling of Trump’s corruption just got more dangerous
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By Greg Sargent
October 1 at 10:42 AM
We are now learning extraordinary new details about the lengths to which William P. Barr is going in service of President Trump’s corrupt and all-consuming goal of making core truths about his 2016 election victory disappear.
But this isn’t a story that only looks backward. It also looks forward. And we need to ask whether these new efforts by Trump’s attorney general are aimed at the 2020 election as well.
Barr appears determined to discredit the special counsel investigation’s finding that Russia engaged in “sweeping and systematic” interference in our election on Trump’s behalf.
Which raises the question: What if Barr’s activities — whether by coincidence or design — end up chilling how intelligence officials respond to the next foreign effort to sabotage a U.S. presidential election on Trump’s behalf?
The Post has some major new reporting that documents Barr’s efforts to enlist foreign governments in his campaign to discredit the origins of Robert S. Mueller III’s probe. Barr has made overtures to British and Italian officials, and Trump himself pressed the Australian president to assist in undermining the investigation’s genesis.
Barr has already claimed “spying” on Trump’s campaign occurred, feeding Trump’s favorite conspiracy theory of a “deep state” plot to block him from getting elected. The goal now appears to be to use the government’s investigative machinery to create the impression that the real crime was not Russian interference, for which a whole bunch of Russians were indicted, but rather the investigation itself — perpetrated by U.S. law enforcement.Current and former officials are alarmed by Barr’s direct involvement in the investigation into the probe’s origins currently being run by John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut. As one former official tells The Post, this is “fairly unorthodox” and undercuts any hopes that Durham will be permitted to settle this in a “professional, nonpartisan manner.”
Another worry about Barr’s involvement
In an interview with me, Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), raised another worrisome prospect.
“This is designed to validate a conspiracy theory — that Russia didn’t interfere, and that the whole Mueller probe was a ‘witch hunt,’” Malinowski, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told me. The goal, he said, is to paint the intelligence community and FBI as the “villains in that conspiracy theory.”
Malinowski argued that intelligence officials eyeing how to respond to foreign interference in 2020 might take cues from the aggressiveness of Barr’s ongoing investigation of the investigators.
“There’s a message to our intelligence community, which is, ‘Don’t go there,’” Malinowski told me. “They’re being investigated for doing their jobs the last time.”
What’s more, Malinowski pointed out, foreign intelligence officials and governments might take a similar message from Barr’s efforts to enlist them in his current internal review.
“Are you going to share intelligence with this administration next year if you pick up evidence of Russian interference?” Malinowski noted, referring to foreign officials, who will ask themselves: “How will such information be received by the Trump administration? Do you pass along something that is clearly unwanted?”
Making that point more salient, The Post reports that Barr has taken a “sustained interest” in a conspiracy theory holding that the European academic who originally alerted Trump adviser George Papadopoulos to dirt Russia gathered on Hillary Clinton — which led to the FBI probe — was actually a plant hoping to falsely entrap the Trump campaign.
And one source tells The Post that in his conversations with British officials, Barr “expressed a belief” that the investigation of Russian interference “stemmed from some corrupt origin.”
A second source denies that characterization. But it simply cannot be dismissed as a very real possibility.
No end to Barr’s enabling of Trump
After all, we already saw Barr publicly legitimize Trump’s corrupt attacks on law enforcement by validating the “spying” and “witch hunt” language. Barr has even appealed to us to take into account how victimized Trump felt by Mueller’s witch-hunting in evaluating Trump’s corrupt efforts to obstruct it.
What’s more, Barr’s initial summary of the Mueller report misled the country by dishonestly downplaying what it actually determined about Trump officials’ efforts to conspire and benefit from Russian interference, and by minimizing the findings on obstruction of justice.
All this feeds into the ballooning Ukraine scandal as well. One key thing that Trump demanded of the Ukrainian president in the July 25 call is help validating a whackjob conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, was behind the 2016 email hacks. This, too, would magically make the truth about 2016 disappear — and in the call, Trump directed the Ukrainian president to work with Barr to make it true.
The Justice Department has denied any such Barr involvement. But here again, we already know that Barr’s Justice Department helped direct efforts to keep Congress from learning of the whistleblower complaint detailing that corrupt pressure on a foreign leader to interfere in the next U.S. election. Barr didn’t recuse himself from that, despite being personally named in the complaint.
Barr’s efforts in that regard are now being scrutinized by House Democrats as part of their impeachment inquiry. Which raises the question of whether these latest activities abroad will also come under House Democratic scrutiny.
Such efforts by Democrats, Malinowski suggested to me, would show that Democrats have the “back” of the intelligence community, so it isn’t dissuaded from investigating the next foreign attacks on our political system. After all, as Malinowski bluntly put it, this dissuasion appears in part to be Barr’s “goal.”
Barr’s political bias and his gross failure to provide asylum applicants and other migrants with the “fair and impartial” quasi-judicial hearings guaranteed by our Constitution has become painfully obvious, just as it was under unqualified White Nationalist AG Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions. The conflicts of interest, bogus legal rulings, ethical violations, and anti-immigrant bias simply scream out.
Yet, complicit Article IIIs continue to mindlessly accept the skewed and systemically unfair results of this corrupt and politicized “court” system largely without critical examination. Why aren’t life tenured Federal Judges performing their Constitutional duty to protect our individual Due Process?