Main Justice Now Looking for the Evidence in Plain Sight They Ignored in August

Along with more background about Rudy Giuliani’s legal troubles, Politico reports that Main Justice is now getting more involved in SDNY’s investigation of Rudy’s sleazy influence peddling.

According to a person close to the investigation, DOJ’s criminal division and SDNY have been pressed to more proactively work together in light of public confusion surrounding the department’s past statements on the campaign finance non-charging decision and the Giuliani meeting. This “happens all the time at DOJ, just usually not in such a high-profile case,” the person said. “It will lead to a natural decision to bring the resources together and to make sure they act at least in parallel and probably in coordination and not antagonistic to each other.”

A DOJ spokesperson declined to comment when asked about SDNY and the criminal division working in tandem.

A move to bring department headquarters — “Main Justice” as its widely known — deeper into the Giuliani probe is causing heartburn at SDNY, which is widely known for its autonomy and reputation as the “Sovereign District of New York.”

“You lose a certain amount of nimbleness and a certain amount of independence because now you are answering to someone above you,” explained a former senior SDNY official who said there’s “no way that Main Justice is not involved.”

As the quote from SDNY makes clear, this is probably partly an attempt by Bill Barr and Brian Benczkowski to limit the damage that the Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman prosecution can do to the President, even though it’s crystal clear their crimes tie to the extortion the President was engaged in on his July 25 call with Volodymyr Zelensky. The focus on Rudy suggests he may be the scapegoat, who must be aggressively prosecuted as a way to avoid prosecuting the President, which probably explains why the man who, 18 months ago, was brokering a pardon to keep Michael Cohen silent, is now publicly campaigning for his own pardon.

But Main Justice’s bigfooting into SDNY probably serves another purpose: it helps Benczkowski and others avoid obstruction charges for actions they took to ensure that the August assessment of the whistleblower complaint wouldn’t discover the obvious ties between the crimes that SDNY was about to charge and the President’s behavior.

As I have laid out, if the people at Main Justice had followed the protocols put into place after 9/11 — which includes a search of FBI’s existing holdings every time it gets a tip, particularly if the tip might indicate a tie to national security, as this one did — they would have found all the evidence of an influence campaign in DOJ’s possession.

At the time DOJ reviewed the whistleblower complaint, DOJ knew:

  • Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were funded by big money from a lawyer who specializes in laundering money through real estate for foreigners
  • They were spending those funds, via a shell company, to make big donations to Republicans (including $325,000 to Trump’s SuperPAC)
  • Those donations were tied to specific asks about Ukraine
  • Rudy was working with Parnas and Fruman to share disinformation with multiple parts of government
  • One goal of that disinformation — a successful one — was to get Marie Yovanovitch recalled

A search on Rudy’s name (or that of Parnas and Fruman, who were not named in the complaint but were included by multiple references in it to a profile on their operation), DOJ would have found all of this evidence, making it impossible to render the verdict — that no crime had been committed — that DOJ did. There’s simply no way a marginally competent assessment could have rendered that verdict.

And finding that evidence would have made it clear that Trump’s mention of Rudy’s shenanigans and Yovanovitch on the call tie his extortion to the crime SDNY was investigating (and has now charged).

Since that is public and obvious to anyone who knows how FBI is supposed to work, Main Justice has no choice but to show some interest in these crimes now or risk being part of the conspiracy.

Which is why DOJ is now telling Politico that the things they’ve previously said (which I’ve used to show that they affirmatively avoided connecting the dots in August) didn’t really mean what they obviously did mean at the time.

Additional attention to these issues has come from DOJ headquarters, which in August was tasked with examining Trump’s phone call asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig up dirt on the American leader’s political rivals. A statement released by DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec in late September said the department’s criminal division reviewed the official record of the call “and determined, based on the facts and applicable law, that there was no campaign finance violation and that no further action was warranted.”

“All relevant components of the department agreed with this legal conclusion, and the department has concluded the matter,” Kupec said at the time.

A senior Justice Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity said Kupec’s Sept. 25 statement was limited to the campaign finance issue raised by a referral from the Intelligence Community Inspector General and was not intended to rule in or out the possibility of Justice officials examining any other legal issues related to the Trump-Zelensky call, if warranted.

If I were HJC, I’d submit a document request around the actions (not) taken in August — including DOJ’s failure to share the whistleblower complaint with the FEC, the same kind of conspiracy to prevent FEC from doing its job that the Russian trolls and Parnas and Fruman are being prosecuted for — and ask Michael Horowitz to review them. Because the efforts Main Justice is making now cannot undo the actions taken and not taken in August to prevent a thorough investigation of that complaint.

