Bill Barnett’s Second Gratuitous Swipe at the Mueller Investigation Collapses

Shortly after FBI Agent William Barnett’s 302 came out, I pointed out his attack on Jeannie Rhee said more about his own workplace behavior problems than it did about Rhee. Because she asked questions on the Russian side of Mike Flynn’s exposure, he reacted hostilely, and even in response to a polite comment that she looked forward to working with Barnett, he responded with a dickish statement that he would not work with her.

In the 10 days since the release of Barnett’s 302, his attack on Andrew Weissmann has also collapsed.

Barnett offered this as an example to substantiate his claim that there was a “get Trump” attitude among some Mueller prosecutors, especially what he refers to as the “all stars.”

BARNETT said it sees there was always someone at SCO who claimed to have a lead on information that would prove the collusion only to have the information be a dead end. BARNETT provided an example: WEISSMANN said there was a meeting on a yacht near Greece that was going to be proof of collusion, “quid pro quo.” BARNETT said with a day or two the information was no substantiated.

In his book (completed before Barnett’s interview but released after it), Weissmann described such leads otherwise: as a lead dug up by the press that investigators had to chase down, often wasting a lot of time.

Now, however, the Special Counsel’s Office was enjoying a rare upside of working a high-profile case: As we began boring into the events of the campaign time period, a swarm of enterprising reporters was churning up their own evidence in parallel. At times, the stories the media published proved to be dead ends, which we, nevertheless, were obliged to spend time running down. These numerous leads would include our spending months debunking reports about Trump’s watering down support for Ukraine in the Republican Party platform during the convention—which would have been favorable to Russia’s interests in Ukraine and thus raised a red flag—and our running to ground, around the globe, the claim by a Belarusian call girl that she had tapes of Deripaska admitting to Russian election interference in the 2016 election.

Plus, as Weissmann explained to Politico the other day, Barnett was not in a position to know what Weissmann was doing.

Weissmann said he had a general awareness of who Barnett was but “never dealt with him” because Barnett was not assigned to his team. The top FBI agent and analyst assigned to the Manafort unit, Weissmann said, “got along really well.”

“I read that and I was trying to understand,” Weissmann said of Barnett’s complaints. “I just couldn’t make any sense of it because he seemed supportive of the [Flynn] prosecution but just generally negative about the office.”

Weissmann also wondered about the timing, noting Barnett interviewed with internal DOJ investigators in recent weeks, and his interview summary was made public just days later.

“It was certainly odd for that to be submitted in court so quickly,” he said. “But I’m not part of that litigation and I don’t know all of the ins and outs — I haven’t heard the government’s reasoning and maybe there is a rationale for it.”

DOJ is hiding Barnett’s apparently complimentary views on the main prosecutor Barnett worked with, the only one whose behavior is pertinent to the Flynn prosecution, while releasing his comments that show either a willingness to comment on parts of the investigation with which he’s unfamiliar or, in the case of Rhee, to repackage his hostile workplace behavior as an attack on the woman involved.

Update to reflect that the sex worker lead and the boat lead here are different. The one that Barnett references is Manafort’s trip with Tom Barrack immediately after leaving the case. That one also was part of the investigation for a long time, with the Barrack funding of Manafort even longer.

8 replies
  1. PeterS says:

    I only know Barnett through his 302, but – how do I put this? – he comes across as somewhat less smart than others involved in the investigations, e.g. Andrew Weissmann. I’d have thought Mueller would have collected the best agents together, and similarly the initial FBI investigation would have employed the top people.

    Or perhaps the 302 was written to cast some doubt on the validity of the Russia investigation, which had the effect of making Barnett’s thinking look a little woolly in places. I found it odd that the 302 refers to “collusion” several times, when that is not, I think, a legal term.

  2. Savage Librarian says:

    The Jake Tapper interview with Rick Gates yesterday was alarming. Gates was far more chilling than I imagined a “cooperating” witness would have been. It seemed like Tapper was taken aback, as well.

    In some ways, Gates’ responses to Tapper brought to my mind the way Bill Barnett has acted.

