Bill Barr’s (Claimed) Surprise about Being in the Zelensky Transcript Is Irrelevant To His (Non) Recusal

Bill Barr continues to excel at placing carefully worded self-exonerations in the press. Consider this AP story, purportedly telling how helpless little Billy Barr has been put in an uncomfortable situation because Trump treats him the same way he does Rudy Giuliani, as his personal lawyer. You wouldn’t know, from reading it, that Barr is one of the most powerful cabinet members in government, and fairly unique among Trump’s appointees for the breadth of governmental experience he has.

Much of the story describes Barr as the passive object things happen to, not as the agent of his own circumstances. The AP describes him finding himself in a political firestorm and coming under scrutiny rather than acting in scandalous ways that merit such scrutiny.

As Washington plunges into impeachment, Attorney General William Barr finds himself engulfed in the political firestorm, facing questions about his role in President Donald Trump’s outreach to Ukraine and the administration’s attempts to keep a whistleblower complaint from Congress.


Barr has come under the scrutiny of congressional Democrats who have accused him of acting on Trump’s personal behalf more than for the justice system. Democrats have also called on Barr to step aside from decisions on the Ukraine matter.

The article does affirmatively say what Barr (claims he) has not done. He has not spoken with Trump about Biden and he has not spoken to Rudy about anything related to Ukraine (which is, notably, different than saying he hasn’t hasn’t had inappropriate conversations with the President’s personal lawyer).

Barr has not spoken with Trump about investigating Biden or Biden’s son Hunter, and Trump has not asked Barr to contact Ukranian officials about the matter, the department said. Barr has also not spoken with Giuliani about anything related to Ukraine, officials have said.

As for Barr’s affirmative actions, they are (like the descriptions of what he did not do) always couched in claims made by some anonymous source. The department — not a named person in the department — “insists” that Barr wasn’t aware of the call until some vague point in mid-August.

The department insists Barr wasn’t made aware of the call with Zelenskiy until at least mid-August.

The money quote, the one everyone is tweeting about, is from someone identifiably close enough to Barr to know he was “surprised and angry” but who claims not to be authorized to speak “publicly.”

When Barr did learn of that call a few weeks later, he was “surprised and angry” to discover he had been lumped in with Giuliani, a person familiar with Barr’s thinking told The Associated Press. This person was not authorized to speak about the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

So, too, are the sources for the really important claims that tell us everything we don’t need to know pertaining to recusal. A person (likely the same one) not authorized to speak “publicly,” says the Department of Justice first learned of the call when CIA General Counsel Courtney Simmons Elwood brought the complaint to National Security Division head John Demers (as described in detail by the NYT). Other DOJ lawyers learned about the complaint after the whistleblower filed a complaint with the Intelligence Community Inspector General.

The Justice Department was first made aware of Trump’s call when a CIA lawyer mentioned the complaint from the unidentified CIA officer on Aug. 14, said a person familiar with the matter who wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke anonymously. Some Justice Department lawyers learned about the accusations after the whistleblower filed a complaint with the intelligence community’s internal watchdog.

The watchdog later raised concerns that Trump may have violated campaign finance law. The Justice Department said there was no crime and closed the matter.

Note what’s not described in that passage, or anywhere else in the story? Precisely when Bill Barr himself learned about the substance of the complaint. When Bill Barr himself learned he was named in the transcript. It does not matter at all whether Bill Barr was surprised to hear the President roping him into framing his opponent’s son (though we should not believe he was surprised until the Attorney General says that publicly himself, preferably under oath). It does not matter when Demers learned of the substance of the complaint, it matters when Barr did, and whether it preceded other actions he took.

What matters is whether Barr learned he was named in the transcript before the DOJ made the decision there was no crime there. What matters is whether Barr knew he was implicated before making the decision not to recuse in advance of a prosecutorial decision made while lacking all the facts. What matters is whether Barr knew he was named in the transcript before getting an OLC opinion justifying withholding the complaint. (h/t F for the last point)

The AP story doesn’t tell us that. Instead, it tells us everything we don’t need to know.

139 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    Maybe if Barr hadn’t decided his job was solely to protect GOP-T presidents, back in the 80s, he wouldn’t have to lie so hard about what he knew and when he first knew it. (It’s at least 40 years too late for him to change his ways.)

    • Al M. says:

      Barr wants a king. He is a Tory.
      Wanting to go all the way back pre 1776 is extremely conservative.
      He does not, however, defend and protect the Constitution. He shouldn’t be swearing to do so when he doesn’t believe in it.

  2. Yogarhythms says:

    Ew, “Bill Barr’s ( claimed) surprise…. If you are alive you can change. Ancient wisdom. I’m guessing there is a pulse present but the inherent inertial turbulence prevents adaptive change.

    • Old prosecutor says:

      The official Justice Department response was very carefully worded. It did not say that Trump had never asked Barr to look into the Bidens, or that Giuliani had never spoken to Barr about them. It didn’t say that no person at the White House had communicated with Barr on the subject,

      From the 9/25 Times article by Katie Benner:
      “A Justice Department official said that Mr. Barr had no knowledge of the call until the director of national intelligence and the intelligence community’s inspector general sent the department the whistle-blower’s criminal referral late last month, and that Mr. Trump has not spoken with the attorney general “about having Ukraine investigate anything relating to former Vice President Biden or his son.”

      Mr. Trump has not asked Mr. Barr to contact Ukraine for any reason, Mr. Barr has not communicated with Ukraine on any topic, and Mr. Barr has not spoken with Mr. Giuliani about the president’s phone call “or anything relating to Ukraine,” a Justice Department spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, said in a statement.”

