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Tag: bill barr

How Bill Barr Is Trying To Clean Up His Declining Reputation

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Former Attorney General Bill Barr's record leading the Justice Department is coming into clearer light as Merrick Garland takes the reins of the agency, and new revelations are bringing the much-maligned Trump acolyte under new scrutiny. It's now clear that under his watch, DOJ obtained the communication records of multiple journalists, a disturbing use of government power that is supposed to face stringent restrictions. Some argue it should never happen at all. The news was revealed when the new administration contacted the journalists to inform them of what had happened.

And the public has also learned that Barr's DOJ sought to force Twitter to unmask an anonymous account critical of California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, a close Trump ally. Shortly after Garland was sworn in as attorney general, DOJ dropped the subpoena against Twitter.

So how is the former attorney general reacting to the new administration airing his dirty laundry? From all appearances, it looks like he's trying to launder his reputation by anonymously giving Trump administration scoops to reporters.

There've previously been signs that Barr has a tendency to plant stories in the press when it serves his interest, but a recent piece in Politico may be one of the most blatant and transparent efforts from the former AG to manage and rehabilitate his reputation.

The piece is titled "Inside Trump's push to oust his own FBI chief," and it's sold as delivering an "explosive" story about scandal in the White House, a genre that's become quite common in the past four years. But read just a little bit between the lines, and what's happening is clear: Barr is personally pushing this story to sell a narrative about himself as principled and independent from Trump. It's not clear if it's coming in direct response to the other revelations about Barr mentioned above, or if he's just more broadly concerned about differentiating himself from Trump; perhaps both motivations are playing a role.

The story, like so many tales of White House intrigue, is sourced anonymously, so how am I able to confidently say it came from Bill Barr? Because without saying so directly, the story as written makes it unambiguously clear.

Consider this passage:

It all came to a head in late April, when Barr went over to the White House for a routine meeting in then-chief of staff Mark Meadows' office.
Instead, a staffer from his office intercepted Barr and told him he was actually going to meet in the Roosevelt Room, where such meetings were not usually held.
Barr found it strange to be put in that room, especially given that no one else was there when they entered it. Soon afterward, John McEntee, the powerful head of the presidential personnel office and a hard-core Trump loyalist, entered. Then [William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, also came into the room.
Barr asked McEntee, "What's this all about?" recounted one of the former Trump officials.
McEntee demurred and checked his phone. They were waiting on others, he told Barr.
Fuming, Barr walked out of the room and barged into Meadows' office. "What the f--- is going on?" he asked.

The story is clearly told from Bill Barr's point of view. We're told Barr "found it strange" to be in a room — who would know his feelings but Barr himself? Then when others enter the room, it's Barr who is active. His remarks come in direct quotes, and we're told they were recounted by "one of the former Trump officials." That leaves only three possibilities for the source of the information, and Barr is the only plausible candidate.

McEntee is described having "demurred and checked his phone." That's not how someone tends to talk about their own actions. And then when McEntee speaks, the words are not in quotation marks. This makes sense if Barr is telling the reporter the story — Barr can be directly quoted for his own past remarks that he recounts, but his recounting of any responses from others is more likely to be paraphrased, so these words don't merit quotation marks.

And here's the clincher: As the setting of the story changes, the narrative follows Bill Barr leaving the room and going to another room, where he talks to Mark Meadows. This is Barr's story, he's the protagonist, and it's being told from his point of view. He's the primary source for the narrative.

The story continued:

Then, in a meeting later that day with both Meadows and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Barr demanded to know what was happening. When told that Trump wanted to replace Wray with Evanina and make Patel the deputy director of the FBI, Barr calmly told them he couldn't stay in his job if Trump's preferred picks were installed at the FBI over his objection, two of the former officials familiar with the encounter said.
Cipollone, who also said he was completely unaware of what was going on until that day, sided with Barr: He told his two colleagues that the attorney general should be involved in the decision process about who should be FBI director, and that Wray should stay.
And that was it: The White House ultimately backed off on the plan once they realized Barr would quit, according to two of the former Trump officials.

Now we have two sources for the story. We know Barr is one of them. The other is Cipollone, Barr's ally in the story. He, like Barr, comes off looking like one of the "heroes" of the narrative after they take a stand together.

Further corroboration of these inferences comes near the end of the story, which noted:

A spokesperson for Trump didn't respond to a request for comment. Patel and Meadows also didn't respond to requests for comment. Evanina and McEntee declined to comment.

