The Timeline Suggests Bill Barr Removed Jesse Liu to Intervene for Trump’s Rat-Fucker

Far be it for me to doubt Bill Barr’s ability to manufacture a cover-up. He’s damn good at it, that’s why he was hired, and he’s got a lot of power to use to execute one.

But it’ll be harder this time around than it was for Poppy Bush, in part because Barr’s principal has the propensity to go off half-cocked, the frothy right doesn’t think rationally, and Barr himself may believe what he sees on Fox News more than what he sees in court dockets, to the extent he even reviews court dockets.

That’s particularly true given the timeline leading up to the Tuesday Night Massacre, because it appears to show that Bill Barr removed Jessie Liu — and then Trump withdrew her nomination excusing that removal — mostly (at least as far as what is visible thus far) to intervene for Trump’s rat-fucker, Roger Stone.

At least as the timing of the DOJ filings reflect, Barr intervened with the strategy he claimed to Pierre Thomas to apply with Roger Stone with Mike Flynn, providing reasons for Judge Emmet Sullivan to sentence lightly, but leaving it up him. Importantly, Jessie Liu proved willing to do that on January 29; she signed the softened Flynn sentencing memo (though it’s possible Trump submitted her nomination on January 6 in response to the discussions around the initial, harsher memo).

The next day, per dates included in the Roger Stone sentencing memo, DOJ submitted an objection to the January 16 Presentence Investigation Report.

Probation and the Government, however, incorrectly maintain that the following offense level increases are applicable:

Specific Offense Characteristics U.S.S.G. §2J1.2(b)(1)(B) 8 level increase ¶76 1

Specific Offense Characteristics U.S.S.G. §2J1.2(b)(1)(2) 3 level increase ¶77

Obstruction of Justice U.S.S.G. §3C1.1 2 level increase ¶80

Obstruction of Justice 2 U.S.S.G. §2J1.2(b)(3)(C) 2 level increase ¶77

1 Paragraph references are to the Presentence Investigation Report, dated January 16, 2020, (“PSR”). [Dkt. #272].

2 Government’s Objection to Presentence Investigation Report, dated January 30, 2020.

Possibly, given footnote 2, they added language to substantiate the extent to which Stone went to sustain his cover-up.

Pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2B1.2(b)(3)(C), two levels are added because the offense was otherwise extensive in scope, planning, or preparation. Stone engaged in a multi-year scheme involving (1) false statements in sworn testimony; (2) the concealment of important documentary evidence; (3) further lies in a written submission to Congress; and (4) a relentless and elaborate campaign to silence Credico that involved cajoling, flattering, crafting forged documents, badgering, and threatening Credico’s reputation, friend, life, and dog. Stone’s efforts were as extensive, if not more extensive, than those of other defendants who received this two-level enhancement at sentencing.

That’s when Barr appointed Timothy Shea as interim US Attorney, effective just two business days later, the one way to take Jessie Liu out of the command structure immediately.

According to Barr’s interview, Shea started asking questions about Stone’s sentencing a week before the memo got submitted. That means Shea spent his first day focused on the Stone sentencing. That makes it hard to believe he was installed for any other reason but to help Stone out.

The first Trump-related motions — basically to remove Flynn’s attorney-client privilege so Covington’s lawyers can expound on how many lies Flynn told them about Russia and his work for Turkey — showed no discernible Barr influence (though Flynn’s reversal on continuing these discussions may have).

Barr provided several somewhat contradictory explanations for what happened on February 10 to Thomas. He claims that Shea “came by” DOJ and alerted Barr that line prosecutors still wanted to recommend the 7-9 year sentence calculated by the Probation Office. Then Barr suggested that he got involved here because line prosecutors who have decades of experience are too junior to make “life or death” decisions.

What other industry allows life or death decisions to be made by the most junior level of the business.

Not long later, however, Barr denied intervening in a case.

Most cases don’t come up to the Attorney General because people are doing a good job.

Some people saying AG intervening in a case. That’s preposterous! We have an escalation system that tries to get the difficult issues that are, you know, people are arguing about, to get them up for resolution and it’s the Attorney General’s decision to decide it.

But here’s the key: Barr claims he only got involved in Stone’s sentencing memo because “difficult issues” got escalated.

Except they only got escalated because he had just installed his hand-picked flunky to oversee this. This wouldn’t have been escalated if Liu were still in place.

