The Claim that Billy Barr Didn’t Release Any Investigative Information During the Election Is False

Even before Billy Barr’s obsequious resignation, he and his handlers had been working the press to boost his tainted reputation. Consider not one (dated December 10) but two (dated December 14) WSJ stories boasting about how Barr kept the Hunter Biden investigations from going public. The WSJ lauds Barr for doing things that he pushed to have Peter Strzok and others prosecuted for also doing in the Russian investigation (one theory that John Durham and Jeffrey Jensen pursued is that because Strzok didn’t approve NSLs against Mike Flynn in November 2016 he had no basis to do so in February and March 2017).

Mr. Barr took more steps than previously reported to insulate the investigations, despite calls from President Trump and Republican allies to announce a probe involving President-elect Joe Biden’s son Hunter.

Mr. Barr and senior department officials relayed the instructions in conversations with prosecutors, questioning whether their staff members could be trusted and warning against issuing subpoenas or taking other steps that might become public, some of the people familiar with the matter said.

It’s full of fawning praise that accepts as true that Barr would never reveal information from an ongoing probe.

As the election drew nearer, calls from Mr. Trump and some Republican allies for the investigations rose in urgency. Mr. Barr and other top Justice Department officials resisted inquiries from several Republican lawmakers and their staffs for information on whether investigators were examining Hunter Biden, two people familiar with the matter said.

“It’s not even debatable that it is wrong for anyone in the chain of command at DOJ, especially the top law enforcement person in the country, to reveal an ongoing confidential criminal investigation. And Bill Barr was not going to do that,” said Richard Cullen, a former U.S. attorney and longtime friend of the attorney general.

The WSJ even points to the Scott Brady investigation, without noting what happened to it during the investigation.

After the acquittal, Mr. Barr announced that the U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh, Scott Brady, would receive and review information related to Hunter Biden and Ukraine from Mr. Giuliani.

As the NYT reported, Brady was pushing the FBI to do stuff they deemed inappropriate, particularly during an election year. It sounds like, to the degree that these investigations remained secret, that was due more to the FBI than to Barr or his hand-selected partisan US Attorney.

The steps were outside “normal investigative procedures,” one former senior law enforcement official with knowledge of the events said, particularly in an election year; Justice Department policy typically forbids investigators from making aggressive moves before elections that could affect the outcome of the vote if they become public.

The Pittsburgh F.B.I. office refused to comply without the approval of David L. Bowdich, the F.B.I.’s deputy director, the former official said.

Mr. Brady’s demands soon prompted a tense confrontation with F.B.I. officials at the bureau’s headquarters in Washington. The meeting was mediated by Seth D. DuCharme, now the acting U.S. attorney in Brooklyn and at the time a trusted aide and ally of Mr. Barr’s at the Justice Department in Washington.


Still, Mr. Brady pressed the F.B.I. to do more, officials said. The agents found ways to ostensibly satisfy Mr. Brady without upending the election. It is not clear how they compromised, but agents could have investigated more discreetly, like questioning witnesses they were confident would keep quiet or checking databases.

WSJ addresses the Durham investigation this way in its last three paragraphs.

Mr. Barr soon after ordered an investigation into the origins of the FBI’s 2016 probe that had led to Mr. Mueller’s appointment. Mr. Barr openly contemplated releasing the results ahead of November’s election. He told The Wall Street Journal in August the department’s election-sensitivities policy did not apply because the previously announced inquiry did not “reach to Obama or Biden, and therefore the people under investigation are in fact not really political figures.”

Then, the federal prosecutor leading that review, John Durham, hadn’t completed his work in time. Mr. Durham’s deputy resigned in part over concerns that Mr. Barr would use the findings for political gain, the Journal previously reported. Mr. Trump and his allies said they hoped some findings would be released before the election. Mr. Durham hasn’t commented on his team’s work.

In October, Mr. Barr appointed Mr. Durham special counsel, meaning he can only be removed for cause and likely leaving the probe for his successor to address. He didn’t disclose that appointment until Dec. 1.

I’m not sure how a piece that describes Nora Dannehy’s resignation can claim — anywhere — that Barr worked hard to keep investigative information secret. He tried to do the opposite, and failed, at least with respect to the Durham investigation.

But what he did in response should disabuse any journalist of the claim that Barr tried to keep investigative information secret.

In the 60 days leading up to the election, the Jeffrey Jensen released an interview report — from a witness that John Durham surely also interviewed — that was so obviously intended for political effect that it left out key details and evidence from the investigation into Mike Flynn and invited a pro-Trump FBI Agent to make accusations about Mueller prosecutors he didn’t even work with. The report was also redacted so as to hide material, complimentary information about the Mueller investigation.