Politico doesn't say Barr or Cippolone declined to comment, because they did comment, anonymously. If they hadn't, the outlet would've felt compelled to reach out to them for comment on the story and note if they had declined to comment.

The opening of the story says it had three sources "familiar with the episode" in total — though the key passages only indicate two sources present for the events. This suggests there is a third source, perhaps a Barr aide, who was told contemporaneously about the events but didn't witness them directly.

In the end, it's not that revelatory a story. We know that Trump and many of his allies would've liked to see Wray gone, but many obstacles stood in his way. It's not clear this episode is really as dramatic as it was framed — it might have been more of a casual discussion than it seems in this recollection.

What we already know about Barr and Trump's relationship is frankly more interesting. Barr did indeed stand up to Trump in the end of his term in office, declaring that the DOJ hadn't found evidence of substantial fraud in the 2020 election. And Barr was sharply critical of Trump after the January 6 insurrection, pinning blame for the mob's actions on the then-president. Those public events don't erase Barr's complicity in many of Trump's worst actions in the prior two years — perhaps most notably, his eagerness to sow doubt in the 2020 election before it was carried out — but they're more significant than the episode recounted by Politico.

But the fact that he is trying to spread the story now does tell us something interesting about Bill Bar. He's tried to give the impression that he doesn't care what people think of him. When asked about the damage working for Trump had done to his reputation, Barr gave a memorable answer.

"I am at the end of my career," he told CBS in 2019 ."Everyone dies, and I am not, you know, I don't believe in the Homeric idea that, you know, immortality comes by, you know, having odes sung about you over the centuries, you know?"

As I've long argued, though, that isn't true. He cares deeply about his reputation. Barr was clearly obsessed with the media coverage of the Trump administration He saw it as his job to, in part, protect Trump from his critics in the press and sometimes bent or broke Justice Department rules to do it.

Now he's out of office, and perhaps he's abandoned the project of helping Trump. But he's still obsessed with what the media is saying.

How Barr Misused His Power To ‘Unmask’ Nunes Parody On Twitter

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Former Attorney General Bill Barr, in a possibly illegal move, used the full weight and power of the federal government to try to determine the identity of the person behind a Twitter account parodying a top Trump-supporting congressman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA).

On November 24, 2020, the Department of Justice, via a secret grand jury, served Twitter, Inc. with not only a subpoena ordering the social media company to reveal the identity of Twitter user "@NunesAlt," but also with a gag order requiring the company to not reveal the existence of the subpoena, The Daily Beast reports.

The Wall Street Journal's Kevin Poulsen shows that Twitter recently tried to quash the subpoena:

It's not that the Twitter account was posting state secrets or classified government intelligence. The account's bio even reads: "Yes, it's parody."

So what does @NunesAlt, aka "Devin Nunes' Alt-Mom," tweet?

A random selection:

Legal experts are expressing outrage.

NBC News and MSNBC Legal Contributor:

Former federal prosecutor Ken White, now a criminal defense, white collar crime and First Amendment litigation attorney:

First Amendment and defamation lawyer, and Free Speech Counsel at TechFreedom, a tech policy think tank:

National security lawyer:

Former Federal Prosecutor:


Attorney:

Attorney:

Did Barr's Attempt To Protect Giuliani Stall FBI Raid In Ukraine Probe?

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

While the federal raid on Rudy Giuliani's home has attracted the national media's attention, there's a thread in the story leading up to the issuance of the search warrant that may be underplayed.

The New York Times story that initially reported the news on Tuesday noted that the investigation into Giuliani has been ongoing for years, growing out of his conduct implicated in the first impeachment of former President Donald Trump. He was instrumental and deeply involved in Trump's 2019 effort to induce Ukraine to announce an investigation into Joe Biden, who they perceived as the president's likely 2020 rival. As part of the effort, Giuliani sought to disparage the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, and eventually, Trump had her removed from office.

This piece of the puzzle, the Times reported Thursday, is key to the current investigation. One central question is whether Giuliani sought to have Yovanovitch removed while illegally working as a lobbyist for foreign interests, according to the report. These allegations aren't particularly new — they've been looming over Giuliani since the impeachment story first broke.