41 replies
      • Mooser says:

        It’s times like these when I ask myself: ‘Are you smoking too much pot? And if the answer is “no”, why not?’

    • Anvil Leucippus says:

      I’ve been having trouble getting to sleep, too! It starts sometime after 10:00pm and continues until about 2:00am — the windows in which Marcy, Greg, and Seth tend to drop the craziest of the crazy.

      It’s bananas! Any analogous examples fall way short of capturing the complete constitutional crises on western democracy at the moment. I was watching the History channel’s Watergate show the other night, and that shit seems QUAINT compared to everything 2014 and onward.

            • Anvil Leucippus says:

              No argument there! I happen to have an affinity for a certain value of cracked-pot-ness on that spectrum.

              Like his book for example: that sprawling tome; how do I even try to determine the validity of something that large? But I like that he wrote it! And I just assume there are some-number of parts of it that came out of his butt.

      • JamesJoyce says:

        At least G. Gordon Liddy and Richard Nixon committed crimes within the legal framework of and in the USA.

        Putin should fear Trump
        as Stalin did not trust and feared Adolph.

        Non aggression pacts are made and designed to be broken. Moderation?

        Must be a little to truthful..


  1. dwfreeman says:

    You can almost see the unseen hands of Bill Barr at work trying to straighten out the timeline of events here to somehow rehape and fit the narrative of activity that will explain why DOJ failed to respond to the whistleblower report even after two illegal notices of it, didn’t connect with the FEC about it as required, and then belatedly denied a campaign finance violation it had no reason to deny based on the record of the July 25 Ukraine call.

    That call, of course, lists Barr as a Trump contact for follow-up on Ukraine investigative work. And that call date is the only one not time-stamped with a particular legal consequence attached for responding to or corresponding with other agencies, as would be the case if Justice were actually noticed by the inspector general or DNI about review of any WB complaint, which DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel had been by a CIA official first approached by the whistleblower.

    Because Justice wasn’t supposed to know about the complaint, and didn’t respond appropriately in connection with it, it certainly won’t acknowledge receiving official notice when it did. Which explains why it chose to act on the call record in dismissing the complaint’s allegation of implied wrongdoing as a campaign finance violation. That takes timing issues out of the equation. And it allows Barr to hedge on when his office or any other DOJ officials were first aware of the WB complaint. It also knew the first report wasn’t firsthand and thus could argue the case from that standpoint.

    What it didn’t know was that the WB was acting with others and didn’t give up on getting it heard. Now, that created a problem for DOJ, Barr and Benckowski, which their criminal case may seek to paper over. Congress should go after DOJ for its legal failures in connection with the WB complaint.

    If Klobiuchar’s letter to the FEC had been more timely and the office had acted more swiftly then perhaps Trump wouldn’t have been able to drag out the Ukraine power play to have better assisted Putin, which is ultimately the reason behind the whole affair. But you can just see Barr figuring out ways to make this whole thing disappear like Iran-Contra.

  2. Pete T says:

    I think I can appreciate the risks of opening an Impeachment Inquiry on Barr, but I wonder if an effect of that would be either to “freeze him” or cause him to make more obvious corrupt actions and thus be worth the risk.

  3. Mooser says:

    I’m confused, is this the ‘criminal investigation into the impeachment inquiry’s origins’ I am hearing about this Fri. morning?

    • harpie says:

      Yeah, everyday it’s at least one new outrage piled onto and interlocking with the last, but no…that’s the one Marcy deals with in: WHAT DURHAM MIGHT BE LOOKING AT.

      • Mooser says:

        Thanks, I just got up. Hopefully this will get about as far as the Andrew McCabe indictment. Wait, that’s still a thing til Nov. 15th.

  4. David Karson says:

    OT/ The Washington Post reported today, under their “Live Updates” section on the Impeachment Proceedings, that the Council of the Inspectors General On Integrity and Efficiency, signed by 65 Federal Government IG’s, in a 4 page letter, strenuously disagreed with the DOJ OLC decision not to forward the Whistleblowers complaint to Congress. Their concluding paragraph: “For these reasons, we agree with the ICIG that the OLC opinion creates a chilling effect on effective oversight and is wrong as a matter of law and policy. We urge you to reconsider the conclusions of the OLC opinion and withdraw or modify it”

  5. Bay State Librul says:

    Bananas, Bananas, Bananas,

    Since inaugural day, I’ve gone crazy at least seven times.
    No more.
    Take some advice from Nick Tosches, who says “Just enjoy every fucking blessed breath” He goes on to discuss the decline of civilization “I think it’s fallen apart in the last … like, right now. As we speak, it’s just going to hell. The whole thing is going down, and I like it. I like watching people get stupider and stupider, ‘til they couldn’t tell if they were getting raped unless their fucking phone rang and someone across the street told them.”
    Thank God we have folks here to tell the truth.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Mr. Trump has shifted his script from, “No collusion, no collusion…” to “No pressure, no blackmail, a perfect call…”

    Mr. Trump is an inveterate liar. The WaPo list of his lies since his inauguration is well over 10,000. What has he done that would make anyone think he isn’t lying now?