All the evidence suggests that Bill Barr replaced Jessie Liu to give himself an excuse to intervene personally in Stone’s sentencing.

And what will it get him? I suspect Judge Amy Berman Jackson would never have sentenced Stone to 7 to 9 years —  the harsher sentence — in any case (especially given that she only gave Paul Manafort 7.5 years). She probably would have given Stone 4-5 years and might still, a slight enhancement for the threat against Randy Credico, but not much. But this drama about sentencing is likely not the big question, given that Stone is likely to have his sentence commuted, one way or another, on November 4, the day after election day. So the real question is how much of the next nine months he serves in prison, which ABJ has some control over, especially given Stone’s propensity to make threats when he’s not in prison or gagged. If ABJ sentences Stone to 4-5 years — close to what Barr has now signed off on in very public and intrusive fashion — but sends him to prison right away, it’s less likely Trump will do something immediate, like pardon him. Whereas, had Barr not intervened, it would have had the same effect but without Barr’s tacit approval for a 3-4 year sentence.

I can’t decide whether the plan here is to make judges look unreasonable — which could happen when Sullivan sentences Flynn to prison, except for the really atrocious details about how Flynn was secretly working for a frenemy government while purportedly advising Trump on national security issues. Or whether it’s to minimize sentence time — which Barr hasn’t done by endorsing a sentence just a year or so less than what ABJ might be inclined to give anyway.

Meanwhile, after inventing a way to remove Jessie Liu immediately, Lou Dobbs and a bunch of other frothers convinced the President to withdraw her nomination, possibly encouraged by the threat of questions about all this in her confirmation hearing, which was scheduled for yesterday. She resigned yesterday from whatever desk Trump parked her at to make way for Shea. She’s a pretty loyal Trumpster, so it’s unclear whether she’ll go quietly. But if she chooses, as a private citizen she’s now entitled to respond to subpoenas from Congress, and between her and Jonathan Kravis (who also resigned entirely from DOJ), she can explain what is really going on.

Meanwhile, Shea is now on the clock: he has until June 2 to complete shutting down any investigations into Trump. Unless the Senate confirms a successor that has not yet been confirmed, then Chief Judge Beryl Howell will be able to pick his replacement. And she was none too happy about this week’s drama.

December 10, 2019: Trump announces intent to nominate Jessie Liu to Treasury

January 4: DOJ asks for one more day to submit Flynn supplemental sentencing memorandum; signed by Liu

January 6: Trump nominates Liu to Treasury

January 7: DOJ submits harsh sentencing memo that nevertheless asks for guidelines sentence; signed by Liu

January 16: Probation Office completes Stone PSI recommending 7-9 years

January 22: DOJ notices court that they’ve provided the last of the Flynn 302s; signed by Liu

January 29: DOJ submits reply sentencing memo, with probation recommendation; signed by Liu

January 30: DOJ submits objection to Stone PSI; Barr appoints Timothy Shea DC US Attorney, effective February 3

February 3: Shea starts; per ABC interview, starts asking questions about the sentencing

February 5: Senate acquits Trump

February 9: DOJ files motion to continue briefing schedule and motion to confirm waiver of attorney-client privilege; signed by Jocelyn Ballentine; Brandon Van Grack not on motions, but probably in preparation for hearing

February 10: Shea “comes by” DOJ and tells Barr the team wanted to recommend 7-9 recommendation; Barr “under the impression” that “what was going to happen was what I had suggested;” DOJ files sentencing memo recommending 7-9 years; Barr claims he decided at night to amend recommendation

February 11:

3:07: Aaron Zelinsky withdrawal

3:56: Jonathan Kravis withdrawal

4:34: John Crabb Jr. files appearance

4:40: Supplemental sentencing memo created, signed by John Crabb Jr

5:27: Adam Jed withdrawal

5:39: Michael Marando withdrawal

6:10: Supplemental sentencing memo finalized

February 12: Trump withdraws Liu’s nomination; DOJ submits response to motion to dismiss; signed by Brandon Van Grack; Jessie Liu resigns from Treasury desk she was parked at to make way for Shea

February 13: Bill Barr does staged interview where he dodges any real explanation for his interference

June 2: Timothy Shea’s interim appointment expires

32 replies
  1. Tony el Tigre says:

    I still think Trump is so disconnected from reality that he will pardon Stone or commute his sentence or whatever before the election.

