Remember when Attorney General William “Coverup” Barr said he would personally conduct a review of the origins of the Russia investigation, separate and apart from the Department of Justice’s three other investigations? (DOJ inspector general Michael E. Horowitz, examining investigators’ use of wiretap applications and informants and whether any political bias against Mr. Trump influenced investigative decisions; John W. Huber, the United States attorney in Utah, has been reviewing aspects of the Russia investigation; John H. Durham, the United States attorney in Connecticut, examining the origins of the Russia investigation).
As a part of his review of the origins of the investigation into members of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, Attorney General William Barr asked President Trump on several occasions to initiate introductions between him and the leaders of Australia and Italy, among other countries, a Department of Justice official with direct knowledge of the calls told ABC News on Monday. Barr asked Trump for introductions to Italy, Australia in Russia probe review: The official confirmed to ABC News that Barr, while on a trip to Italy last week, met with senior Italian intelligence officials in the government along with U.S. Attorney John Durham, whom Barr has tasked with overseeing the review.
“At Attorney General Barr’s request, the President has contacted other countries to ask them to introduce the Attorney General and Mr. Durham to appropriate officials,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement.
The New York Times confirms that Trump Pressed Australian Leader to Help Barr Investigate Mueller Inquiry’s Origins: President Trump pushed the Australian prime minister during a recent telephone call to help Attorney General William P. Barr gather information for a Justice Department inquiry that Mr. Trump hopes will discredit the Mueller investigation, according to two American officials with knowledge of the call.
The Washington Post adds that Barr personally asked foreign officials to aid inquiry into CIA, FBI activities in 2016:
Attorney General William P. Barr has held private meetings overseas with foreign intelligence officials seeking their help in a Justice Department inquiry that President Trump hopes will discredit U.S. intelligence agencies’ examination of possible connections between Russia and members of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the matter.
Barr’s personal involvement is likely to stoke further criticism from Democrats pursuing impeachment that he is helping the Trump administration use executive branch powers to augment investigations aimed primarily at the president’s adversaries.
But the high-level Justice Department focus on intelligence operatives’ conduct is likely to cheer Trump and other conservatives for whom “investigate the investigators” has become a rallying cry. Barr has voiced his own concerns, telling lawmakers in April that he believed “spying did occur” when it came to the U.S. investigation of the Trump campaign.
The direct involvement of the nation’s top law enforcement official shows the priority Barr places on the investigation being conducted by John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, who has been assigned the sensitive task of reviewing U.S. intelligence work surrounding the 2016 election and its aftermath.
The attorney general’s active role also underscores the degree to which a nearly three-year-old election still consumes significant resources and attention inside the federal government.
Barr has already made overtures to British intelligence officials, and last week the attorney general traveled to Italy, where he and Durham met senior Italian government officials and Barr asked the Italians to assist Durham, according to one person familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue. It was not Barr’s first trip to Italy to meet intelligence officials, the person said. The Trump administration has made similar requests of Australia, said people who discussed the interactions on the condition of anonymity because they involve an ongoing investigation and sensitive talks between governments.
In a recent phone call, Trump urged Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to provide assistance to the ongoing Justice Department inquiry, the people said. Trump made the request at Barr’s urging, they said. The Trump phone call was first reported by the New York Times.
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Kerri Kupec, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said: “Mr. Durham is gathering information from numerous sources, including a number of foreign countries. At Attorney General Barr’s request, the President has contacted other countries to ask them to introduce the Attorney General and Mr. Durham to appropriate officials.”
Trump still complains frequently that those involved in the investigation of his campaign should be charged with crimes, asserting that the FBI search for possible election-season collusion between Russia and Trump campaign officials was a witch hunt spurred by agents and bureaucrats opposed to Trump becoming president.
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David Laufman, a former Justice Department official who was involved in the early stages of the Russia probe, said it was “fairly unorthodox for the attorney general personally to be flying around the world as a point person to further evidence-gathering for a specific Justice Department investigation,” and especially so in Barr’s case.
“Even if one questions, as a threshold matter, the propriety of conducting a re-investigation of the Justice Department’s own prior investigation of Russia’s interference, the appointment of John Durham — a seasoned, nonpartisan prosecutor — provided some reason to believe that it would be handled in a professional, nonpartisan manner,” Laufman said. “But if the attorney general is essentially running this investigation, that entire premise is out the window.”
Barr’s direct involvement in the effort also helps explain part of the controversial July phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. A rough transcript of that call shows Trump said he wanted Ukrainian assistance to help find out “what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine,” and possible involvement with the Democratic National Committee computer system that U.S. agencies have determined was hacked by Russian intelligence ahead of the 2016 election.
During the call with his Ukrainian counterpart, Trump suggested that Barr and his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, could help Zelensky’s government investigate the matter. A spokeswoman for Barr has said the attorney general was unaware of any such effort, and had not spoken to the president about the issue, nor to Ukrainian authorities.
That appears improbable. Barr almost certainly followed up with Ukraine. Assume he is lying, the hallmark of the Trump administration. CT U.S. Attorney Durham’s Ukraine probe could draw new scrutiny:
John Durham, an acclaimed prosecutor who heads the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Haven, is now leading a Department of Justice team looking into the role Ukraine and other countries played in the origins of the U.S. counterintelligence probe of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign.
