The Size of Bill Barr’s Cover-Up Hints at the Magnitude of What He’s Covering Up

After the Tuesday Afternoon Massacre — where four prosecutors withdrew from the Roger Stone case rather than be party to Bill Barr interfering in the prosecution of Trump’s rat-fucker — we learned on Friday that Bill Barr had deployed a third US Attorney — Saint Louis’ Jeffrey Jensen — to the DC US Attorney’s office as part of an elaborate cover-up for Trump’s crimes. I’m going to attempt to lay out the full scope of Barr’s attempted cover-up. This post will serve as an overview and I will update it with links to the known or suspected evidence and crimes that Barr is covering up. I’m not including efforts to launch or sustain investigations into those Trump perceives to be his enemies.

The cover-up has the following aspects:

Interim US Attorneys oversee investigations implicating Trump’s actions

Geoffrey Berman, Southern District of New York: For the most part, Berman seems to have operated independently after his appointment as US Attorney for SDNY, but there are recent concerns that investigations implicating Trump have been stymied:

  • Hush payments: After getting Michael Cohen to plead guilty to covering up Trump’s past sex partners during the election and obtaining testimony from National Enquirer, the investigation closed with no further charges on or before July 17, 2019.
  • Ukrainian grifters: There are conflicting stories about the scope of the investigation into Ukrainian grifters Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, particularly with regards to how seriously SDNY is considering charges against Rudy Giuliani. WaPo reported steps taken implicating Rudy’s activities on February 14, 2020. But Parnas has insinuated that his sudden arrest on October 9 was an attempt to keep him silent; Barr visited SDNY that day and subsequently visited Rupert Murdoch at his home. SDNY showed unusual concern for the privacy of third parties as Parnas tried to share more information with the House Intelligence Committee. And Bill Barr has not recused in spite of a clear conflict and a request from Parnas.
  • Halkbank: Barr tried to pre-empt an indictment of Turkey’s Halkbank with a settlement.

Timothy Shea, District of Columbia: While Berman worked for several years without any show of corruption, that’s not true of Timothy Shea, a trusted Barr aide. The very first day he started work — having been installed by Barr with just a day’s notice — he started questioning the guidelines sentence of Roger Stone, who has promised to remain silent about details of Trump’s involvement in his efforts to optimize the release of emails stolen by Russian. Then, Shea worked with Bill Barr to reverse the guidelines sentence recommended by career prosecutors. In addition, Shea’s appointment coincided with the start of a “review” of other prosecutions and investigations of Trump associates in DC including, but not limited to, Mike Flynn and Erik Prince.

Confirmed US Attorneys “review” investigations into Trump and his associates

John Durham, Connecticut: In May 2019, Barr ordered John Durham to conduct an investigation into the origins of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation of Trump associates’ ties to Russia. He predicated the investigation, explicitly, on the absence of evidence. In clear contrast to the Mueller investigation, DOJ has produced no documentation regarding the scope of the investigation (including whether Durham could pursue crimes by Trump’s associates or even Barr himself if he found evidence of a crime), and Barr has remained personally involved, completely negating the entire point of appointing a US Attorney to conduct the investigation. Republicans have described the point of this investigation as an effort to discredit the Mueller investigation. It has included the following:

  • Bill Barr’s worldwide tour chasing the hoaxes rolled out through George Papadopoulos via the right wing echo chamber
  • Some disinformation likely fed via Rudy
  • The legitimate criminal investigation of FBI Attorney Kevin Clinesmith, the actual venue for which should be Washington DC
  • CIA’s 2016 determination — confirmed by more recent intelligence collection and reviewed approvingly by the Senate Intelligence Committee — that Russia not only wanted to hurt Hillary, but help Trump in the 2016 election
  • Communications between John Brennan and Jim Comey and Andrew McCabe

Jeffrey Jensen, Eastern District of Missouri: The “review” Jeffrey Jensen is conducting of DC US Attorney cases seems to couple with Durham’s investigation. It reportedly is second-guessing decisions made by prosecutors on the Mike Flynn and Erik Prince investigation, as well as other non-public investigations. The review is almost certainly assessing rumors started by known propagandists that have already been investigated three times, including by FBI’s Inspection Division, rumors already reviewed and dismissed in a meticulous 92-page opinion from Emmet Sullivan. This “review” seems to have been part of the installment of Shea at DC and may amount to an attempt to thwart investigations that Jessie Liu let proceed without political interference.