    Such an act demonstrates the injustice of what was done to Stone, to wait until after the election implies Trump’s choice was political and not based on the clear perversion of Justice that targeted Stone.

    Trump is out of control and waiting until after the election is the behavior of a man who is still in control.

    Also a typo, this sentence forgot the word “reasons”:
    “Barr provided two somewhat contradictory for what happened …”

    • Zinsky says:

      I think you are probably right. Stone is a coward just like Trump and is terrified of spending one day in the pokey. Stone also probably has some delicious dirt on Trump, as well, and Trump is terrified of that spilling out. If Stone is ordered to jail before the election in November, watch Trump pardon him the next day. As I have said, maybe inartfully here before, no one deserves to rot in prison more than Roger Stone. No. One.

  2. Vicks says:

    I get that in any good cover up, the devil is in the details but doesn’t it seem that removing Liu to clear the way for a lower recommendation is over the top? It the quick education on recommendations and Judge Bermen it seems an exercise in futility.
    Could both the excessive recommendation, and the excessive way it was overturned be responses to Stone taunting both sides with hints of his ability to cause more trouble?
    Or perhaps Barr is telling a degree of the truth, and defying his request for a lenient sentence was the prosecutor’s way of throwing down the gauntlet knowing/daring Barr to make a public spectacle to protect Stone?
    Something still isn’t right …..

    • Marji Campbell says:

      I can’t help it, maybe I’m shallow. But I really love calling stone a ratfucker. It makes me smile 😅

  3. foggycoast says:

    If i understand, pardoning stone will prevent Stone from using the 5th if he’s called to testify on other trials related to what he was convicted for. Commuting the sentence allows him to take the 5th. but can commutation happen before the sentence is issued by the judge? if not, what would happen if sentencing were delayed until after 1/20/2021, trump is not re-elected and the sentence is then handed down? would it stick?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      As Ford’s pardon of Nixon illustrated, a president can pardon federal crimes at any time: before, during, or after prosecution. Pardons are typically broad and include as wide a variety of crimes or possible crimes as lawyers can imagine.

      The president, however, can only commute a sentence after a judge has imposed it.

      • foggycoast says:

        not that it’s likely but delaying the sentence and keeping Stone in custody as a flight risk would be the way to beat Trump at his own game.

  4. viget says:

    Excellent story as usual Marcy. I had the same thought as you, what does the sentence length even matter here, Stone doesn’t want to go to prison PERIOD, and he knows no matter what he’s going to have his sentence commuted win or lose in November.

    I’m somewhat confused, though…. what exactly was DOJ objecting to in the Stone PSI? Did Kravis et al think the guidelines enhancements should be even higher? Or do we not really know?

    Also, re: Barr’s “comment” on junior people and life or death decisions, clearly he’s never been in an ICU at an academic medical center at 2 am. Life and death decisions are being made EVERY single night by interns, residents and fellows, because sometimes there just isn’t enough time to get the attending (who is at home, sleeping) on the line. I know this from personal experience.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I think Marcy’s points included that these are not life or death decisions, as Barr claims. They are unremarkable, day-to-day judgments that US Attorneys and their staffs make every bloody day.

      Further, and most damning, these prosecutors were not green. They are well-seasoned – more capable than Barr, in fact, to make these judgment calls.

      That much of the MSM should continue to find Barr – and Trump – credible, good faith actors is mind boggling. And dangerous.

    • The Old Redneck says:

      Here’s the objection, such as it is:

      The starting point in the sentencing analysis is a calculation of the defendant’s applicable advisory Guidelines range. Here, as set forth in the government’s initial submission, the defendant’s total offense level is arguably 29 and his criminal history category is I, which would result in an advisory Guidelines range of 87 to 108 months. Notably, however, the Sentencing Guidelines enhancements in this case—while perhaps technically applicable— more than double the defendant’s total offense level and, as a result, disproportionately escalate the defendant’s sentencing exposure to an offense level of 29, which typically applies in cases involving violent offenses, such as armed robbery, not obstruction cases. Cf. U.S.S.G. § 2B3.1(a)-(b). As explained below, removing these enhancements would have a significant effect on the defendant’s Guidelines range. For example, if the Court were not to apply the eight-level enhancement for threatening a witness with physical injury, it would result in the defendant receiving an advisory Guidelines range of 37 to 46 months, which as explained below is more in line with the typical sentences imposed in obstruction cases. Accordingly, it would be reasonable for the Court to conclude that the Guidelines range as calculated is unduly high on the facts of this case.

