Bill Barr’s DOJ Engaged in Conspiracy to Defraud the US on Trump’s July 25 Meeting

Yesterday, I wrote a long post showing that DOJ could not have followed their most basic investigative protocols when it got the whistleblower complaint in late August. Had they done so, one of the first steps would have been to see what material FBI already had on all the people named in the complaint. And because a profile of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman was cited 4 times in the complaint (though their names did not appear in the complaint itself), the original assessment of the complaint should have discovered all the things DOJ already knew about their influence operation, which at that point would have included:

  • Parnas and Fruman were funded by a big transfer from an attorney specializing in helping foreigners launder money
  • They were using that money to provide straw donations to Republicans, most notably a $325,000 donation to a Trump SuperPAC
  • Those donations tied to meetings with the recipients and actions on Ukraine shortly thereafter
  • Parnas was involved in Rudy Giuliani’s disinformation campaign on Ukraine

This table shows what DOJ probably learned by when. Once one part of DOJ got new information on the grifters, that information would have become available to anyone doing a search on their name in FBI databases.

Thus, had DOJ done what it does in virtually all its other assessments of tips (particularly those that have a national security component), line investigators would have discovered that the July 25 call was obviously a part of the influence operation — including Parnas and Fruman, but also Rudy by that point — already under Full Investigation in SDNY.

DOJ explained how it managed to do so by claiming, falsely, that there was no firsthand knowledge reflected in the complaint itself, and so rather than using the complaint (which included that reference to Parnas and Fruman), they used the call transcript, which did not mention the Ukrainian grifters. Because it mentioned Rudy, queries on his name would still have made it clear that the call was part of an influence operation, though it’s possible and defensible that (as happened with the Trump Russian investigation, at least at first) DOJ did not do the same kind of back door searches they would do on everyone else because Rudy was a politically sensitive person.

But it turns out that’s not the only way DOJ affirmatively prevented people from connecting the dots in a national security issue.

Yesterday, MoJo reported on another way that DOJ prevented anyone from connecting the dots. Under a Memorandum of Understanding in place with the FEC, DOJ should have shared campaign finance related complaints with the FEC so they can assess whether the complaint merits civil penalties.

But under a 1978 memorandum of understanding between the department and the FEC—which, like Justice is authorized to penalize campaign finance violations—the complaint should have been passed onto the FEC even if the department declined to launch a criminal investigation, so the election watchdog can determine whether a civil penalty is called for.

Earlier this month, Klobuchar set out to uncover whether the Justice Department had honored this agreement, sending two letters to the FEC inquiring whether it had received any such referral. On October 18, the commission’s Democratic chair, Ellen Weintraub, confirmed to Klobuchar that the FEC had not been notified. “The refusal to inform the FEC and refer the matter regarding the President’s call to the FEC as required to do, as the Justice Department is required, undermines our campaign finance system and is unacceptable in a democracy,” Klobuchar said in Tuesday statement.

FEC, of course, already had the original and supplemental CLC complaint about Parnas and Fruman, so they might have connected the profile showing their work for Rudy, included in the whistleblower complaint, with the President’s demand that Volodymyr Zelensky cooperate with Rudy’s antics on the call.

By not referring the complaint, then, DOJ prevented FEC from connecting the dots, just as treating the call record instead of the complaint itself as the referral prevented Public Integrity investigators assessing the complaint from doing so.

Again: this kind of dot-connecting is what FBI and the rest of our investigative apparatus have been refocused on doing since 9/11, specifically to ensure that any threats to the United States will be identified as quickly as possible. But when such dot-connecting would have knowably implicated powerful Republicans, including the President, it magically didn’t happen in this case.

Unless DOJ can come up with a good explanation for why they failed to share the unclassified part of the complaint with FEC (I’m waiting for DOJ to say that once Matthew Petersen resigned on August 26, just as DOJ was assessing the complaint, the MOU lapsed), then the failure to do so constitutes a willful attempt to thwart FEC from doing its job, something Ellen Weintraub lays out clearly in her letter to Amy Klobuchar. As far as she knows, the MOU remains intact, and therefore DOJ was obliged to share the complaint.

As the Commission explained earlier this year, the MOU3 between the FEC and the DOJ remains active. Though some DOJ-published materials state that DOJ no longer considers the agreement to reflect its current policy,4 it has not renegotiated the agreement with the Commission.5 Indeed, the Commission confirmed in its May response to oversight queries from the Committee on House Administration that the Commission continues to rely on the MOU:

In 1977, the Commission and DOJ entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) relating to their respective law enforcement jurisdiction and responsibilities. The MOU remains the primary guidance/procedural agreement used by the Commission to assist in collaboration and consultation efforts (including referrals) between the Commission and DOJ.6

The Commission has taken no action to change its position that the MOU is the primary guidance and procedural agreement used by the Commission to assist in collaboration and consultation efforts (including referrals) between the Commission and DOJ.