At the same time, the Jensen investigation released a package of exhibits also reviewed as part of the Durham investigation, at least three of which had been altered, including to have their protective order footers removed:

One of the alterations — a misleading date falsely suggesting Biden played a role in the Mike Flynn investigation that DOJ knew well Bob Litt actually played — was used by Trump to make an attack on Joe Biden.

It is simply false to say that Barr didn’t release investigative information affecting Joe Biden. Indeed, under his micromanagement, Jensen did far worse than Jim Comey did in 2016, because the information was packaged up

26 replies
    • AndTheSlithyToves says:

      …also keep forgetting to raise this item again (it’s a target-bloated environment): Can’t remember if I saw it here or elsewhere, but in some comment section somewhere, a commenter posited that one reason Barr was engaging in this Kabuki Theater over Hunter’s Chinese connections/tax problems was to cover up/distract from the Trump family’s much larger and more problematic connections with the aforesaid. (Didn’t Trump, Inc. pay substantially more taxes in China than anywhere else last year?)

      • subtropolis says:

        Barr isn’t that beholden to Donald Trump. Where he’s covered for the crime spree, it has been with but a single goal in mind: Keep the Federalist Society’s goose laying golden eggs. Barr couldn’t care less whether Trump is indicted now that his turn at the piñata stick is coming to a close.

  1. PeterS says:

    Yeah, but, if you do one right thing then all the wrong things you’ve done should be ignored, isn’t that how legal stuff works???

    This is how the National Review responds to the WSJ piece on Barr and H Biden: “Everyone who ever called U.S. attorney general a partisan hack who put President Trump’s personal and political interests ahead of the law, please line up to make a very public apology.”

    You have to laugh.

  2. bitte says:

    Wouldn’t this have also happened only with Barr’s approval?
    AUSA Freed announced it because:
    U.S. Attorney David Freed noted that the investigation remains active but said he is releasing the news publicly “based on the limited amount of time before the general election and the vital public importance of these issues.”
    It was immediately used by Trump so closely that it felt very coordinated.
    Oh look that statement is now missing from the DOJ page:

    Freed tried to back away:

  3. Rugger9 says:

    One other reason might be the fact there were no findings to report. I would agree with Slithy’s point about distraction by “whataboutism” since that is a standard part of the DJT/GOP projection playbook.

  4. yogarhythms says:

    Dr Ew,
    “ Jensen did far worse than Jim Comey did in 2016, because the information was packaged up”
    Putting the lie to WJS article is child’s play for Dr Ew. The record stands for all to see. TL DR is not acceptable preparation for pursuit of truth and justice. BB’s final notice is welcomed by all non radicalized by 45.
    OT Covid 19 US daily death justified totals (DJT) exceed 300,497 12/15/20 John’s Hopkins Covid website.
    Three legged stool to break the chain spreading infectious airborne virus: 1, Masks, 2, Social Distancing, 3, Hand washing; Every one should wear a mask when outside of your residence or entertaining guests inside your residence. Social distancing and hand washing together we can defeat pandemic spread of airborne virus.

  5. James E Powell says:

    “It sounds like, to the degree that these investigations remained secret, that was due more to the FBI than to Barr or his hand-selected partisan US Attorney.”

    Perhaps the FBI didn’t have the same visceral hatred of Joe Biden that they had for Hillary Clinton.

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      Let’s keep our eye on the correct ball here. “The FBI” is too broad and diverse to maintain a visceral hatred of a generally hawkish Democrat. It was the NYC field office, “informed” by Giuliani and feeding him the fruits of their labors, that went batshit crazy in 2016. Don’t ask me how I know. (I know because they infected the brain of a close friend whose quarter-century career in the bureau–and much longer sobriety–crashed and burned soon after they achieved their goal.)

      • Rugger9 says:

        SDNY Feebs needed to be investigated long ago, especially considering that they pushed the HRC email story without even asking Huma to search her laptop (much less being denied, getting a warrant, etc.). That particular fix was in and since HRC was such a lightning rod (unfairly, but true) I’m sure the agents thought they were helping (in addition to being flaming misogynists).