DOJ diverts disinformation from Rudy Giuliani to another confirmed US Attorneys

In recent weeks, Barr has appointed Scott Brady, US Attorney for Western District of Pennsylvania, to vet incoming information from Rudy’s foreign influence peddling in Ukraine. It’s unclear whether Barr did this to try to make something out of that disinformation, or to prevent evidence that might support foreign influence peddling charges against Rudy from getting to prosecutors in SDNY.

Richard Donoghue, Eastern District of New York: Donoghue is apparently “handling certain Ukraine-related matters.” In connection to that, Jeffrey Rosen put Donoghue in charge of coordinating all investigations that pertain to Ukraine,

to avoid duplication of efforts across Offices and components, to obviate the need for deconfliction at a later stage of potentially overlapping investigations, and to efficiently marshal the resources of the Department to address the appropriate handling of potentially relevant new information.

That in and of itself is not problematic. But by putting Jensen in charge of intake, presumably before it gets to Donoghue, Rosen has ensured that information that — because it is disinformation — would be incriminating to Rudy, not Joe Biden (or anyone else).

DOJ prevents full investigation of Ukraine complaint

Barr and his DOJ engaged in multiple acts of obstruction of the Ukraine complaint. First, Barr did not recuse from a complaint mentioning him by name. Then (knowing that Barr was personally implicated), DOJ did not conduct a full assessment of the whistleblower complaint, which would have identified a tie to the SDNY investigation of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. Then OLC invented an excuse not to share whistleblower complaint with Congress, which resulted in a significant delay and almost led Ukraine to make concessions to obtain aid. Then, DOJ did not share whistleblower complaint with FEC as required by Memorandum of Notification. Finally, DOJ made a comment claiming Trump was exonerated, precisely the abuse — speaking about ongoing investigations — that Jim Comey got fired for.

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84 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Many thanks. Ultimately, this is likely to be one of the biggest stories of this perverted administration.

    Whether the Dems do something about, or whether they look forward, not back, is likely to be another.

    • orionATL says:

      all of this alibi, cover-up, dissembling activity by barr for his president regarding the Mueller investigation and the Ukraine investigation has to do with preparing for the November election using the gaslighting-style of propagandizing which trump, barr, perscale, et al practice.

      the investigations to not have to be rigorus, or complete, or convincing to experts in law and criminal investigation. they merely have to be sets of written sentences, with a large, black, block-print title, a fuzzy or dishonest conclusion, and the doj deal stamped prominently on the front which can be used in campaign ads on the dark political internet of facebook, or on teevee, or in the many small newspapers popular in rural counties and small towns.

      the design of this trickery is to keep the incompetence and dishonesty that our president personifies in power thru 2024 – though not just presidential but also congressional. it will serve nicely as adverting fodder to con the media-ethics mavens in the main stream media chewing on their cud.

      and it will be useful propaganda to keep the republican fanatically faithful in line. the key political and advertising question, however, is will it entice the uninvolved-undecided middle block of voters.

      [damn! I started reading the ajc sports page on the mlb-houston astros corporate apologies fiasco, and forgot i was writing this.]

      • cavenewt says:

        That’s their game plan in a nutshell. I wish the MSM would get a clue. Don’t the Democrats have access to a brain trust that can figure out how to combat this without sinking to their level?

  2. Ethan Reich says:

    Also what ever happend to the supposed grand jury investigations in to Tom barrack and Elliot Broidy which mueller referred ? Is he interfering in those ?

