Questions for Bill Barr about His Cover-Ups Pertaining to Ukraine and Russia, Starting with: Who Withdrew the Red Notice for Yevgeniy Prigozhin?

Billy Barr’s effort to launder his reputation with a book tour has started, kicked off with a supine WSJ review that includes just one “some said” clause treating as debatable the provably false claims he made in his book about intervening to eliminate all consequences for Trump’s top associates for lying to cover up their interactions with Russia during the 2016 election.

During much of Mr. Barr’s time in the Trump administration, some said he protected the president at the expense of the Justice Department’s independence, especially over his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Mr. Barr issued his own summary of Mr. Mueller’s investigative report depicting the results in a way that Mr. Mueller and others described as misleading or overly favorable to Mr. Trump. He also worked in the ensuing months to undermine some of the prosecutions spawned by the Mueller investigation. An example was his decision to drop the criminal case against Michael Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser.

Mr. Barr has said that he intervened to correct what he saw as overreach by the prosecutors and flaws in the department’s approach to those cases, a stance he maintains in his book.

Barr’s book tour happens at the same time, the Times reports, as 400 Wagner mercenaries sent by Putin to Kyiv are trying to hunt down the elected President of Ukraine.

More than 400 Russian mercenaries are operating in Kyiv with orders from the Kremlin to assassinate President Zelensky and his government and prepare the ground for Moscow to take control, The Times has learnt.

The Wagner Group, a private militia run by one of President Putin’s closest allies and operating as an arm-length branch of the state, flew in mercenaries from Africa five weeks ago on a mission to decapitate Zelensky’s government in return for a handsome financial bonus.

Information about their mission reached the Ukrainian government on Saturday morning and hours later Kyiv declared a 36-hour “hard” curfew to sweep the city for Russian saboteurs, warning civilians that they would be seen as Kremlin agents and risked being “liquidated” if they stepped outside.

This makes me wonder whether Viktor Medvedchuk — the guy Putin would like to install as a puppet — had help escaping from house arrest.

People’s deputy from the Opposition Platform – Pri Life party, Putin’s godfather Viktor Medvedchuk, escaped from arrest.

Source : information from the ZN.UA edition , obtained from the Office of the Prosecutor General, Advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs Anton Gerashchenko

Details : According to sources, on February 26, the Prosecutor General’s Office instructed the National Police to check the presence of Medvedchuk at the address where he is under house arrest.

The National Police fulfilled the order: Medvedchuk was not at the scene.

The coincidence of Putin’s invasion with Barr’s attempt to launder his reputation led me to put together a partial list of questions Barr should be asked (hopefully by Lester Holt) as he attempts to pretend he didn’t pervert justice — in part — to protect Trump from his attempt to extort Ukraine. For example:

  • Why didn’t Barr recuse himself from the review of the whistleblower complaint against Trump given that Trump told Zelenskyy Barr would contact him during the Perfect Phone Call? (This post provides more details of how Barr’s DOJ mishandled that referral.)
  • Why did Barr only refer the transcript of the call, and not the entire whistleblower complaint, the latter of which would have led Public Integrity to see the tie between Trump’s call and Rudy’s successful effort to get Maria Yovanovich fired (for which Rudy remains under active investigation)?
  • Why did OLC, first, write a memo refusing to share the whistleblower complaint and, once they did, overclassify passages of the call to hide Barr’s own role?
  • Why did Barr personally warn Rupert Murdoch before Sean Hannity got on a plane to fly to Vienna as part of Rudy’s grift?
  • Why did Barr try to fire Geoffrey Berman at a time it was investigating Rudy Giuliani’s role in all this?
  • Why did Barr ask one of his most politicized US Attorneys, Scott Brady, to serve as an intake point for Russian disinformation from Andrii Derkach?
  • Why did Barr separate the investigation into Derkach from the one in which Rudy, who met with Derkach after he had been IDed as a Russian agent, was already under investigation?

Had Barr not intervened in all these ways, the US would have been better able to protect its own democracy from Trump (and Giuliani’s) attempt to corrupt Ukraine’s democracy. Instead, Ukraine is schooling America about what it takes to defend democracy.

But given the assassins hunting down Zelenskyy even as Barr attempts to launder his reputation, there’s perhaps a more urgent question. Why did Bill Barr’s DOJ let the Red Notice for Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s arrest drop in September 2020?