        • Old prosecutor says:

          Barr artfully issued a specific denial that seemed to be a general denial of knowledge and involvement, but wasn’t. Barr has it issued a general denial of involvement. The new Times story contains his second attempt to obfuscate his role.

        • chicago_bunny says:

          I hope that person’s point is that you can drive a bus through the gaps in that statement.

          – “A Justice Department official said that Mr. Barr had no knowledge of the call until the director of national intelligence and the intelligence community’s inspector general sent the department the whistle-blower’s criminal referral late last month[.]”

          So Barr didn’t know that Trump hung him out to dry on a call. This sentence does not assert that Barr was unaware of Trump’s desire to have Ukraine conjure up an investigation against Biden.

          – “Mr. Trump has not spoken with the attorney general “about having Ukraine investigate anything relating to former Vice President Biden or his son.”

          Great, so Mr. Trump had intermediaries get the message to Barr.

          – “Mr. Trump has not asked Mr. Barr to contact Ukraine for any reason[.]”


          – “Mr. Barr has not communicated with Ukraine on any topic, and Mr. Barr has not spoken with Mr. Giuliani about the president’s phone call “or anything relating to Ukraine,” a Justice Department spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, said in a statement.”

          So, like Trump, Barr knows enough not to do the deeds personally. This does not exclude the idea that Barr had someone do the work for him.

          • Old prosecutor says:

            Yup, Chicago_bunny. You can drive buses through the gaps in both The statement from a few days ago, and the new one that emptywheel discussed in this post.

      • dwfreeman says:

        Barr’s statement is intended specifically to deny certain timeframe knowledge of the whitsleblower complaint. But it doesn’t preclude DOJ knowledge of the now reported disclosure of prior notice of the report by a CIA official.

        His statement thus confines his knowledge of the call to a safe period after the WB went to the inspector general, but actually more than a month before Congress demanded it be made public.

        The NYT reported Friday that before going through official WB protocols, the CIA anaylist first reported anonymously to the CIA general counsel days after the Zelensky call. She then reported this to the White House and Justice Department concerning knowledge of its details.

        If that is true, if the CIA official, Courtney Simmons Elwood, first reported immediately to both the White House and Justice, there is no question in my mind that Barr wouldn’t have been immediately informed. This raises a whole series of questions about his behavior and potential ability to craft a defense strategy to delay and soften exposure of the complaint itself. Barr has made a career of performing this service, plainly evident in the roll-out of the Mueller report.

        And only the compliance work of the CI inspector general prevented the complaint from becoming known to Congress. It might never have if the acting DNI wasn’t pushed by the inspector general and he reported independently to the House and Senate in his Sept. 9 letter.

        Look at what happened in that context. Two DNI officials resigned, a former military official with no major agency head experience is then named in their place. The appointee, Joe Maguire, a 36-year military man, Navy Seal, trained to respond to any possible battlefield circumstance putting mission and men first, inherits the complaint’s handling.

        Feeling administratively pressured about it, he thinks it’s People arprudent to share the complaint with officials in two of the offices named in its allegations. These conflict aren’t benign, they’re serious involving the president and those working around him. Others are implicated, including Barr. And he goes to them first.

        So, this heads-up violation of law, is borne by Maguire, whose actions can seemingly be explained away innocently enough, even while he claims and unprecedented position and irrational privilege explanation for his illegal response to the complaint’s filing. The result of this, is to deflect any attention away from the WH and DOJ in actually being the architects of this strategy and seeking to prevent either the call or the WB complaint from becoming public.

        Remember, the Deomocrats forced these documents be made public only by asserting startup of a formal impeachment inquiry, forcing the GOP and administration’s hands. Maguire was clearly a pawn in their obstruction response and at some point Barr’s hands in this enterprise will likely become clear.

  3. BobCon says:

    Leaving the list of Barr noncontacts at two is pretty bad reporting. Find out if there is anyone else he spoke to, or else get them to dodge the question.

    • Brett Boeker says:

      Bill Barr is utterly corrupt, and the key enabler to our crisis-presidency. I feel good about the odds of change in 2020, but I felt good about 2016 too. So the good feeling quickly turns to anxiety, and then back to confidence. We won’t be fooled again.

  4. Teddy says:

    Wow, the passive voice needs a rubdown and cooldown and sitdown after this article in AP.

    Seriously, did these reporters not learn about passive voice in high school?

    • Tom says:

      The tone of the article is summed up in its heading: it’s Trump who’s to blame for blurring the line between Barr as AG and Barr as his personal attorney. Poor Bill is just the innocent bystander.

    • calvin amari says:

      Perhaps in the near future we will hear something like the following from Barr: “The identity of the official whose alleged responsibility for this hypothetical oversight has been the subject of recent discussion is not shrouded in quite such impenetrable obscurity as certain previous disclosures may have led you to assume; but not to put too fine a point on it, the individual in question is, it may surprise you to learn, one whom your present interlocutor is in the habit of defining by means of the perpendicular pronoun.”

  5. OldTulsaDude says:

    I wonder just how precise in language Barr would dare go in his denials? Would he deny Trump asked him to contact Ukranian officials about the matter if Trump had asked him “to handle that thing with Rudy the Mouth”.

    Maybe if Kamala Harris asked he would have a problem with Ukraine.

  6. General Sternwood says:

    The carefully tailored denials aside, Barr was surely at the center of the origins of the whole “constructive” project to challenge “the origins of the Mueller report” – it was on May 24 that he was given the declassification powers and appointed John H. Durham, the U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut, to investigate the origins of the Russia probe. On June 10, the DOJ wrote Nadler describing the review saying “It is now well-established that, in 2016, the U.S. government and others undertook certain intelligence-gathering and investigative steps directed at persons associated with the Trump Campaign.” Trump and Barr were basically bypassing Coats and establishing a new “intelligence” unit in the DOJ, much like Cheney used the OSP in the Pentagon to manufacture pretexts for military action in Iraq.