    • emptywheel says:

      CREW is investigating the degree to which Barr is inserting himself into a Goldman Sachs settlement which is related to Broidy.

    • Terry Hall says:

      I can’t get the notion out of my head that the aborted fetus and huge hush money payment were not Broidy’s, but someone else’s, say with the initials DJT?

  3. misteranderson says:

    Hi Marcy, I looked at the story you linked to “Barr tried to pre-empt” an indictment of Halkbank & I didn’t see anything in that article that says that. Is there another article you can point to for that claim? Thanks.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Per the Untouchables’ Jimmy Malone. What are they prepared to do? Anything within the law. And then what are they prepared to do?

  4. Bob Williams says:

    I thought Barr should have reported the Whistleblower complaint to the FEC.
    Federal Election Commission.

  5. Ed Walker says:

    Marcy points to the Papadopolous hoaxes amplified by the right-wing echo chamber. It reminded me of something Arendt says in The Origins of Totalitarianism, that when the intellectuals of all classes were killed, driven out, or silenced, the door opened to crazy conspiracy theories among the masses, which greatly facilitated the rise of Hitler and Stalin. See this post: https://www.emptywheel.net/2016/02/02/the-origins-of-totalitarianism-part-5-artistic-and-intellectual-elites-and-the-rise-of-fascism/ Chapter 11 section 1 on Totalitarian Propaganda addresses similar points.

    The right-wing bubble has accomplished the same thing. Scientists, comedians, artists and other intellectuals are not murdered or exiled, but the true-believing Trumpists ignore them and their ideas and facts.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Those scientists might consider being removed like used furniture to Kansas and Grand Junction, CO, the same as exile.

      I think there’s an argument that this administration is closely following the totalitarian playbook you refer to.

        • Fran of the North says:

          Hey hey now! Junction (as the locals call it) is the gateway to some of the most beautiful National Parks in the country. There is fossil hunting just west, and world class skiing an hour east.

          Whether it’s a great spot for a federal agency is open to discussion however.

          • cavenewt says:

            Five years ago I moved to an extremely remote, tiny community in the desert to get away from the increasing urbanization in Jackson, Wyoming. Junction is our closest Home Depot etc. Funny to see it referred to as “the middle of nowhere”. It is extremely conservative (no marijuana sales, for instance). Not sure I envy those scientists who allowed themselves to be transplanted.

    • Eureka says:

      Or they are facultatively exiled, they and their dying family members attacked with venomous threats, and they have to pay lots of money for expensive lawyers.

      To support your point, worse than being written-off or ignored has already happened.

      Kathy Griffin was the first Trump “test case” that involved wielding DOJ powers that I can recall. She was able to work in the US again after a pause and working overseas for a year, by self-financing everything, pre-paying venues and such. She makes clear that her financial privilege (from hustling in a high-paying industry — but one where those in power won’t associate with her*, and who historically diminished her as un____ in any case) to hire specialty lawyers helped saved the day, and warns that someone whose kid says the wrong thing on twitter or in class might not be so fortunate.

      I went to look up an article that might cover the whole “Trump wood chipper” saga, as she calls it — with investigations by DOJ and SSUS; Trump family, associates, bot, and robocall attacks on her, her family, and her venues; being put on the no fly and Interpol lists, etc. — and the previewed excerpt of her wiki is a MAGA attack.

      She tells her story — and the larger one — in “A Hell of a Story”, with a Q&A with Ted Boutrous. The film shows some of the absolutely broken moments of a human being living with all of this, besides relating what happened and how she made it “back” to the extent that she has done so.

      She also tells how ‘they’ wanted her to do a perp-walk in an orange jumpsuit for the cameras, which reminds of things that were to come later, like Trump wanting Zelensky to announce an investigation to CNN…

      She’s been trying to warn people for years, while MSM basically ignored the violations-by-proxy of the 1A rights and freedoms of all of us.

      Oh — and how could I forget: she was on Caeser Sayoc’s list, too.