But what's particularly interesting is that the search warrant for Giuliani's home and office was issued now, under the Biden administration. The Times reported that the Trump DOJ, under then-Attorney General Bill Barr, blocked previous efforts by prosecutors to get the search warrant:

The United States attorney's office in Manhattan and the F.B.I. had sought for months to secure Justice Department approval to request search warrants for Mr. Giuliani's phones and electronic devices.
Under Mr. Trump, senior political appointees in the Justice Department repeatedly sought to block the warrants, The New York Times reported, slowing the investigation as it was gaining momentum last year. After Merrick B. Garland was confirmed as Mr. Biden's attorney general, the Justice Department lifted its objections.

CNN confirmed this reporting:

And the search warrant for multiple electronic devices comes at an interesting time for Giuliani and Trump. Last year, prosecutors in New York tried multiple times to obtain approval from Justice Department officials in Washington for the search warrant, including in advance of the 2020 election, but did not receive it.
They ultimately did receive it at some point after Trump left office, and as a result of the delay, the seized material may include all sorts of records and communications that prosecutors might not have received if the warrants were approved earlier.

This looks on its face suspicious. Why was Biden's DOJ willing to approve search warrants on Giuliani, but Trump's DOJ — under his ally Barr, who he nominated specifically to protect himself — wasn't? Perhaps this question answers itself.

The Times report gestured at a possible answer, but it was unconvincing:

As the investigation into Mr. Giuliani heated up last summer, prosecutors and F.B.I. agents in Manhattan were preparing to seek search warrants for Mr. Giuliani's records related to his efforts to remove the ambassador, but they first had to notify Justice Department officials in Washington, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Federal prosecutors must consult Justice Department officials in Washington about search warrants involving lawyers because of concerns that they might obtain confidential communications with clients. The proposed warrants for Mr. Giuliani were particularly sensitive because Mr. Trump was his most prominent client.
Career Justice Department officials in Washington largely supported the search warrants, but senior officials raised concerns that they would be issued too close to the election, the people with knowledge of the matter said.
Under longstanding practice, the Justice Department generally tries to avoid taking aggressive investigative actions within 60 days of an election if those actions could affect the outcome of the vote.
The prosecutors in Manhattan tried again after the election, but political appointees in Mr. Trump's Justice Department sought once more to block the warrants, the people with knowledge of the matter said. At the time, Mr. Trump was still contesting the election results in several states, a legal effort that Mr. Giuliani led, those officials noted. [emphasis added]

This only gives us more reason to think the Trump Justice Department was corruptly protecting the president's ally. And it's frankly perplexing that the Times include the bolded sentence above in the piece, given that Bill Barr was prominently insisting in 2020 that he did not believe the DOJ has a policy "to avoid taking aggressive investigative actions within 60 days of an election if those actions could affect the outcome of the vote."

Barr was clear that he thought the policy was narrower than that.

"The idea is you don't go after candidates," Barr said in a widely discussed interview. "You don't indict candidates or perhaps someone that's sufficiently close to a candidate, that it's essentially the same, you know, within a certain number of days before an election."

Perhaps Giuliani was "sufficiently close to" Trump, in Barr's view, to limit any investigatory steps, but Barr made clear he thought he had wide discretion. And Barr found exceptions when it was convenient for him. As ProPublica reported, the DOJ told prosecutors of a new "exception to the general non-interference with elections policy" the months before the 2020 election if they suspect election "fraud that involves postal workers or military employees." And the Justice Department announced an investigation of allegedly discarded ballots in September ahead of the.

Bizarrely, the statement said that the nine ballots had been cast for Trump — an odd claim to include in such a release, and one that had to be subsequently corrected when it was realized only seven of the ballots were found to have been cast for Trump. Barr reportedly brought news of the investigation directly to Trump. Legal experts widely condemned the announcement as inappropriate, and no charges were brought in the case.

Of course, some Biden critics have made the opposite case, that Democrats and the current administration are going after Giuliani for political reasons and that it was Barr who was behaving appropriately. Fox News host Jesse Watters, for example, said of the raid on Giuliani: "Democrat prosecutors are waging political warfare for the benefit of the Democratic party just to purge Trump because he challenged the system." (There's no indication that the investigators in the case are predominantly Democrats.)

He added: "This is a thin predicate and everybody knows it."

These claims are far less plausible than the proposition that the Trump DOJ was protecting Giuliani. When asked about the raid, Biden said Thursday: "I made a pledge: I would not interfere in any way, order, or try to stop any investigation the Justice Department had, no way. I learned about that last night when the rest of the world learned about it, my word. I had no idea this was underway."

Trump, on the other hand, made no secret of his desire to direct the DOJ to investigate his enemies, he defended his right to do it, and he did so explicitly and in public many times.