    This is all *a couple of months prior* to the phone call. So there was some rough division of labor. Barr was in charge of sliming people in the FBI and CIA using their own de-classified intelligence to discredit them, and Giuliani was in charge of the Ukraine angle, but the notes from the call show that for Trump it was all muddled together. And the reason is, it *was* all muddled together. Barr can no doubt spend all month tailoring denials to show there were *parts* of the conspiracy that he was not involved in. But Trump and the whistle-blower have already shown that there were *other parts* he was up to his neck in.

    • Badger Robert says:

      This was Barr’s role. Build the evidence that undermined the Mueller report, the oranges, as it were. He is up to his neck in selling out the US to Russia.

  7. Pete T says:

    What about the report from NYT, but I’ll link HuffPo for paywall reasons that the WB closer to just after the call reported the concerns to the CIA’s top lawyer who informed the WH and DOJ.

    “This means that by the time the anonymous whistleblower filed a formal complaint with the intelligence community’s inspector general about the White House effort to cover up the president’s wrongdoing, officials within the White House already knew there was an internal CIA dissenter. “

    Obviously DOJ officials knew – well what about Barr well before mid Aug?

    As I understand it, the WB became concerned that the complaint would be buried and so then went the official WB route on 12 Aug.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Um, “Bear” Barr knew before he took the job that virtually everything he put a hand to as Attorney General for Donald Trump would be a political firestorm.

    He knew Trump was no Poppy Bush and that there was no there there beyond self-enrichment and serial criminality. That suggests he took the job to promote his monarchical view of the presidency, slings and arrows be damned. The AP story just says he’s much better at PR than Donald Trump.

    • Marinela says:

      Nicely stated.

      I think Barr is trying to make preparations so that he can justify why he is not recusing himself. He should recuse from the Ukraine investigations including the investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation. Apparently there is one investigation on how the Russia investigation stated, and they are trying to pin it to Ukraine.

      If the democrats are able to get Barr to recuse himself, I think Trump will go ballistic, but.. is the DoJ deputy better?

    • Stacey says:

      Yeah, no sympathy for Bill Barr! He read the brochure before he got on the boat! The boat is called “Trump’s Titanic II” set to tour the most biggest, beautiful ice bergs anyone’s ever seen. What the fuck did you THINK was going to happen, NumNuts? Happy Sails to all of you!

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I’m always amazed at how quickly Bill Barr’s DoJ can conclude there’s no crime to investigate, when the alleged criminals include the president (and possibly Bill Barr). Especially here, where the IC IG – after his own preliminary investigation – determined that the complaint was both urgent and credible, which suggests a finding of probable cause.

    Is that because, facts aside, Barr holds that while in office, the president can be neither investigated nor prosecuted?

  10. dude says:

    Before I went to bed Friday, MSNBC was reporting that WAPO (or NYT) broke a story indicating the whistle-blower had previously tried to blow-the-whistle via a different intelligence department and that this first try made its way to the Dept of Justice. The report said the whistle-blower got nervous when nothing appeared to be happening, so he re-drafted the complaint and routed it up through different channels to the IC IG. If that news report is correct, then Mr. Barr could have had a heads-up on this nature of the complaint before the final complaint was (again) routed to his office. MSNBC said when McGuire was asked about this, he said he did not know (and the IC IG did not know) of any previous effort by the whistle-blower to file a complaint. I believe spox for DOJ have claimed that Barr himself did not review the complaint McGuire sent to DOJ. It was handled by staff. I don’t see any reference to the story today in the news. Was I dreaming it? Does anybody think it is a significant piece of the Barr defense?

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Pithy put down by Joyce White Vance:

    Barr who knew about the call at least by mid-August, was apparently not angry enough to resign, to permit DOJ to open a criminal case, or to let the DNI refer the complaint to Congress as the law requires.

  12. Americana says:

    Look at the (sarc) quality individuals Rudy Giuliani recruited from here in the U.S. to help him in Ukraine, yet more criminals from Trump’s orbit. I’ve got to wonder about the evidence they claim the Ukrainian gov’t has:

    From the above link:

    WASHINGTON (AP) — When President Donald Trump wanted Ukrainian authorities to investigate his Democratic rival Joe Biden, Rudy Giuliani turned to an unlikely pair of fixers: two Soviet-born business partners from Florida.

    Documents show Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman made hundreds of thousands of dollars in political donations to Republicans while facing lawsuits from disgruntled investors over unpaid debts.

    It is not yet clear when the two men first met Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney. But earlier this year, according to Ukrainian media reports, Parnas and Fruman were spotted in Kyiv, where they were frequent visitors to then-Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko, who sought to portray himself as an uncompromising fighter against corruption.

    He said the Ukrainian government has access to information on alleged wrongdoing by the Bidens, but that the U.S. government proved indifferent to receiving it through official channels. Thanks to his friendship with Giuliani, Parnas said, he and Fruman became the best people to get it into the Trump administration’s hands.

  13. Vince says:

    Just remembering how Racist Donnie repeatedly insisted he wanted bilateral one-on-one relationships, negotiations, agreements, “deals”, with the leaders of other countries. Has he been operating a global extortion racket, and transcripts of any related phone calls were illegally placed in the ‘code word’ secure server to obscure any criminality mentioned ?

    • Eastman says:

      A global extortion racket seems plausible to me. That’s a pretty parsimonious explanation for his affinity for dictators/strongmen compared with leaders of more democratic countries.

      • David Dolan says:

        Kind of a pared down SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion). Bribery is sort of falls in the Extortion category, methinks.