      As a case example, her story hits most of the Trump-era highlights.


      e.g.:
      Kathy Griffin still gets death threats: “They got me, but they never got me down”
      https://www.salon.com/2019/07/21/kathy-griffin-still-gets-death-threats-they-got-me-but-they-never-got-me-down/

      ^ there’s also an anecdote here about a London cab driver from Morocco doing the plain flat-out ignoring of facts

      • Katherine M Williams says:

        Ms.Griffin is braver than the political establishment, the federal government agencies, and the military, who should be fighting Trump and his fascist cult.

      • rip says:

        Thanks so much for that flagging of Kathy Griffin. How easy it is to lose track of wonderful people in the deluge of sludge coming from the frothies.

        • errant aesthete says:

          Eureka,

          I, too, want to extend my thanks to you for bringing this harrowing story of Kathy Griffin out of the shadows. It is these personal hard-to-read narratives that are the most telling in uncovering the rot that will, hopefully, one day lead to the hard-to-hear truths. Even when these victims are women, and many of them are, they are not bowed by the threats, the scorn, the viciousness or the fear of the unknown. Like beacons who cannot be extinguished, they stand.

          Other case examples of Trump-era highlights: Sally Yates, Christine Blasey Ford, Maria Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill, Jennifer Williams, the countless scores of women who have brought sexual harassment suits over the years against this vile man and those behind the scenes who have lost their jobs, their titles, their security, but never their dignity.

  6. Bay State Librul says:

    Fuck me!
    The only way to stop this shit is to got to the streets!
    Barr wants to appear on March 31st?
    What the fuck, the Republic could be dead by then

    • orionATL says:

      you are right.

      eventually when a political power block in a nation locks up every avenue of opposition by devious and flagrantly dishonest means (e.g., nationwide vote suppression), any safety valve that that nation has built in to its political customs ceases to function and violence ensues. you can only say “fuck you and the opinions you were raised with” for so long.

      at that point the issue of the evidently repressive tyranny we are living in will be out in the open.

  7. K-spin says:

    I see that BB has been called in by Jerry in March. Is anyone aware of how the potential scope of questions will be decided? I – like many – would like to see him respond under oath to all of the above. Will this actually happen? If not, what can I realistically expect to be covered?

    I need to prepare myself, because the hope/disappointment cycle is getting exhausting!

  8. N.E. Brigand says:

    The CNN story about Halkbank (and other concerns) reads to me in part like Geoffrey Berman’s attempt to emulate what William Barr did to Donald Trump in his ABC interview: seemingly pushing back against the improper demands of his superior while quietly going along with many of that superior’s wishes.

    • ducktree says:

      He’s not “going along” – he’s fully aligned with the *’s agenda as his interview showed. He won’t be bullied because he’s already toeing the line.

      • N.E. Brigand says:

        Barr is surely the worst attorney general in U.S. history, but I think in his own mind, he believes he’s using Trump to expand the powers of the presidency.

      • bmaz says:

        Baloney. You are the second person to make this claim here. The undersigned on the withdrawal is Casey Lee, NOT Berman. Please don’t make people here dumber, especially with your first and/or one off comment. The first person had the common sense to ask the question instead of making a blankly wrong statement.

        • P J Evans says:

          The signatures on the letter are confusing, though: the first one is Berman, the second is Lee, and for those who aren’t familiar with these, it’s not clear from the text which is meant.

  9. BobCon says:

    The press is still formulating ledes about new evidence along the lines of “raises new questions” about “possible” interference by Barr and Trump.

    As others have pointed out, the proper formulation needs to be “answers questions” or “removes doubt” about interference. This is analagous to timid phrasing about “alledged” behavior that Trump has already admitted to doing. I saw one recently referring to Trump “alledgedly” paying off Daniels.