      • Mooser says:

        All that “Judeo-Christian” nonsense adds up to is: ‘We can do whatever we want and say God told us to. And that should be all the explanation required.’
        No wonder there’s so many ‘fellow travellers’, it’s an excuse for anything. You know, they had slavery in the Bible…

        • P J Evans says:

          I interpret “Judeo-Christian” as “we want the cruelty of Old Testament customs, with a veneer of Jesus”. (They don’t like Jews, and they don’t like most Christians either.)

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        They operate in packs, rather in flexible coalitions that provide enormous mutual support, while expecting much in return.

        Trump’s win presented enormous opportunity. Apart from a handful of issues, he knows nothing and cares less. When he does care, it is not normally for long.

        The vacuum that creates for Barr, the FedSoc, and others is enormous. It’s not consistent, though. When he does start to care, as when an underling becomes too prominent or threatens to expose him, they’re out pronto.

        It leads to a riot situation of smash and grab. Leaves little room for governing, only acquiring.

          • Tom says:

            Not sure I would call it an “assault” and I think the reports that describe Gaetz and the rest as “storming” the SCIF give more weight and dignity to their actions than they deserve. From the news clips I saw, the scene looked more like a bunch of guys with middle-age bladders shuffling into the men’s room at intermission after their wives have dragged them out to see a revival of “Cats”.

      • Tom says:

        Re: the article in The Nation — How can Bill Barr be “Neck-Deep in Extremist Catholic Institutions”? He doesn’t even have a neck!

        But seriously, I don’t see how Barr, Pence, and the rest of those Christian hypocrites can be so indifferent to what’s been happening to immigrant children at the southern border. Have they never read the passage in Matthew 8:16, the King James version? “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

        • SomeGuyInMaine says:

          Lol. I think you are assuming they look to that book for guidance rather than justification. Nope.

        • AndTheSlithyToves says:

          “But seriously, I don’t see how Barr, Pence, and the rest of those Christian hypocrites can be so indifferent to what’s been happening to immigrant children at the southern border.”
          They are not Christian hypocrites. They are cultists, sadists and power-hungry satan-worshippers. If Christ were here today, he would throw all of them out of the Temple on their ears.

        • Yohei72 says:

          For most people most of the time, Christianity (and most organized religions), isn’t about doctrine, it’s about tribal identity. The details don’t matter much as long as “us” and “them” are clearly divided. Often, what follows from that is “we get to do what we want to Them.”

          I’m listening to the terrific “History of Japan” podcast lately. There’s a disturbing episode about how institutional Buddhism aligned itself enthusiastically with Japan’s wars of imperial conquest in the 1930s and ’40s. It brought the above truism home to me quite forcefully.

  7. Chaparral says:

    The big wheel seems to have brought out the crazy with this one. Actually, more like having us all confess to how many times we have gone crazy in this process. In the middle of the health and medication section, Mooser caught me mid-toke and sent me off on a jag. Great timing dude.

    “It’s times like these when I ask myself: ‘Are you smoking too much pot? And if the answer is “no”, why not?’”

    But let’s get back to the work at hand. When the dust settles, the rebuilding will begin. The United States Department of Justice may be the agency needing and deserving the most work. Might as well start now.

    “If I were HJC, I’d submit a document request around the actions (not) taken in August — including DOJ’s failure to share the whistleblower complaint with the FEC, the same kind of conspiracy to prevent FEC from doing its job that the Russian trolls and Parnas and Fruman are being prosecuted for — and ask Michael Horowitz to review them.” – Ms Wheeler

    We should put that on the satellite dish
    blast it into space
    to galaxies far, far away

    is there a being, no , no
    a pen, a pen
    a pen that would sing to a document request
    a pen that craves the ancient feel of ink on paper

    somewhere, somewhere, out in the dust
    in the dust of stars that created us
    we dream of the ancient pens

    we are but a small ball of dirt
    old enough now that the rock has turned to dirt
    it is a muddy place
    but we manage, until now

    we are a people of good heart and sound bone
    occasionally, just once in a while, our monkey chatter confuses us
    nevertheless, we are worthy citizens of the galaxies

    Allthatis, send us the pen that signs document requests

    is anybody listening?

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