“Mr. Durham is gathering information from numerous sources, including a number of foreign countries,” said Kerri Kupec, a DOJ spokesman, on Monday. “At Attorney General [William] Barr’s request, the President has contacted other countries to ask them to introduce the Attorney General and Mr. Durham to appropriate officials.”
Last week, Kupec said Barr had not yet contacted Ukraine in connection with this investigation, but “certain Ukrainians who are not members of the government have volunteered information to Mr. Durham, which he is evaluating.”
Durham’s investigation — examining how U.S. officials probed the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia — was kicked off in May at the behest of Barr. But the fact that Ukraine is one target of the ongoing investigation is relatively new.
Moreover, in his complaint, the whistleblower raised questions about whether this investigation by Durham was connected to the alleged efforts of Trump and his personal lawyer to persuade Ukraine to open a probe into one of Trump’s leading 2020 opponents, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and his son Hunter Biden.
The whistleblower noted in his complaint that Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, discussed Durham’s work in an August interview on Fox News. In that interview, Giuliani claimed Durham was “spending a lot of time in Europe” because he was “investigating Ukraine,” according to the complaint.
National security veterans were flummoxed Monday by revelations that Attorney General William Barr traveled overseas and personally asked top foreign intelligence officials to help with a Justice Department inquiry into the origins of the Russia investigation. ‘Pure insanity’: Intelligence veterans are floored by Barr’s ‘off the books’ overtures to foreign officials about the Russia probe:
“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 Business Insider.
John Sipher, a longtime former CIA clandestine services officer, agreed.
“This is pure insanity,” he wrote. “First of all its really dumb to think foreign services trust Barr more than their regular interlocutors. Also, it is crazy that people like Barr actually believe large groups of people were secretly conspiring in an election.” Sipher was referring to Trump’s and his allies’ claims that senior officials in the FBI and DOJ manufactured the Russia probe to undermine his chances at winning the 2016 race.
Robert Deitz, a former top lawyer at the CIA and NSA, also said he hasn’t heard “of so much involvement by the attorney general in this sort of investigation.”
“This is work for the gumshoes,” he told Insider. Barr’s involvement is all the more unusual, Deitz added, given Durham’s reputation. “I have worked with John Durham. He is absolutely a straight shooter. What he says one can rely on.”
Back to The Post:
Barr met with British officials in London over the summer to discuss the Durham probe, said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the investigation. In those conversations, according to this official, Barr expressed a belief that the U.S. investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election stemmed from some corrupt origin, the official said.
It was not clear what Barr thought was amiss, but he expressed a suspicion that information had been improperly gathered overseas about people connected with the Trump campaign and that the British may have unwittingly assisted those efforts, the official said.
Another person familiar with Barr’s efforts denied that characterization, saying he has been seeking cooperation for Durham’s work, and not trying to promote a particular theory or accusation against U.S. agents and officers.
Bullshit. Barr testified to Congress that he believed there was “spying” on the Trump campaign. He has set the parameters for the investigation and the conclusion he wants to draw.
Before Durham’s appointment, another U.S. attorney, John W. Huber, the United States attorney in Utah, was tasked with reviewing the Clinton email investigation, but the results of that work are still unknown. The multiple investigations show just how much the political conflict of 2016 continues to be an obsession within the
government Trump administration.
Last week, The Washington Post reported that State Department security officials were reexamining aspects of the Clinton email investigation, in which State Department business was conducted on Clinton’s private server when she was secretary of state. State Dept. intensifies email probe of Hillary Clinton’s former aides.
Former assistant US attorney Maya Wiley at Buzfeed News writes today an Opinion: Impeach William Barr.
UPDATE: At first glance it appears curious that the Trump administration is trying to debunk the Mueller Report when AG William “Coverup” Barr issued his summary of the report asserting that it “exonerated” Trump, as the Twitter-troll-in-chief tweeted at the time.
But when you pull all the threads of reporting together, you get a story that Russian asset Donald Trump is still working to lift Russian sanctions on behalf of his boss, Vladimir Putin. Last week at a press conference with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky Trump urged him to settle his country’s “differences” with Russia — on Putin’s terms. ‘No Pressure,’ Trump Insists, While Sitting With Ukraine’s Zelensky at U.N.:
During the conversation, Trump also urged Zelensky — whose country is receiving hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. aid to fight Russian-aligned forces — to work things out with President Putin. Trump commended Zelensky for making “a lot of progress with Russia,” adding, it “would be nice to end that whole disaster.” He later said he “really” hoped Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Zelensky appeared to avoid Trump’s searching gaze as he said that.)
Resolving the Ukraine crisis over Crimea and the Russian invasion of Ukraine might permit Trump to lift sanctions on Russia. Trump has consistently pursued the interests of his boss, Vladimir Putin. Now Attorney General William “Coverup” Barr is his point man.
Here is a good summary from a Rachel Maddow interview with Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, about how important it is to Vladimir Putin and affected Russian oligarchs that U.S. sanctions be lifted, and how Donald Trump seems to be serving that end.