  14. Jenny says:

    Thank you Marcy for your insight and excellent posts.
    This all brings back memories of Watergate.
    Pay to Play for Profit President and his complicit comrades are exposed. So many individuals involved in the cover-up. And it is usually the cover-up that brings one or all down.

    “As so often happens with Washington scandals, it isn’t the original scandal that gets people in the most trouble – it’s the attempted cover-up.” Tom Petri

    • Marinela says:

      The crime this time is actually as big as the cover up.
      Can get impeached for the crime alone, in this case he’ll get impeached for the crime and the cover up.
      He’ll take few friends with him which is fine.

  15. John Forde says:

    There is a spectrum from plausible deniability to willful blindness. Barr used to calibrate that spectrum, that edge, masterfully. Sitting so close to Trump’s Gauss field for so long has left Barr hallucinating that he has not provably acted outside the law.

  16. Rollo T says:

    Every. single. one. of the whistleblower’s sources was too afraid to blow the whistle. They knew about the wrongdoing and stood silent. There must be hundreds, if not thousands of others in government who are also remaining silent. It boggles the mind.

    • bmaz says:

      That is garbage. You do not stand in their shoes. Nor do you likely know that they have no putative protection under the WPA or ICWPA. The actual whistleblower did.

      It does not boggle the mind, they have families and mouthes to feed.

      • 13256489653132 says:

        I strongly disagree.

        They have no skin in the game. They will not be at the sharp end of this, or similar administrations, policies.

        They don’t live under a totalitarian dictator, lives are not at risk.
        Democrat or Republican administration, they’ll be alright.

        We all have families and nobody, particularly these people, is going to starve.

        fyi: I’ve posted 2/3 times on this site in the last 12 months with a similar numerical username – I say this because I’m aware of and appreciate the heavy moderation on this site.

        • Rayne says:

          You’re technically sockpuppeting. I wouldn’t brag about it if I were you because it’s not permitted. You’re allowed through only with discretion.

          • 13256489653132 says:

            It certainly was not my intention to brag. I mentioned my previous posts to establish a connection between them and today’s post, to avoid any perception of sockpuppeting.
            I couldn’t think how to find my previous username.

            • Rayne says:

              Unless you use the same login information — all the fields are identical — I can’t tell you what username you used before though I suspect you may have as many as 8 comments here to date. Please stick to this number identity going forward.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Rollo T likes LA Confidential, but I’m not sure which character appeals most.

        Presidents from both parties want them silent and afraid. After eight years of BushCheney lying the US into disastrous wars, establishing non-free speech zones, and its open addiction to monarchical trappings, fundamentalist staffing, and incompetent Attorneys General, government employees anticipated hopey changey light at the end of the tunnel.

        They anticipated freedom to speak about eight years of wrongs and abuse, and the promise of corrective staffing and corrective action. Instead, they got cigar smoke and closed doors, a relentless message to STFU because their concerns “distracted from the agenda,” and more prosecutions for leaks than any other administration.

        This or these WB came out in spite of that. We need them. There are bigger problems to fix this time round.

      • Rollo T says:

        My characterization of them being “too afraid” to blow the whistle seems self evident, as is your confirmation of that risk by pointing out they have families and mouths to feed. So why attack my words as garbage? Your assumption that I am unaware of the limitations of the WPA/ICWPA is without foundation. What is shocking is that to some extent, the future of our democracy hangs on the gossamer thread of a single individual. Our government regularly asks its members to risk life and limb for country, including those in the intelligence community. This whistleblower has displayed great courage and is now under great risk. Few others in this administration have displayed similar love of country. I still find that mind boggling. PS Earl… I picked the name as a public persona a long time ago on a whim and it represents nothing beyond acknowledging the complexity of human motives and behavior.

        • milestogo says:

          Accept it. Former whistle blower here. It ended my career and everything I worked for over my life. Sure I prevented some nasty illegalities for a little while but it was the worst experience of my life. I was in the corporate world. These guys would have it much much much worse.

          • Stacey says:

            I’m actually kind of fascinated with the spiritual and cultural “sacred mandala” that is the act of becoming a whistleblower. There’s no faster way to ensure your status as an extremely contagious and deadly virus to your co-workers, friends and family and anyone who ever learns your name. You become “Walking Ebola” among your previous fellows, “Patient Zero” for the falling of the scales upon the eyes of everyone around you who really needed you to stay as blind as everyone else. When you call something out that we ALL saw and yet said nothing, becoming the one whistleblower that says something immediately convicts everyone else that didn’t, which both sends you into the jungle alone and locks the gate behind you from the inside.

            I’m sorry to say, but not everyone is called into that jungle as the Shaman who will drink the brew and cleanse the tribe. From outside, it appears like something that just anyone would do because they should do it, and while that’s true, it’s not remotely accurate in any context where people have done that and lived to tell about it.

            Most whistleblowers never think of themselves as heroes who did anything special or that wasn’t just what anyone else would do, because in their mind they just ‘lifted the burning car off the baby’, you know, the way you do…until afterward and now you’re the baby and your life is the burning car you are now under!

            I say spiritual and cultural ‘sacred mandala’ because when you do that not only can you not un-do that or any of its consequences in your life, but you also have to be prepared for the lesson at the end, which is almost always that it mattered not a whit that you did anything at all. So rarely does anyone respond to the ‘car alarm’ of a whistleblower that it may as well be a sand painting on the floor.