In March 2020, DOJ dismissed the case against two of Prigozhin’s companies that had interfered in the 2016 election, but not Prigozhin himself. As I wrote, the decision was not as suspect as some of Barr’s other interventions in Mueller prosecutions (though it happened at the same time). Because Prigozhin’s corporate persons, but not his biological person, showed up to contest the charges, the Prigozhin defense became substantially an effort to learn FBI’s sources and methods. A Dabney Friedrich decision on the protective order exacerbated that, and another required DOJ to start naming US persons affected. Dropping the case against two corporate persons was not, itself, suspect. DOJ did not drop the case against Prigozhin or his trolls.

Even though the charges against the biological person Prigozhin had not been dropped, in September 2020, Interpol removed Prigozhin from the list of those who could be arrested, citing the dismissal against his corporate persons. This allowed Prigozhin to make several trips to jurisdictions, including Germany, from which he could have been extradited.

It’s certainly possible Billy Barr had no role in this decision and that DOJ tried to point out that, in fact, the charges against Prigozhin remained (and still remain). But given that he gave a screed that seemed to attack the prosecution as a whole at the time, perhaps DOJ affirmatively let Prigozhin slide.

But as his book tour takes place against the backdrop of assassins hunting for Zelenskyy, it seems like a good time to ask him if he did intervene to let the owner of Putin’s paid killers travel free from any risk of direct legal consequences for his intervention in America’s own democracy.

79 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    “Why did Bill Barr’s DOJ let the Red Notice for Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s arrest drop in September 2020?”

    Put it in bold.

    And yes, I too hope that Lester Holt asks this question.

  2. S.Chepaitis says:

    I do not understand why Barr would risk drawing attention to these excellent questions just now. After he wiggled out by resigning before the really smelly stuff hit the fan, I thought he would just fade away and lay low.
    Of course, he gives himself a smokescreen by coming out against Trump’s re election (which will take up most of the attention) but still, if the questions above actually get asked in a high profile way, his answers (or more likely non-answers) could expose him to some serious risk and that seems very un characteristic to me.
    What is he up to?

      • joel fisher says:

        I’m sure you’re right and this is raw speculation on my part but the “selling books” deal might have come with an obligation–in the fine print–to do media. Barr is like most people: disinclined to ponder the fine print when there’s a big ‘ol check on the table.

    • Desider says:

      Barr like so many is used to soft questions in soft venues. The worst that usually happens is he proclaims his inquisitor partisan & unreasonable, and flees to some safe anodyne questioner. But if placed on the gurney, with the Gimp leading the inquisition…

    • Gee says:

      I think his rehabilitation book tour was planned well in advance of the attack on Ukraine. He probably wasn’t imagining that it would dredge up all these reminders of just how disgustingly obstructive he was. And once it was already slated (with the TV appearances starting before the war IIRC), it would only look worse to close up shop and say, well, on second thought, maybe this can wait.

      But also, remember during his confirmation hearings – there were tons of stories going around about just how he would be exactly who he became under Trump, and it was all poo-pooed, and brushed aside as nonsense, because he is a strong, sound, institutionalist, blah blah. So he was probably also counting on the rehab tour working magnificently. And munificently.

    • BobCon says:

      I think part of the dynamic he is counting on is that a lot of background networking that goes on to set up these interviews is at the publisher exec to network exec level.

      Ground rules and understandings are handed down to reporters from their execs, and the impulse of reporters is to toe the line and not embarass the senior people who have their fingerprints on the deal.

  3. joel fisher says:

    I would prefer that he be asked those questions under oath. The Mueller investigation has suffered a blizzard of BS which, in the empty minds of some, has begun to take hold. I wouldn’t care about those empty minds, except some of them vote and more of them will watch Barr lie to Lester Holt that will ever read The Mueller Report, especially Vol. II. The Germans probably have a word for it: simultaneously lying and book promoting.

    • BobCon says:

      People have to stop taking the pseudo savvy line that press pushback is somehow at odds with official inquiry.

      It makes as much sense as complaining about efforts for STEM education when what we “really” need is civics/history/practical learning/etc.

      The easy slide into “we need X instead” is mostly a harmful way of thinking.

      • joel fisher says:

        Of course they’re not at odds. And a press inquiry can produce some information, but “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is lacing up its boots.” And Mark Twain didn’t even know about Lester Holt and NBC and their capacity for launching Barr’s lies–literally–into orbit. He’ll ask the questions all right, but I’m guessing there will be precious little “press pushback” and plenty of BS.