  10. Eureka says:

    From your prior posts, inauguration graft has got to be in there somewhere (Gates testimony) (and an RU- UKR – Trump-related mashup of the kind to *most definitely* quash); I thought you’d pinpointed Manafort-related follow-ups to certain district(s), too, though may be mis-recalling level of specificity (or not… as it’s coming back to me slowly).

    • BobCon says:

      That is sourced to Drudge report “sources” at the Bloomberg campaign, so I’d take it with a grain of salt without more evidence.

      The Independent is controlled by an ex-KGB oligarch too, so there’s that.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Yes, good catch. Other sources roll back to Drudge, too. And the story disappeared as soon as it hatched, which suggests disinformation. Fool me once….

        I see that Alexander Lebedev owns the Evening Standard as well as the Independent. If the Daily Telegraph (the Torygraph) has morning market share, the Evening Standard is one of the main papers commuters crunch through on their way home.

        Fittingly, Lebedev laughs at the idea that Russia should try to influence UK media – the Kremlin’s version of a confirmation.

    • N.E. Brigand says:

      Not a week has gone by over the past three years in which I have not read some Republican online predicting that Clinton would be on the 2020 ticket. They were desperate for it to happen. So it’s not surprising that someone on the right would start this new rumor. What’s frustrating is that others would pick it up.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Trump is as obsessed with HRC as he is with Obama. He cheated to get the Oval Office and wants to permanently tar the Dems with her “loss.” The refrain about HRC is a way to stoke his ego and spur his base. Not to mention, it keeps Dems from talking about current nominees. All sand in the gearworks.

  11. pacific says:

    What has Barr done relative to the counterintelligence investigation re Russia and Trump? Has it been wholly quashed?

    • Reader 21 says:

      Don’t know, but to me that’s the $1M question—notice how when billy b claimed “he’s never asked me to interfere in criminal cases”—even if you believe him (and he’s proved you shouldn’t, he lies) two points spring to mind: 1) a Don doesn’t have to ask, as laid out in Cohen’s sworn public testimony, & 2) “criminal”
      would likely exclude counterintelligence—so who the heck knows what happened to all of those. PS. In his previous run at DOJ, didn’t Barr divert resources towards narcotics—but away from counterintelligence, particularly Russia-related counterintelligence, IIRC?

  12. tobin says:

    This has nudged a memory that there was a lot of chatter about how the National Enquirer had broken its agreement on the campaign finance case, and could be under review on whether anyone would be prosecuted. That has been quiet. I assume it went nowhere?

    • Marji Campbell says:

      I hear people talking about Barr’s expansive view of executive power. We should qualify that to his expansive view of right wing executive power. Cuz – can you really see working on behalf of expanding a dem president’s power???

  13. Bay State Librul says:

    We must criminally indict Barr

    After Watergate, reforms were put in place and now they have been shredded again.

    Listen to Levi.

    An article from the Cognoscenti – at WBUR –

    ‘Ensuring that the power of criminal prosecution and sentencing adhere to the rule of law and are not tools of partisan politics became an urgent task in the United States after the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Nixon tried to use the FBI and the CIA to hobble the Watergate investigation; he fired key law enforcement officials who would not follow his directions in what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre. The Justice Department under Nixon had five individuals in the post of attorney general in six years, and several were criminally indicted. Congress afterward enacted measures to limit presidential power and prevent similar abuses in the future.

    One of President Gerald Ford’s most significant acts was to appoint Edward Levi, president of the University of Chicago, as attorney general and charge him with restoring faith in the legitimacy of government and adherence to the rule of law. The Justice Department had lost the trust of the nation when it failed to maintain the proper separation between the political sphere and the department’s functions.

    Without public confidence in the integrity of investigations and prosecutions, respect for the criminal process, convictions and the rules themselves can crumble.

    As attorney general, Levi’s reforms included guidelines regulating the scope of FBI activities, such as surveillance and domestic regulation. Levi reinstated the ideal of professionalism and adherence to separation of powers and the rule of law in his speeches and in his leadership. Levi devised institutional rules and structures to guarantee the integrity of the Justice Department’s actions. He candidly acknowledged the faults past actions, and he radiated the values of reason, moderation and impartiality.