            I desperately hope that this takes Trump down and about 10 of his cronies with him, but honestly, let’s not assume that because we know about THIS whistleblower that it is the only one who’s tried to blow any whistle. I’m quite sure it is not. And yet here we are, thinking ‘finally SOMEONE has attempted to stop this insanity!’ I’m sure there have been many sand paintings that have blown away in the wind that we never knew about and many of the names of the people who painted them we do not know now, but MANY of them we do. Because they had official titles and tried to do official things, we don’t call them whistleblowers, but in the context in which they did them, that’s absolutely what they were. I’m thinking of the Andy McCabe’s and the James Comey’s and the other Russian experts in Counterterrorism that Trump’s taken down one by one. A lot of people have blown a lot of whistles already and this Goddamn Yeti still walks among us, somehow. The whistle we heard from this person was the SECOND one s/he blew, the first one went unheard, like most of them always do.

        • Rayne says:

          You know that for some people being able to respect themselves is more valuable than a job or career which expects them to roll over and play ethically dead.

          It’s one of several reasons I taught my kids to always have a Plan B or C career path. Sometimes some bridges need to be burned.

            • Drew says:

              Yeah. A lot of us would. But the price is not always equal. I was near enough retirement & the severance actually boosted my pension. But for younger folks it was their last tenure track job. It’s a big price–its not something to undertake lightly … or to judge from outside.

              • 13256489653132 says:

                The matters at issue here have national and global implications, affecting millions today and in the future.
                A potential whistleblowers personal circumstances should come second to the greater good.
                I’m surprised this is even a discussion.

                • bmaz says:

                  What a load of simpering crap from someone on the internet. This is almost analogous to when Trump said he would be the first to charge a hill in war. You look silly.

                • P J Evans says:

                  They’re being threatened by the occupant of the Oval Office, and idjits online have a $50K bounty on them. That’s well into “needs real protection” territory.

            • 13256489653132 says:

              “So good people should stand by and allow evil to triumph?”
              Accept it

              “for some people being able to respect themselves is more valuable than a job or career which expects them to roll over and play ethically dead.”
              Well said.

              Your posts seem contradictory.

              • Drew says:

                Have you ever been a whistleblower? Or testified in a case in which you were sure to be attacked and vilified and indeed were?
                Those of us who have done so have far more sympathy and understanding of those who choose not to do it than those who have not done so.

                Doing the right thing and suffering for it is good and not to be regretted. But insisting that other people pay the costs for your own ideals while you yourself have no costs isn’t admirable.

                I actually expect that the current whistleblower will both testify and become public and that several among the sources will come forward as well. But they have to decide in their own contexts. And it will take courage.

          • Sonsony says:

            I appreciate Rayne’s incisive commentary, but I must say here that moral compromise is quite the order of the day (a day, which may stretch back centuries). The fact that there are even ANY Trump supporters begs the question whether they are really true believers, or rather pure cynics – maybe like quantum particles, both at the same time? Remember Hitler’s Willing Executioners, and then ponder that nobody is stepping forward.

            • Rayne says:

              Wisdom acquired the hard way. Let’s just say I’ve had enough MeToo experiences in my lifetime that escape hatches seemed obvious necessities.

          • Vicks says:

            The problem is integrity is like a muscle, use it or lose it.
            When it comes to kids, I think knowing they have the strength to do the right thing is one of the cornerstones of self confidence.
            If you think it’s ok to not tell the cashier that she forgot to ring up the stuff on the bottom of your cart at the grocery store, (or give a line of bs to cover for the president) where are you going to find the b’s to man or women up when doing the right thing gets really hard?
            It sounds cliche but and the end of the day all you do really have is your character, and every decision you ever make counts

    • Drew says:

      I’ve been a whistleblower in a much lower stakes & non-governmental situation and I think you’ve got this completely wrong. We were only able to come forward because we were pushed to the limit and there were eight of us together (comprising the majority of the faculty of our institution). Nonetheless it was extremely difficult: it took a long time to come together and the consequences afterward were very difficult. One of our number died as a result of the stress. We had to accept a solution that was less than satisfactory because some of our younger members could not survive and support their children if we continued to face the legal onslaught from the institution. It was not, in any case, a lack of courage.

      I do not know what any of the particular sources for this whistleblower will choose to do–I expect some will agree to be questioned, some won’t. Having been questioned by Covington & Burling lawyers and then having had all our testimony thrown into the garbage without seeing the light of day, I completely respect those who would choose not to come forward. Though I hope that some will.

      • Valley girl says:

        Drew, yep, it’s a career-ender in academic institutions. At least private ones, like where I was. btw, to say it again, I always like reading your comments.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      By the time I was 7 years old, I realized that the only way I was ever going to survive was to focus my energy on education. When I was 8, things took a turn for the worse. In order to compensate for that, I taught myself to fly, in a sort of hover board style. I believed I could do that a lot longer than I believed in Santa Claus.

      Then, one day, I realized that the key to success was thinking about consequences and developing contingency plans. Nobody taught me this. And my brothers never seemed to adopt this approach. It was as if this plan found me, rather than me finding it. I imagine it might have been similar to how that solitary sperm found that solitary egg prior to my conception.

      In that sense, we are all part of the same minority. We are the ones who made it here. Some things we will just never know. For example, is there really free will? We can speculate endlessly. But, in the end, it may just be “square peg, round hole.”

      For me, being a whistleblower was an extremely solitary and lonely experience, like grieving. An additional responsibility I felt was to protect those who might be punished for guilt by association. Nothing happened as expected, in the near term. But, in the long term, I would say that it was less challenging than being a caregiver.

      Both experiences define me in ways that I will never be able to adequately express. And, in the end, they also both provided spectacular peeks into the human condition. The icing on the cake, though, is what Einstein might have called “spooky action at a distance” or “entanglement.” Call it spiritual or call it quantum, all of life is remarkable. I’m just not sure how much any of it is really about choice.

      • JamesJoyce says:

        There are things bigger than us all, in the quantum.

        This is why Albert blew the whistle.