    • ducktree says:

      Not sure even that would have any effect in extracting honest testimony from Barr. Recall how lubricious he was under questioning from then-Senator Harris. “I’m having trouble with the meaning of the word ‘suggested, (etc.)'”. And with every alternative Harris provided he still slipped out of giving an answer.

      He’s the same snake that provided the oil used through so many Republican administrations.

  4. BobCon says:

    Pompeo is also on a tour to memoryhole everything he did on behalf of Trump and Putin with regard to Ukraine, and CBS reporter/producer Aaron Navarro delivered this obscenity which allows Pompeo to completely whitewash all of his involvement with Giuliani’s schemes.

    Pompeo was at the heart of Trump’s scheme to hand over Ukraine and dissolve NATO in exchange for Putin’s help in destroying US democracy, and CBS and Aaron Navarro publish this?

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      And Pompeo did the pre-campaign diet, too. So he’s serious. Hoping maybe we don’t recognize him from his Trump thug days. (Alas, that’s the only thing on his resume he can point to, as a congressional back-bencher prior.)

  5. Bay State Librul says:

    A re-tweet from Marcy below

    “Bookstores need a new section “Knew Trump was Threat to Democracy But Enabled and Supported Him Trying to Whitewash History and Launder Own Reputation”

    One for the ages, with a mouthful of apropos words, of which a condensed version, in my opinion, is a six-letter word that starts with T and succinctly paraphrase by Hillary Clinton last week as “Giving Aid and Comfort to the enemy” Even Romney alluded to this behavior.

    • JamesJoyce says:

      Even Ukrainians suffer as most people from deceit and malfeasance…

      Putin has taken all the heat off of Trump, for now.

      He is a self appointed King with war chest and nukes…

      Does Putin have multiple underground bunkers like the Ukrainians, Donald?

      Ukrainians are victims of Putin’s latest fraud as so many are victims of Trump’s fraud?

      Now the stakes are even higher Uncle Albert?

      As for Barr, (the cleaner) Barr cleaned up the mess after Iran Contra.

      The walkers, never do wrong..

      In this case it was done in real time…

      “Had Barr not intervened in all these ways, the US would have been better able to protect its own democracy from Trump (and Giuliani’s) attempt to corrupt Ukraine’s democracy. Instead, Ukraine is schooling America about what it takes to defend democracy.”

      Appeasers always inhale rapidly, Neville.

      Actions are truthful…

      Blunt trauma hurts..

      Words mean nothing, to Vlad the Impaler or Donald J Trump and his ilk.

      No code at all…

      Drunks and Drug Addicts suck, Putin. One in the same..

      Power addicts suck even more Mr. William “Barr” the Sinister One ☝️.

      Book Burning 101 and Snow..

      We need Underdog and Sweet P.P.B.

      Backscratchers Putin and Trump?

      Distraction 101 William Barr…

      Well done…

      Bloods’ trails like trails with lots of tears are very long “Pilgrim.”

      Sophie had no choice, Vlad.


  6. Rugger9 says:

    Perhaps a more current set of questions would be in order, especially regarding the Sussman case (pin him down). That means whether he agrees with the claims made by Durham and the methods used by Durham including deceiving the court. Since Barr’s stated reason for interfering in other cases was to correct errors, let’s force the explanation there and apply it to Durham now. Dodging by saying it’s an “ongoing investigation” should not be allowed, Holt needs to crib off of EW’s notes for specific examples where Durham contradicted himself in filings and ask Barr how he would ‘correct’ those errors. Maybe EW can give Holt the Top Ten list.

    Since Durham’s Special Counsel snipe hunt is Barr’s legacy to the world, Barr needs to answer for it.

  7. MB says:

    Ugh…publisher William Morrow’s unsurprising (and hagiographic) description of Barr’s forthcoming book (from Amazon’s website):

    One Damn Thing After Another is vivid, forthright, and essential not only to understanding the Bush and Trump legacies, but also how both men viewed power and justice at critical junctures of their presidencies.

    Here’s looking forward to his equally vivid, forthright and essential testimony to the January 6 commission…

      • MB says:

        Hmmm…yes. Any politician who sports a professional monotonal demeanor in public cannot be described as “vivid”. That goes for Lynne’s dad as well.