    Now would be a good time for members of the bar, and current leadership of the Justice Department, to read Levi’s book, “Restoring Justice: The Speeches of Attorney General Edward H. Levi.”

    Levi warned against intense partisanship. The partisanship of our current time is, if anything, more corrosive than when Levi was attorney general. There is a risk that only Democrats will hold the Department of Justice — and the president — to the standards of justice and impartiality that have made the rule of law in the United States so strong.

    Without public confidence in the integrity of investigations and prosecutions, respect for the criminal process, convictions and the rules themselves can crumble.”

    • orionATL says:

      1100 former doj officials? that is an astonishing rebuke. nobody could call these (mostly buttoned-down) professionals known troublemakers.

      the people strike back.

    • OldTulsaDude says:

      Don Quixote to the rescue? It could be 11 million and nothing would change. Everyone is jousting at windmills. This crisis requires action, not hand-wringing. Disbarment comes to mind – won’t happen. Impeachment? Not it this lifetime. Anguished hand-wringing and posturing? Lots of it.

      I wonder which Trump prefers: Der Fuhrer or Il Duce?

      • orionATL says:

        you’re a bit behind.

        read up at baystate librul 2/15/20 @6:00pm

        et al.

        revolutions never start with 11 mill in the streets. they end that way. 😉

  14. John Hand says:

    Are there one or several threads that connect Barr with people like Jensen, Shea, Dunham, etc.? Opus Dei? Federalist Society? A Justice Dept. secret “Marching and Chowder” type group? Big money? Dark money? Rubles? All of the above? Apparently, all Barr has to say is “come, follow me” and they follow.

  15. punaise says:

    In the absence of a current sports talk open thread I’ll just plop this here:

    Scott Osler in the SF Chronicle

    Deep thoughts, cheap shots & bon mots …

    • Now that the Astros have apologized and said they want to move on, th-th-that’s all, folks!

    • All it would have taken was for one Astro — Jose Altuve? Alex Bregman? — to stand up in the clubhouse and say, “Guys, we don’t need this. We’re good enough to win without banging on trash cans.”

    And then he credits someone who tweeted: “Susan Collins hopes that the Astros learned from this”.

    https://www.sfchronicle.com/sports/article/One-Astros-player-could-have-nipped-cheating-in-15059234.php

  16. gulageten says:

    He seems to have thrown quite a blanket over the Epstein fire too. Probably not an entirely separate realm of criminality vs Trump’s, but surely a world of shit unto itself.

    • Reader 21 says:

      Yep I’d noticed that too. It was Barr’s dad who hired the college-dropout to teach at the exclusive, upper crust Dalton school. And apparently their paths may have crossed once again, when Barr himself was a CIA analyst. Last point: look up Robert Maxwell, father of Ghislaine—buried in Jerusalem and eulogized by the former head of Mossad. It really starts to strain one’s faith in coincidences.

  17. joelafisher says:

    Of course, the election could go either way, but there certainly should be a real concern amongst Barr and his henchmen that a new administration won’t be shy about prosecutions (venued in DC) for obstruction of justice; professional responsibility board reviews of law licenses; and, above all, subpoenas (new rule: you don’t show up, you go to jail) of former Trump administration liars.

    • Rayne says:

      That’s really both enlightening and confirming. Barr is exactly what this administration wants — a racist bully who believes in an unfettered executive.

  18. Woodspaths says:

    A special counsel will have to be appointed if – god willing – the democrats win the presidency this fall. I’m all for moving on, but there needs to be at least some sunlight on all of the shenanigans that took place.

    We need a truthful fact-based accounting of what went on.

  19. mospeck says:

    Marcy, you get me down. And yea, you’re right. Why do you have to be so right all the time?!
    We got ourselves a real situation here with the end of rule of law on LV-426.
    But then, Elizabeth has a plan..and they mostly come at night mostly

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