        You do get it. Trump
        and his ilk never will.

        They are not capable of empathy like gold pickers…

        Can’t cut deals with truth who care not for contingency plans.

        This is not convenient for those who will rot. One cannot buy salvation in the quantum.

  17. Go Ask Your Father says:

    Billiam Barr may want to extend his lunch reservation after church service tomorrow. I anticipate a litigious confession.

  18. Savage Librarian says:

    These two paragraphs by Lucian Truscott (from the article cited below) sum up how evil Putin, Trump, Barr and Elwood have acted:

    “You want to know who had an “urgent concern” about that phone call? Zelensky did, because his country had been invaded and occupied by its much larger and more powerful neighbor, Russia, and 10,000 of his citizens had been killed and more were being killed every day.”
    “Trump wanted Ukraine to capitulate to Russia and surrender the territory Russia had already seized. Trump was doing the same thing he did before. He was paying off Putin for interfering on his behalf in the presidential election of 2016 by leaning on Zelensky, not only to demand dirt on Biden, but to demand he surrender to Russia.”

      • JamesJoyce says:

        Badger is spot on.

        This is how the fascists of Europe cut deals then reneged.

        Capitulating to a Russian Tyrant’s myopic interests will not make America Great.

        MAGA is a grand illusion.

        America and allies already had defeated the absolutists of europe seeking a 1000 year monopoly on thought and economy. It took four years.

        They are rotting…

    • Badger Robert says:

      Per Savage: the idea was to go slow pay on Ukraine’s miltiary assistance, to maximize the chance Russia could partition the Ukraine. The example is Hitler and Stalin partitioning Poland, and the current context is normalizing the partitioning of Korea.
      This was the big payoff and Barr’s job was to discredit the Mueller investigation and rehabilitate Putin.

      • Jockobadger says:

        Lucian Truscott. Hitler. Stalin. Wtf?

        JHFC, what world am I living in? Feels like some alternative uni, but it’s not. It’s early, but a Bloody Mary may be in order.

        Thank you EW – all of you.

  19. di says:

    Is this worth anything? A month before this Ukraine call, here is Trump on 5/24/19, saying he declassified “everything” to be under the “auspices” of Barr, and towards the end he states Ukraine to be “looked at”.

    Watch “Trump on Barr declassify authority: ‘Let’s see what he finds’” on YouTube

    • Rick says:

      It shows that Trump talked with Barr about a Ukraine strategy.

      [Welcome to emptywheel. Please use a more differentiated username when you comment next as we have several community members named “Rick”. Thanks. /~Rayne]

  20. Bay State Librul says:

    Beware the Ides of Barr
    Beware of Durham
    Barr is dirty, but a tricky lawyer
    Barr has been mean mugging Rogue Rudy
    The next bombshell will be from Barr

    “Yesterday, DOJ spox Kerri Kupec confirmed for the 1st time that “certain Ukrainians who are not members of the government have volunteered information to Mr. Durham” for his review, while saying Barr has not “yet” been in touch with Ukraine “on this or any other subject.” Alex Mallin

  21. Michael says:

    “I never spoke with [person] about [subject] …”

    Words matter. There are other means of communicating – Whatsapp springs to mind – that don’t involve verbal speech.

  22. Andy says:

    If Trump was so curious about Ukrainian corruption, he could have talked to the poster child for it, Mr. Manafort. When is someone going to confront Trump with the question now of why he made Manafort his campaign manager?

      • Rayne says:

        This question has long bothered me. I can’t help wonder what dirt they have on Pence. Why wasn’t any other also-ran GOP suitable? Did Manafort not only have adequate dirt on Pence to keep him sufficiently cowed, a persona like wallpaper paste which wouldn’t upstage Trump, but a moral flexibility when it came to Putin’s politics?

        One reason for removing Trump as late as possible is to prevent Pence from being president for very long, if at all, let alone the head of the 2020 ticket. He needs to go as badly as Trump does.

        • Naargh Nargo says:

          Seems to me Pence was put in just as to nail down the evangelical vote– simple domestic electoral strategy and nothing to do with Ukraine. Why manafort was put in charge of the overall campaign remains a mystery, though, unless the whole Ukraine partition idea (to please pootie) was the main goal from the beginning. Signs are sure pointing that way.

          • BobCon says:

            I agree that the intial decision was mostly based on a calculation of electoral politics.

            I also suspect there was a sense that he was like a lot of toadies who come into the Trump orbit — the kind of guy who would happily do dirty things that could later be used for leverage.

            Not everyone Trump hires needs to be precontaminated, so long as they are servile enough to get contaminated along the way.

            • Drew says:

              In addition, Pence was not in a strong position as governor of Indiana (was he term limited? I can’t recall–but he wasn’t effective or popular in any case).

              Pence was highly likely to be a sycophant and deliver the upright evangelical posture that the sanctimonious Christian right liked to manifest, at least until the election of Trump was complete.

              I’m not so sure that it was necessary to have any really specific extra bad stuff on Pence, just a knowledge that he would grovel & do whatever he was asked, for power and high office.

              • P J Evans says:

                IIRC, Pence wasn’t term limited – he was running for re-election – but he was extremely unpopular, for an incumbent, and on the way to losing. So it may have looked to him like a win-win situation: he got out of losing an election, and would have a high-paying secure job for at least 4 years.

          • Herringbone says:

            Bad as Manafort is, my impression is that he’s not the most incompetent political operative in the world. I can see him being good enough at his job to tell Trump Pence was needed to nail down the evangelicals.

      • AndTheSlithyToves says:

        Nobody else would take it, because no one (except the conspirators) thought there was a snowball’s chance in hell Trump would win.