        But, the publisher is saying the book is “vivid” in their PR(!) I guess that only be true if while reading, one doesn’t conjure up Mr. Barr’s droll and dry vocal stylings. In that case, the audiobook version is practically guaranteed to be non-vivid.

    • Rugger9 says:

      I’d agree with bmaz on this because I’ve seen many people once they get past a certain age to grasp at any straws for relevance. It’s what afflicted Justice Breyer as well.

      As it is she’s filed for 2024 but I have zero doubt she’ll be primaried if she goes through with it.

      Many of the ethical questions that were swirling around DiFi over the years are related to the business dealings of her husband and the conflicts tied to them. Not that I’ve seen any credible sleaze, but I would say DiFi has benefited from the GQP contenders that ran against her, because to a man they’ve been scum.

      So, condolences about losing a husband are in order.

      • Molly Pitcher says:

        This will be interesting to watch. I always assumed that Gavin Newsom would see her seat as the next step in his political career.

        • rjames0723 says:

          Feinstein started on the Board of Supervisors before she was thrown into the mayors spot. On the other hand, Newsom has always been an administrator. He may not want to be in a legislative job. I have no doubt that he has his eye on the White House , but he could run from either position.

      • punaise says:

        Point taken: I did kind of skip past the condolences part.

        Even though I’ve always voted for her it was never with any degree of joy: I’ve referred to her as DiFi., Inc. since the GW Bush era.

        Not to hijack this thread, but I could definitely see Newsom as the junior Senator from CA. (YMMV)

        • Rugger9 says:

          It might be the best place for Gavin, but realize he’d be looking at running for POTUS almost immediately, proving the old joke about how a Senator looks in the mirror and sees a President. However, not getting stuff done as Senator is less dangerous than not getting stuff done as Governor.

    • graham firchlis says:

      Condolences to Diane Feinstein on the loss of her husband.

      I don’t always agree with her policies but it is like 70/30 positive over the years, she is infinitely better than any R, and in person she is kind, warm, gracious and thoughtful so there’s that.

      The FEC filing has been absurdly mis-reported. Like every Senator she has a campaign committee, nominally for 2024. The recent filing however was merely for a change of address, definitely not a re-election announcement.

      IMHO and not just me, the understanding is that she had intended to stay in office until Nov 5 2022 when she will pass Barbara Mikulski as the longest tenured female Senator, retiring shortly thereafter to maximize her replacement’s seniority.

      With Patrick Lahey’s announced retirement, however, she has a chance to be the first female president pro tem. If the Dems hold the Senate that could tempt her to stay on into 2023 but not likely her full term.

      FWIW, Newsom has been open about not wanting to be a Senator, would have taken Harris’ seat if he had, and has already stated he would appoint a black woman if Feinstein steps down. His eye is on the White House.

      I simply cannot stand Gavin Newsom. He is a loathsome anempathic calculating narcissist who succeeded in business not through his acumen but his connections, nothing more than a pretty boy gregarious glad hander frontman with powerful political and big money backing and a self-serving eye for the main chance.

      Guilfoyle is hardly his biggest skeleton. He seduced the wife of his best friend while the couple was estranged and in counseling, she in documented mental health care. One time is a bad mistake, carrying on as he did was completely loathsome.

      He took advantage of a woman in distress, a friend in need of comfort and support, for his own base needs and not for the first time. The other stories will remain hushed up for the sake of reputations.

      He is not the person he represents himself to be. I simply cannot stand the man.

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        graham firchlis, is anyone who succeeds in politics “the person he represents himself to be”? It seems a virtual requisite (for winning, at least) to promise what you cannot possibly deliver; some understand this, some don’t.

        I’m not defending Newsom. He’s never impressed me much. But if we start demanding that those who participate in governing meet stringent moral standards, we end up in a morass. As long as that affair was consensual (which seems definitional), that is not a reason to disqualify a politician. Bad governing, OTOH, is.

      • Valley girl says:

        OT- from years ago- PJ do you happen to remember the name of the group of mercenaries who were training in Wales? Paid by the ??? Group? It was a post by Marcy at EW/FDL. Both you and I were posting comments. I think we were the main participants.

      • Tracy Lynn says:

        Good call, this. I wonder what he actually thinks he can do for Ukraine? (Assuming, of course, that this is really about Ukraine and not actually about evading extradition.)

    • Rayne says:

      Wow, the balls on that scumbag. I hope he’s told to piss off unless he’s going to pay for military equipment for Ukraine.