      To sum up: one day after submitting a recommendation which was accurate – not just “perhaps technically applicable” – the government reverses itself and tells the judge to ignore enhancements which clearly apply under these facts.

      It’s hard to overstate how bush-league and transparent this is. No wonder all four prosecutors quit rather than sign their names to such a steaming turd.

      This is being covered, of course. But how remarkably bad the nuts and bolts of this revised recommendation are is getting overlooked.

    • Vicks says:

      It appears the big fat WHY that comes up in any discussion of Flynn’s nutter lawyer is becoming clear now.
      I will ask the same question here as Roger Stone. Could Trump be getting squeezed?
      Is there glory in the re-investigation?
      Why not just pardon?
      Are there people concerned Trump may be stripped of his power before he can pardon?
      How much does this affect our National security?

  5. Peterr says:

    I suspect Judge Amy Berman Jackson would never have sentenced Stone to 7 to 9 years — the harsher sentence — in any case (especially given that she only gave Paul Manafort 7.5 years).

    Manafort did not flout her orders, as Stone has done.

    Manafort never put out an instagram post about ABJ like this (per Politico):

    Days after a federal judge gagged Roger Stone from talking about the special counsel’s Russia investigation around U.S. District Court in Washington, the Republican strategist and provocateur on Monday posted a photo of the judge with crosshairs in the background.

    “Through legal trickery Deep State hitman Robert Mueller has guaranteed that my upcoming show trial is before Judge Amy Berman Jackson , an Obama appointed Judge who dismissed the Benghazi charges again Hillary Clinton and incarcerated Paul Manafort prior to his conviction for any crime. #fixisin. Help me fight for my life at,” Stone wrote in the Instagram post, which has since been deleted.

    Manafort was not charged with physically intimidating witnesses, as Stone was.

    Manafort may very well have been as deep in the messing with the election scheme as Stone, but his charges were far different than those Stone was convicted of. All in all, I think ABJ very well may go with the 7-9 years originally proposed by the prosecution.

    • oldoilfieldhnd says:

      Or, as far-fetched as it may seem, “McCabe may owe having escaped persecution by doj prosecution” to the facts. There was no crime to prosecute. Similar to the scandalous Ukraine attempt to publicly smear a perceived enemy, only the announcement of the investigation was required.

      • orionATL says:

        “facts” ?

        we don’t need no stinkin’ facts.

        we got chief prosecutor donald j. trump running prosecutions. he knows the law and he knows what he wants from it.

        • LeeNLP says:

          Trump, by his own admission, knows more about the law than any lawyers, just like he knows more about the Middle East than the generals. He knows more about practically everything and anything than the experts. And only he can fix things.

          It would all be funny, and even embarrassing, if it weren’t so dangerous.

          I have some technical knowledge of how “deep fakes” work. I remember having the thought “this technology will be very dangerous in the wrong hands” as I studied it. At the same time I was saddened to remember how very little fooling a large number of Americans actually require, how little art is needed, if they have been properly groomed through years of watching Fox. They practically beg to be lied to.

  6. SteveL says:

    What a state we have come to – I would hope that both private citizens and civil servants would not only feel entitled to respond to congressional subpoenas but would in fact feel an obligation to do so.

  7. Rob says:

    If this is not suitable please feel free to delete.
    This has been rolling around in my head for weeks. A simple thought, just what could JFK have done that was worse than the scenario that now engulfs the USA?

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. This is your second user name. Please also use a more differentiated username when you comment next as we have several community members named “Rob” or some variant. You used “rntaylor” as your username when you visited last. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • rntaylor says:

      I was not sure what I used last time , I will try and remember. I get totally overwhelmed with user names and passwords these days.

  8. loon says:

    “… the notion of a government of men and not of laws, subordination of the entire hierarchy of government to the person who in fact wields the power of the strong state, and the freedom of that person from responsibility to the people or its elected representatives. In short the faith in personal dictatorship.”

    From a 1937 article in the Modern Law Review on “Theories of Law and Justice in Fascist Italy”

    From the same article:
    “… the fascist hierarchical idea is really radically different. It is a hierarchy of persons, not a hierarchy of norms.”