  23. Peacerme says:

    Barr gives me sociopath vibes. I seriously struggle to watch him. It’s the way he lies. He is very good at it. It’s second nature to him, automatic. I guess more accurate is to say the way he “deflects”. I can’t prove “lies” necessarily, but the defections are masterful and so fluid. (And why so much deflection? Usually lies). He’s is probably better at this than anyone I have ever seen. He does it as he smiles and looks calm. He uses just the right amount of prickly and calmness. As a therapist, Barr scares me even more than trump.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Barr is undoubtedly much smarter and more effective. He has purpose beyond enriching himself and breaking the law for fun and profit. And he is persistent: he has been working on the same authoritarian unitary executive theme for over three decades.

      Stephen Miller, on the other hand, brags about knowing things because he’s worked in government for almost three years. His priorities suggest he is more than a sociopath. Fortunately, his demeanor is creepy, he conveys none of the calm reassurance of Barr. It makes him useful largely when he stays in the shadows.

    • Rayne says:

      He’s very good at playacting. This bit:
      really bothered me. He was in costume on a stage for this video.

      Even WaPo took note of it.

      When I first saw this I wondered whether Barr was in Alaska as payback to Murkowski for voting for his approval, offering a small chunk of DOJ budget rather early in his tenure as AG. He’s under a lot of pressure because of the Special Counsel’s investigation and this is where he goes to make an appearance on national TV?

      But then someone pointed out the Mercers’ yacht was headed for Alaska about the same time Barr was there. I haven’t been able to find a record of it, still looking, but now I have to wonder why Barr was really in Alaska. It’s not like like late May is hunting season and I’m skeptical about fishing at that time; maybe he was there for early king salmon, but really?

        • Rayne says:

          Yup, and he committed $10M dollars to aid these Alaskan law enforcement officials who represent a population smaller than that of the city of Seattle.

          Don’t you find it odd this conference was such a priority one week after Trump ordered the intelligence community to support Barr’s investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation? What weird timing, IMO, giving the projects on his plate after he assumed office only 90 days earlier.

          • P J Evans says:

            I suspect those law enforcement officials need a lot of equipment that big cities don’t need. Also, Native Americans get the short end of the stick a lot in legal affairs – but I wonder if the bigger idea was that this might buy support from people who otherwise spend a lot of time swearing at the GOP-T (with reason).

            • Rayne says:

              Fully aware Native Americans across the country don’t get the help they’re entitled to — that’s all the First Nations people across the continental US as well as Alaska, Hawaii, territories. Still talking about a population the size of Seattle, who could have been served with attendance by a U.S. attorney bearing a $10M commitment.

              Something just doesn’t gibe here.

              • holdingsteady says:

                Rayne, I come to emptywheel with so much respect for your energy and intellect , thank you soooo much !
                I think it just boils down to a junket/boondoggle Lisa Murkowski pulled together for Barr in exchange for money (too much?) for our state of Alaska
                I doubt there’s much more to it but let me know if Mercer’s yacht shows up.

          • holdingsteady says:

            So interested to follow what you find out about why Barr came to Alaska so early. The idea of Mercer’s docking here is awful. We are in big trouble up here.
            Our media coverage here showed him doing good work for our villages, not much introspection into the bigger picture. ProPublica and our local adn have worked jointly recently on reporting violence against women issues in Alaska. To compare it in any way to Seattle is apples and oranges due to the tiny size of villages spread out over Alaska where domestic violence and sexual assault are #1 in the nation. $10 million is going to be hopefully used effectively, and agreed Lisa possibly traded her support for his – she cares about the native community, one of her only redeeming qualities.

            No idea why he really came here.

            • Rayne says:

              Would it have made much of a difference whether a U.S. attorney arrived bearing aid? Would it have bought even more of Murkowski’s support if she could have been a participant?

              My point about the population is that if he was looking to make big waves in media, he picked a small population dispersed over a wide area, a population which gets little coverage across the lower 48 states. The challenge facing Native Americans wrt violence against women is long ranging; being part indigenous myself and reading indigenous news daily, I’m not contesting this point.

              My point is that the circumstances are fishy. Nothing about Bill Barr is straightforward and too much so far has been corrupt.

              • P J Evans says:

                It would be interesting to find out when he decided to show up there. And how many times he’d been asked to come to a conference like that (I’d bet there are nations in the plains states that would love to get even a million dollars for law enforcement.)

                • holdingsteady says:

                  I hope the new Native American congresswomen make that law enforcement happen all over the country. I doubt bill Barr will help but we already know that.
                  Do we get more than our fair share in Alaska? Perhaps, but we are still part of USA
                  We have a writer of our state constitution, Vic Fisher, who is still fighting in his 90s .
                  We Alaskans are trying

              • holdingsteady says:

                Agree about Barr, circumstances are fishy. I was really trying to say thanks for your thoughts about why he would come to Alaska…
                After Lisa’s vote to approve him as AG, he could have easily not done anything at all relating to Alaska, so I was surprised he showed up here and if Mercer’s docked, that’s curious/upsetting, yikes!
                And whether the 10 million helps much, not sure about that.
                Here’s a local coverage making it seem like he cared (which I doubt..why did he come?)


      • Valley girl says:

        Rayne, best I could find so far-
        ==It was in San Diego before it came here, where it will be provisioned and cleaned before it heads to Alaska to it will meet up with its owner, financier Robert Mercer, who is co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies. Word is that after Alaska, it will head to British Columbia for a stay==
        I’m out to free WaPo reads for the month so I couldn’t look at the dates in the WaPo link you posted.

        • Rayne says:

          This is perfect, thanks very much! The WaPo piece URL says 31-MAY, nine days after this BizJournals-Seattle piece; the article date is 01-JUN, the day after Barr was interviewed. The timing works — long enough to clean the vessel, provision it, and sail to an Alaskan port.