Any DOJ approval of the Giuliani warrants would be overseen by Attorney General Merrick Garland, who has been widely respected across the board for years. He was confirmed by a vote of 70-30 by the Senate, winning the votes of 20 Republican senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. There's no indication that he's a rabid partisan.

And of course, Garland doesn't have the final say. An independent judge has to approve the warrant prosecutors are seeking. We don't know what evidence that judge saw, which is why it's so preposterous for Watters to claim we know the predicate for the investigation is "thin." Andrew Giuliani, Rudy's son, slammed the judge as an Obama appointee in comments on Thursday, but he provided no evidence that any other judge would've ruled differently. And even if the warrant wasn't approved under Bill Barr, the investigation itself still occurred under his leadership, making it even less persuasive to argue the whole case is a partisan witch hunt.

VIDEO: Matt Gaetz Probe Approved ‘At Highest Levels’ Of DOJ Last Summer

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Tuesday night's bombshell report that Rep. Matt Gaetz is under DOJ investigation for a possible relationship with a 17-year old took another wild turn when New York Times reporter Katie Benner revealed Attorney General Bill Barr or officials in his office approved the investigation.

Benner also went further in the interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Tuesday night, revealing that the Justice Department investigation began not late last year, but earlier, at the end of last summer, "so it's been going on for more than six months."

"This is a serious investigation that was serious enough that even the highest levels of the Justice Department, including the Office of Attorney General Bill Barr, said that it should continue," Benner explained.

She also questioned why Rep. Gaetz went public with specific details after the New York Times published its report, saying that by doing so the Florida Republican congressman "blew up" the FBI's investigation by naming the former DOJ official Gaetz claims is blackmailing him and his family in a $25 million "extortion" scheme.

"I think one of the reasons why he has talked publicly about this extortion and one of the reasons why he's publicly said that the FBI has asked his own father to wear a wire is in order to try to get people to not pay attention to the fact [that] the Trump administration thought it worthy to investigate him," Benner said

"In publicly talking about the extortion plot that he's described and publicly saying his father wore a wire, he's basically destroying and blowing up the FBI investigation, which is in itself something you would think would be against his own interest," Benner added.

Gaetz is denying he did anything wrong, including denying having a sexual relationship with a 17-year old girl, and instead blamed the former DOJ official. But Benner said both stories could be true: there is an investigation into his actions authorized at the highest levels of the DOJ, and that a former DOJ official found out and is blackmailing him. She did not state Gaetz's extortion claim was true, only that it is possible.

Watch:

Inside Trump And Barr’s Last-Minute Killing Spree

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

In its hurry to use its final days in power to execute federal prisoners, the administration of President Donald Trump has trampled over an array of barriers, both legal and practical, according to court records that have not been previously reported.

Officials gave public explanations for their choice of which prisoners should die that misstated key facts from the cases. They moved ahead with executions in the middle of the night. They left one prisoner strapped to the gurney while lawyers worked to remove a court order. They executed a second prisoner while an appeal was still pending, leaving the court to then dismiss the appeal as “moot" because the man was already dead. They bought drugs from a secret pharmacy that failed a quality test. They hired private executioners and paid them in cash.

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Fox News Barely Mentions Trump’s ‘Martial Law’ Meeting

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Fox News, the network that avidly promoted President Donald Trump's efforts to subvert the election results, is now almost silent on a major story from over the weekend: the reports in both The New York Times and Axios that Trump is flirting with martial law.

The news outlets reported over the weekend that Trump met with conspiracy theorist attorney Sidney Powell and his disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn, with Trump pondering whether to seize voting machines for examination, and perhaps even to appoint Powell as a special counsel to investigate the election.

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Barr Reveals True Motives And Bad Faith In New Interview

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Speaking on the phone for 90 minutes with Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel as his tenure at the Justice Department comes to a close, Attorney General Bill Barr let down his guard. He must have been far too relaxed while talking to a devoted ally who once gratuitously referred to him as "real attorney general," because his comments were much more revealing and inculpatory than he seemed to realize.

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Barr Deserts Sinking Ship Before Trump Can Push Him Off

On Monday, just minutes after Joe Biden secured the 270 Electoral College votes necessary to become president, Donald Trump announced that Attorney William Barr was leaving.

"Just had a very nice meeting with Attorney General Bill Barr at the White House. Our relationship has been a very good one, he has done an outstanding job!" Trump tweeted. Barr will officially leave his post before Christmas, with Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen taking his place for the remaining month of the Trump administration.

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