It turns out that deliberately undermining FEC’s ability to do its job is a crime, one of the same crimes that Parnas and Fruman got charged with, the same crime that Bill Barr’s DOJ is vigorously prosecuting against the Russian trolls (though which a recent decision from Dabney Friedrich may put at risk): Conspiracy to Defraud the US.

There’s zero chance, of course, that Bill Barr will charge his top aides with thwarting the ability of the FEC to connect the dots on a referral that directly ties to another complaint already in their hands. But we should be clear that DOJ appears to be engaged in undermining the proper functioning of the campaign finance system in the same way Russian trolls and Parnas and Fruman have been accused of doing.

35 replies
  1. Joseph says:

    If our president is a puppet, I’ve always thought that a combination of McConnell and Ryan, at first, were Trump’s master puppeteers.

    Now with Trump in serious trouble, it seems that Barr is now the major enabler of the most corrupt presidency of my lifetime.

    I would like to read more (much more) about this man. I’ll bet he has had friends in high places.

    • Vince says:

      “If our president is a puppet, I’ve always thought that a combination of McConnell and Ryan, at first, were Trump’s master puppeteers.”

      Nah, that’s not who is on the other end of those strings. All roads lead to Putin. Obviously, he just barked-out orders for the American military to get out of Syria, and the Russian military is moving right into their abandoned bases.

    • NorskieFlamethrower says:

      Wikipedia will give you all you need to know about Willie Barr the Door and his relationship to the Bush crime family, obstruction of justice and keeping presidents out of the slammer.

  2. Nehoa says:

    I have been wondering whether it would be useful to open an impeachment investigation on Bill Barr. It might deter him, and his underlings, from doing some of the more hinky things that he/they are prone to do. Plus look at what the pressure of an impeachment proceeding has done with the main show on Trump. Lots of things crawling out from underneath the rocks. This might also give Rep. Nadler a chance to shine on his own. His lower key approach might actually be best for this effort.

    • Zinsky says:

      I said back in September that the strategic thing to do would have been to open an impeachment trial against Barr BEFORE they impeached Trump, thereby preemptively neutering the overinflated, corrupt panda Barr.

  3. BobCon says:

    It would definitely be worthwhile for the House to dig into Petersen’s resignation. (If the House is interested in pursuing anything, that is. This ties in to a supposed priority of election integrity, but I’m not convinced the House leadership really cares.)

    • NorskieFlamethrower says:

      The elected leadership of the Democratic Party is first and foremost interested in protecting themselves and their handlers’ from exposure of compromise. That’s why we have limits on where and how far back the impeachment investigation is gunna go. They don’t want to distract anyone from the limited scope of this truncated impeachment. Maybe that’s a good thing in the short run but it leads to “we just want to look forward from this moment and not backward”. They’ve been doing this since Obama announced the same in 2009.

      • JamesJoyce says:

        “We have been here before….”

        Calcium deposits, Bone spurs and all..

        “Maybe that’s a good thing in the short run but it leads to “we just want to look forward from this moment and not backward”. They’ve been doing this since Obama announced the same in 2009.”

        Deja Vu…

        Westmoreland was always looking forward.

        “Light at the end of a tunnel.”

        Never mind all the bodies…

        Deja Vu is actually here, again.
        The rot continues…

  4. Jenny says:

    Thank Marcy for exposing the constant rot.

    “In life, if you’re fighting to defend the Constitution and you find a way to do it that’s different and more effective, then you have to think about that.”
    William Barr, CNN, 4 months ago

    “I will not be bullied into doing anything I think is wrong by anybody whether it be editorial boards or Congress or the president. I’m going to do what I think is right.”
    Barr said during confirmation hearing.

  5. Peacerme says:

    Bill Barr has opportunity to continue to damage democracy. A big white hot spotlight is very important right now. Agreed. Open the inquiry there is plenty to argue obstruction.

  6. 200Toros says:

    I don’t know how anyone could refute your logic here. I am reminded of a fascinating documentary I watched years ago, The Fog of War, which was about former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. At one point he talks about the carpet bombing of Japan during WWII that he participated in planning. Killed ~50% of civilians in 50 Japanese cities, prior to nuking Hiroshima. He said that he and Air Force General LeMay themselves believed, *at the time*, that they were acting as war criminals and would be prosecuted if the US lost the war. I imagine Barr and quite a few others in trump’s orbit have a similar realization. But the tide is turning.