    And… “The law-making of even the reformed legislature is subordinated to the law-making power of Il Duce. His decrees have the force of law…”

    And … “The only difference, according to fascist thinkers, between a democratic legislature and the head of the fascist state, is in the weakness and incompetence of the former.”

  9. Katherine M Williams says:

    But does it matter if Barr frees all Trump’s mafia goons in the end? Because no matter what Trump&Co. do, they get away with it. There will be no moment when everyone sits up and takes action. And each time they commit a crime, especially a crime against the Constitution, which they do regularly, and get away with it, it makes them stronger and harder to stop: IF there was anyone trying to stop them, which there isn’t. The government is corrupted, the military inert, and the People’s Watchdog is egging the Fascist on. Meanwhile the democratic party is frantically trying to destroy Bernie Sanders. Heck-of-a-job, Nancy!

    Who will stop them from openly stealing the election? Or from calling the election off with some bogus excuse? They believe they can do anything the want, Trump has *said* he can do anything he wants, and so far, it is true.

    • Tom says:

      If Trump & Barr succeed in sabotaging the integrity and credibility of the Justice Department by recasting the role of the AG to be consigliere to the President, no matter who that happens to be, will it not become more difficult to lay charges against Trump–say, for obstruction of justice as per the Mueller investigation– even if he is defeated in November? A Democratic administration that sought to lay such charges against an ex-President Trump would just be accused of pursuing a Deep State political vendetta rather than holding Trump accountable before the law.

      • Stephen Calhoun says:

        I assume you imply here that the accountability moment in the aftermath of a Trump loss will be a sh*t storm because the deplorables and RW media will view it as a vendetta.

        Elsewhere, for example, the leads at MSNBC won’t call it a vendetta. The MSM, taken to be the media minus the right wing outlets, will endorse the rule of law, imo.

    • Thomasa says:

      So far in my 70+ years I have lived through:
      – The Bay of Pigs invasion
      – The 1963 assassination of Viet Nam President Deim
      – Two weeks later, the assassination of JFK
      – The Gulf of Tonkin incident, a fabrication necessitated by the assassination of Diem
      – The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. a year-to-the-day after his NYC Riverside church speech on Viet Nam
      – The assassination of Democratic front-runner, Bobby Kennedy
      – Walter Cronkite commenting on-air about mayor Daily’s police riot at the 1968 Democratic convention
      – The secret bombing of Cambodia, seen from the roof of a Saigon hotel in 1969
      – Being on the regular army unit backing up the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University
      – The overthrow of Chile’s president Allende
      – The Watergate Affair and the resignation of Nixon
      – Ford’s clandestine support of the Angola Civil War complete with American soldiers of fortune
      – Regan’s manipulation of the Iran Hostage Crisis to get himself elected
      – Eugene Hasenfus being the sole survivor of a C123 shot down while delivering weapons to the Contras
      – Lt. Col. Ollie North dissembling at trial concerning the money laundering etc. in Iran /Contra
      – Regan claiming he knew nothing about any of it
      – GHW Bush pardoning all concerned before they could testify to same at the urging of Wm. Barr
      – Sacramento coroner’s ruling of suicide when journalist Gary Webb was found dead with two bullet holes in his head
      – Clinton’s acquiescence to the use of depleted-uranium munitions in Iraq
      – US Rep. and Dr. Jim McDermott commenting in my interview on the devastating effects of same on – Iraq’s children
      – Clinton’s impeachment over the, umm, “Blue Dress Affair”
      – The weapons of mass destruction not found in Iraq
      – An interview with Dallas Times Herald columnist Molly Ivins in which she quipped, “It’s impossible to be too cynical; you just can’t keep up.”

  10. vvv says:

    I feel dumb. Can someone explain this to me?
    “Meanwhile, Shea is now on the clock: he has until June 2 to complete shutting down any investigations into Trump. Unless the Senate confirms a successor that has not yet been confirmed, then *Chief Judge Beryl Howell will be able to pick his replacement*.”

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      US Attorneys are nominated by the President and subject to Senate confirmation.

      The Attorney General can make Interim or temporary appointments, like Shea’s. Those are valid for up to 120 days. In Shea’s case, that period ends on June 2nd. After that time, the district court is authorized to name the US Attorney, who acts as the USA until such time as the President nominates a successor.

      • vvv says:

        “After that time, the district court is authorized to name the US Attorney, …”
        I did not know that, thank you!

Comments are closed.