          Now I need to check dock records in Alaska. ~sigh~

        • MB says:

          I’m out to free WaPo reads for the month so I couldn’t look at the dates in the WaPo link you posted.
          Erase WaPo cookies to regain access. Some browsers (Firefox) have an option to delete all cookies when exiting the program so every time you launch the browser, there’s no cookies to stop you from accessing any site that restricts access based on cookies (just about all newspaper websites).

          • bmaz says:

            Hi there MB – Clear your browser cookies and whatnot, and you automatically get a new set of free reads. A bit of a hassle maybe, but you can do that all month.

            • MB says:

              It’s been my strategy these days to keep reading LA Times, NY Times and others. Best to learn how to erase specific cookies rather than erasing all (a la the Firefox option), because otherwise you wind up having to manually log into frequently-used websites (webmail, banking, Facebook, etc., on a daily basis…)

                • MB says:

                  Which ones?

                  I used to log into the LA Times and NY Times websites with the Private Window option, but they finally caught onto that strategy.

                  Some sites like LA Times have differently-named cookies so the main root-level cookies might not represent the whole picture. E.G. the LA Times archives webpages uses “” for its root level.

                  Etc. etc.

          • Valley girl says:

            Yes, I used to clear my cache to do exactly that. But that reformats all of my tabs, so I have to reformat them. I’ve got about 40 tabs open right now, so…that’s a pain.
            But it still stands as great advice.

            • MB says:

              Clearing the cache works, but it’s too broad an action (as you’ve found out). Best to learn how to erase specific cookies from specific websites. It’s not hard!

              • earlofhuntingdon says:

                Privacy Badger for Firefox from EFF is one tool that allows you to turn specific cookies on or off.

                Cookie AutoDelete allows you to clean cookies manually or when closing a specific web page.

    • posaune says:

      Great observation, Peacerme. Barr held his daughter’s wedding at a Capitol Hill church in summer 2018. Quite the opulent affair: full orchestra and chorus, soloists, etc. The parish had progressed in its capitol campaign to raise funds for a new full-ranked organ. Barr pledged a very, very significant donation at the time of the wedding, which would have concluded the campaign. And then he stiffed the parish, (even in the face of follow-up inquiries!) and the parish had to re-start the fund-raising. In reading your comment, I wonder now about how smoothly Barr made the pledge in the first place. Must have been pretty slick.

      • P J Evans says:

        Taking lessons from his boss, I see. Any sane church would have told him “no donation fulfillment, no wedding”. (I was raised with the idea that you don’t pledge money you can’t afford to donate, barring emergencies after the pledge is made.)

        • Valerie Klyman-Clark says:

          Hello all. Death and mayhem, so I’ve just been lurking a little. Please forgive me Rayne and bmza for this ahead of time, I don’t mean to be conspiracy-minded (oooof), but I’m stuck on the Jeffry Epstein case being brought up again, so soon after Barr took over at the DoJ, Epstein’s death, his “Black Book” . . . and the fact Barr’s father hired Epstein at Dalton way back when: his first gig? Is there a red yarn string tangle here? Apologies in advance if that’s nutty to suggest, but . . . gaa, is it?

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Another rules-don’t-apply-to-me Republican.

        Unless he’s the John Beresford Tipton who paid off Brett Kavanaugh’s million plus in debts, Barr should have plenty. He spent nearly twenty years as general counsel for a large telecom, apparently took a post-merger buy-out, and has been in private practice since.

        “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

    • Bunnyvelour says:

      Seeing the moment when he lost his composure and called Mueller “snippy” was really interesting. He went from having a seemingly full tank of patience down to zero in a split second. Blood sugar dip? Or was the mask all of a sudden too heavy to keep on straight?
      If it happened once, it’ll happen again.

  24. Barry Kiefl says:

    Freudian slip by Giuliani on Face the Nation, calling himself Trump’s defense lawyer?

    “GIULIANI: Well listen- I mean this goes back actually to November of 2018. I- I wasn’t asking for this. Someone came to me, a very well-respected investigator, American citizen and told me that in- in- in Ukraine there were a number of allegations of interference in the 2016 election. That appear to be real and truthful unlike the Russian collusion hoax. And that it was really ironic that Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, our embassy there, was collecting dirt going back to the early part of 2016 on the Trump campaign, on people who operated in the Trump campaign, on the president and that there were witnesses, quite a few of them that would support this. And they’ve been trying to get it to the FBI for a year to a year and a half and they have been frustrated in- in doing so. So, having gotten that as his defense lawyer, I had to pursue it. They would not–“

      • Vince says:

        All the RightWingers are drinkin’ the Orange Koolaid. Hugh Hewitt was on ‘Meet the Press’ spouting the same Looney Toons propaganda. Chuck Todd looked at him like he just claimed he had been abducted by aliens, and said something like – I have no idea how any of that is even remotely relatable.

    • JamesJoyce says:

      “Sister of
      Notre Dame” always broke down the sentence.

      Even if this be Trump’s first complete sentence….

      When sentence is diagramed, as in dissecting a crime- there shall still be an obtuse construction like an OLC’s Opine protecting a cooked crooked cook and his kitchen
      crew, from a missed chicken bone in the chicken soup choking the patron.

      Barr will offer the “Dangling Participle Phrase,” Defense.

      A novel defense akin to just following orders, Col Hogan.

      “We are not the subject of the “sentence.” “Biden is!”

      Cooking like a maniac, the patron was choked and died.

      Someone should remind the current Oval
      Office Occupant, Biden is not the kitchen-cook, yet if ever.

      Whatever Donald is cooking,

      it smells rancid.
      It always is.

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