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          Rugger9, I am afraid that ship (investigating the NYC FBI) sailed. Those like my friend who came to regret participating in the madness ruined their own credibility in the process–credibility (and rank) hard-won over many years in the bureau. They must look at what honorable agents like Strzok, McCabe, et. al. are facing and shudder. And I can assure you that it was madness; the incoherent, performatively authoritative ramblings of Giuliani in recent weeks remind me of what I heard then about Hillary (“a sociopath”) and the urgent need to “stop her.”

          • subtropolis says:

            And the bawling about James Comey being a “traitor” for declining to continue the witch hunt earlier in the summer. Many liberals began hating on Comey after that presser in which he stated that the case was closed. A careful read of the transcript shows that, when he said that Hillary had been careless, he did so not to berate her but to shush the deranged right-wingers who were trying to make a mountain from a mole hill. That presser wasn’t about dragging her through the dirt, but excoriating the Republicans for weaponising the FBI against Clinton.

  6. Chris.EL says:

    Dr. EW et al., thanks for bringing up covid + masks; do not understand why folks are anti-mask — it is so simple, cheap, non-invasive, etc. Just don’t get it. Also don’t get the hatred for Hillary. Don’t get it.
    SO GLAD THE NATIVE AMERICAN NATIONS are getting vaccine shipped from popehat/Twitter:
    · 22h
    The first 975 doses of the #Pfizer #COVID-19 #Vaccine arrived in the Cherokee Nation today! Distribution of the vaccines from IHS will begin this week. Phase 1 priority is given to frontline health workers, first responders and Cherokee Speakers, National Treasures and elders. “…

    *** National Treasures and elders *** YAAY!!!

    • Savage Librarian says:

      It’s scary how many Biden voters in my neighborhood don’t wear masks. Everyone here is cavalier about responsibility. I wonder how they will be about the vaccine. I sure hope the Biden administration can set an example that people respect and follow.

    • P J Evans says:

      One thing they’ve found is that the first dose of the vaccine is more protective than they expected. (Both Pfizer and Moderna have found this.)

      • Rugger9 says:

        Which is why DeSantis is trying to go the one-dose route against the actual protocol so he can claim more people are vaccinated. Another GOP who will rot in Hell.

  7. Ginevra diBenci says:

    Barr is a master leaker who plays the mainstream media for suckers. The WSJ is of course happy to suck. It remains to be seen whether NYT and others resist the siren song that deafened them in 2018 to Barr’s history as partisan hack, his stated fealty to a monarchical vision of executive power, and his grumble-weaseling under oath. “But he’s an institutionalist!” May we never hear those words so credulously again.

  8. Sam Penrose says:

    We chattering classes default to trusting NYT and WaPo, and to distrusting FoxNews or NatReview. We put WSJ Opinion in the second bucket, but we put WSJ news in the first bucket. I am aware that NYT and WaPo sometimes do access journalism. I’d be curious to know whether you feel this or other WSJ news articles are just standard access journalism, or whether they resemble Fox-style propaganda more.

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      I’m not sure whom you mean by “we,” Sam Penrose. You won’t find a reflexive trust of NYT around here (EW), that’s for sure. Nor would I place Fox News and the National Review in the same category; everything from their stated goals to the means by which their (disparate) audiences consume them differentiates the two. I am personally interested in the various ways that journalism, whether intentionally/consciously or not, shades into propaganda. But any such inquiry requires a strict definition of terms. Applying them as labels does not clarify anything.

  9. PeterS says:

    From Politico (o/t): “Mitch McConnell warned Republican senators Tuesday during a private caucus call not to object to the election results on January 6 …. McConnell told his caucus that challenging the results would force Republicans to take a “terrible vote” because they would need to vote it down and appear against President Donald Trump.”

    If only there were a cost free (for Dems) way to force such a terrible vote.

    • P J Evans says:

      They’re the ones who are following Trmp to hell in that handbasket. No one else made them do it. (And I’m including Mitch in that group.)

    • Franktoo says:

      No matter what Mitch wants, I predict that some Republicans in Congress will want to demonstrate their loyalty to Trump on 1/6/21 and vote against counting Electoral Votes for Biden from the states Trump has been contesting. That will force the vast majority of Republicans to demonstrate their loyalty to Trump – and their lack of respect for democracy and law. If Trump asks Republicans to not object on 1/6/21, then – perhaps – few. if any, will object. However, I can’t picture Trump wanting to pass up another chance to publicize that the election was stolen.

      About 30 Dems voted against counting Republican Electoral Votes from the State of Ohio in January 2005, even though Kerry lost Ohio by 2%. IIRC, a complete audit of voting machines was impossible due to an error. Kerry insisted months after the election that no one really knew who won Ohio in that election.

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