    Robert McNamara and Curtis LeMay, however, never faced charges…

  7. 200Toros says:

    Oh boy, per Reuters, trump is about to “make a statement on Syria” shortly, they have the podium all ready for him…

  8. Fr33d0m says:

    I don’t remember seeing this, so I’ll ask. Has anyone seen a chain of custody on the complaint? Specifically, who handled it within DoJ? Or is it even possible to get that?

  9. Savage Librarian says:

    “The President’s Former Attorney Offers Dirt on Giuliani Associate Lev Parnas” – Vanity Fair, Emily Jane Fox,
    October 22, 2019
    “Parnas, according to these sources, contacted Cohen in the first few weeks after Trump took office. He introduced himself through text message and asked if he would be willing to set up a meeting with Trump, the purpose being that he wanted to propose a method to save the federal government money on fraud, waste, and abuse. Those who know Cohen also said that there was another occasion during which Parnas came in contact with Cohen that they said may be of interest to investigators looking into whether Parnas violated federal election laws. Cohen would be willing to communicate what he knows to investigators, it is said, and has added a new criminal-defense attorney, Robert D. Adler, to his legal team in recent months.”

  10. Rugger9 says:

    Apparently the two Ukrainians are claiming that through Rudy they need to examine “executive privilege” concerns tied to their prosecution (Courthouse News). If true, another brick for the impeachment wall.

    • P J Evans says:

      They don’t get executive privilege through Rudy. He might get it – if he were part of government, which he isn’t, but people working for him shouldn’t be able to claim it.

      • Rugger9 says:

        I agree, but I think it is an indication of just how bad it is that two foreign nationals could even get a lawyer to try it in open court. At almost any other time in our history everyone knew that arguments like this would get sanctions and referrals for Bar discipline.

        Also interesting, why is DOJ sending attorneys to the 2nd Circuit if Individual-1 is represented as a “private citizen”?

    • Yohei72 says:

      Is it getting too tinfoil-hatty to speculate that this spurious and attention-grabbing reference to “executive privilege” might be intended as a dog whistle to Trump? Like, “We know things. We’re gonna need some help or they might get spilled.”

  11. Chris Ostrom says:

    Speaking of undermining the FEC’s ability to do its job. Worth mentioning that the failure of Trump to appoint replacement commissioners to the FEC has left it without a quorum, and unable to do anything, even if there were that will, which there is not, since Republicans hold the power there currently.

  12. sponson says:

    Sept. 8, Taylor was applying the final pressure to Zelenskyy to declare on CNN that he is running investigations of Trump’s political rivals

    Sept. 9 the IG notifies Congress about the whistleblower complaint from August 12th, currently being suppressed by Bill Barr, who refused to recuse himself although he’s named in the first paragraph

    Sept. 11 – Zelenskyy does not appear on CNN to do the “deliverable.”

    Is this the only reason that Zelenskyy did not comply with Trump’s demands, because the lid was blown off just in time?

  13. OverShire says:

    Y’all are doing excellent work here connecting dots, especially about Barr & DOJ, and I salute the lot of you for your dedication, erudition, and ruthless focus on evidence. This dot’s been bugging me – who has possession of or access to Epstein’s private photography stash? I recall the evidence included “thousands of pictures” and quite a number of CDs. The assumption was apparently made that all the photos were of his victims, but Is it possible that
    1) there were some VIPs (Very Important Perps) in there, too, probably as insurance/income stream for Epstein.
    2) since they landed in FBI hands, and Barr certainly has access, might his recent travels be partially explained by the visitation of some powerful but suddenly very vulnerable people?
    If such exist, is SDNY obligated to locate/prosecute these folks? Could Barr order them off? I lack the DOJ cultural exposure to be sure.
    Can you imagine a more airtight deed on a nice elected official, or donor, or maybe a Federal judge or three? How much potential damage to the world?
    I know it’s far-fetched and entirely speculation, but damn, so was Iran/Contra, and Billy sure Barred Justice having her cuts at that one, didn’t he? I’m not sure there’s anything I would imagine him too principled to try.
    This is feeling more like a Harry Potter plot by the day. I keep wondering when the Dark Mark is going to appear over DC. Anybody want dibs on whether it’s above the White House, the Pentagon, or Foggy Bottom?
    Sorry if I’m off topic, wrong, or completely insane, but I’ve watched these bastards work since I got my draft card, and the idea just wouldn’t go away.

    • Richard says:

      How did Brady Toensing get into the DOJ in June? And Brian A. Benczkowski. Wasn’t he with Alfa Bank Moscow? Isn’t that bank connected with that Raiffeisen Bank in Austria? Just curious about these connections.

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