    And both Gates and Barnett came to my mind when I read this article in the DB:

    “Oldest Living CIA Agent Says Russia Probably Targeted Trump Decades Ago” – 10/5/20
    “Most people have this idea that they came in and grabbed all those countries by force,” Sichel explained, “but that is not true. In almost every case, they worked within the structure of the prewar political parties and just gradually coopted them.”

    • mospeck says:

      This DB article about the old KGB and their sources and methods–by the v old spook–is really v interesting. Especially about understanding our modern GOP, and folks like lindsey graham.

  3. Rugger9 says:

    I’m still not sure how this helps AG Barr, since all it would do is probably force Judge Sullivan to ask Barnett to explain himself in person (since IIRC Judge Sullivan already had those 302s in camera) which means at least a delay to examine “new evidence” provided by DOJ which I think would preclude interference by the DCC on another mandamus. If the idea was stop the process here to be buried by DOJ/DJT BS, this introduction forces an extension almost to the election (at least).

  4. soothsayer says:

    Hi MW, I had wanted to post this in your Erik post, about his back channel meetings, as it also reminded me of the further back channel meetings with ‘VEB’, the Russian state bank directly controlled by Putin, where there was a meeting with Kushner, Flynn, Steve Bannon, and Sergey Gorkov the director of VEB.

    See here:

    The reason why, is it also reminded me of another connection to VEB, as demonstrated in this 2018 FT article I had seen about Trump tower Toronto, which shows a previous link between Trump and VEB bank individuals and transactions.

    FT 2018 TrumpToronto Article with VEB connections here:

    Initial paragraphs from the article, though the whole thing in full has great details:

    “One October day in 2007, a celebrity real estate developer in a greatcoat and powder-blue tie alighted from a stretch limousine in Toronto’s financial district. Before a bank of photographers, he took hold of a golden shovel. To his left, also holding a novelty spade, was his partner in a C$500m (£287m) skyscraper, construction of which was to begin that day: a Russian-Canadian billionaire whose fortune had its origins in the collision of communism, capitalism and the KGB at the fall of the Soviet empire. 

    Also present were representatives of the project’s financial backers — an Austrian bank that would soon be accused of failing to conduct sufficient checks on the sources of its ex-Soviet clients’ money.”

    A concise paragraph from later in the article, speaking about a VEB Steel Mill investment but gives context to VEB Putin tie in general, as well as further, the reality of the NY VEB and the Carter page individuals who were spies that he had connections with, if you recall:

    “The deal was to be financed by VEB, the Russian state-owned bank that was then chaired by Putin. It serves as a financial arm of the Kremlin, sometimes even more, such as when a Russian spy in New York used a job as a VEB banker as his cover.”

    Here are some key points from the articles “follow the money” diagram:

    1. Russian-Canadian billionaire Alex Schnaider and Donald Trump break ground on the Trump Toronto skyscraper in October 2007
    2. Shnaider and his partner Eduard Shyfrin agree in May 2010 that their group, Midland, will pay a secret 100mm ‘commission’ to ‘introducers’ to facilitate the sale of their steel mill in Ukraine to Kremlin-backed investors
    3. They have since disputed where the money ended up but both have indicated that some might have reached Russian officials
    4. VEB, a Russian state-owned bank chaired a the time by Vladimir Putin, agrees to fund the purchase of the steel mill. The buyers are offshore companies but the Russian state itself will effectively own the mill
    5. Midland receives 850mm from the mill deal
    6. Schnaider and Shyfrin agree to split their assets in October 2010. Schnaider takes the group’s interest in the Trump Toronto project and another 40mm to invest in it
    7. Over the following years, at least 4mm goes from the Trump Toronto project to Donald Trump in licensing and management fees

  5. soothsayer says:

    Though my other comment is still in moderation, this comment is related.

    Just to add, that the bank you mentioned in Erics back channel, RDIF, is in fact 50% or more owned by VEB, the bank I mention in my comment in moderation, which has multiple historical actions in relation to back recent channel and other prior activities. Also, there were sanctions on RDIF, due to VEB, per:

    Also, I just realized that this comment does in fact tie to this thread, per the comment from Savage Librarian on the article “Oldest Living CIA Agent Says Russia Probably Targeted Trump Decades Ago” and the further comment discussion by others. Where VEB as case in point, seems to have looked to target Trump since at least 2007 per the TrumpToronto FT article.

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