  8. Molly Pitcher says:

    I have to say that it turns my stomach to see the words “The Honorable” before Bill Barr’s name in the photo Marcy used for this post.

  9. Tom says:

    Maybe Barr’s book will suffer from lean sales and be sucked quickly into the depths of remainderdom. About a month ago I was at a Value Village thrift store and found a pristine copy–dustjacket and all–of John Bolton’s book languishing in a bargain bin of old Danielle Steeles, battered Louis L’Amour paperbacks, and bundles of Archie Comic Digests.

    • MB says:

      One can only hope. But unfortunately Amazon has already ranked it at #1 in 3 of their categories: 1) United States Executive Government, 2) Political Leader Biographies and 3) Lawyer & Judge Biographies.

      And the damn thing doesn’t even go on sale until March 8. So this is pre-sale hype of major-league proportions…

      • BobCon says:

        It can easily be a best seller and dumped by the truckload at thrift stores. Best seller lists in general get manipulated like crazy by bulk order deals with publishers and distributors who move books around in warehouses a lot like foreign money moving in and out of condos on the Upper East Side, without anyone actually taking posession of the physical thing.

        Amazon best seller lists are even more hinky, with a zillion subcategories that mean smart slotting by a publisher almost guarantees a book will be a best seller in some category. There’s the story of Brent Underwood, for example, who self-published a one page photo of his foot with the title “Putting My Foot Down” who became an Amazon Best Seller by choosing the right category.

  10. harpie says:
    4:01 PM · Feb 28, 2022

    BREAKING: US expelling 12 #Russian diplomats from UN mission in New York.
    Says they were intelligence operatives, engaged in espionage. [Screenshot]

    It also says:
    “We are taking this action in accordance with the UN Headquarters Agreement. This action has been in development for several months.”

    • Peterr says:

      The US and Russia have been engaging in a lot of tit-for-tat explusions of diplomats and shuttering of consulates over the last 18 months of so. While this is certainly tied to what’s going on in Ukraine, it is part of a much larger dispute that goes back a ways.

  11. omphaloscepsis says:

    BBC story from 19 December 2021:
    “This week the European Union imposed sanctions on the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary organisation accused of committing human rights abuses in the Central African Republic and elsewhere.
    . . . It is believed to be funded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a rich businessman with links to President Vladimir Putin. Mr Prigozhin has always denied any connection with Wagner.
    The Russian government also denies any state involvement with the group while also maintaining it does not legally exist because private military contractors are illegal in Russia.”

    BBC story from 23 February 2018:
    “Russian mercenaries are reported to be in the thick of the fighting in Syria, helping President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
    One shadowy group in particular, called Wagner PMC (Private Military Company), hit the headlines because of a clash on 7 February that resulted in dozens of Russian casualties.
    . . . In June 2017 the US Treasury added Wagner PMC to a long list of Russian individuals and entities subject to sanctions because of their involvement in the Ukraine conflict.
    . . . The US also identified Dmitry Utkin as Wagner’s ‘founder and leader’ and placed him on the list.
    Russian media reports, quoting anonymous military sources, reveal that Mr Utkin earlier served in a special forces brigade of Russian military intelligence, the GRU. Then in 2013 he went to Syria with a group of fighters recruited by a company called ‘Slav Corps’, reports say.
    The GRU secretly oversees Wagner, according to security sources quoted by Russian RBC news.
    . . . Wagner is believed to be funded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a rich businessman close to President Vladimir Putin. Mr Prigozhin is on the US sanctions list because of his links to the eastern Ukraine separatists.
    In December 2016 the US Treasury said Mr Prigozhin had ‘extensive business dealings’ with the Russian defence ministry and was linked to the construction of a new military base near Ukraine.”

    “The company’s name comes from Utkin’s own call sign (‘Wagner’), which he allegedly chose due to his passion for the Third Reich.”

  12. madwand says:

    It seems to me they may need more Wagner guys to get Zelinsky. The US tried initially to decapitate Iraqi leadership in 2003, then caught up to Saddam and his sons rather quickly. Then they came up with the deck of 52 cards with pictures of the henchman and one woman known as Mrs anthrax, eventually most were captured or killed but a few survived. Decapitation is a time honored strategy especially in East Asia where they would send whole armies after fleeing leaders who had lost the war and fled for their lives. So far Zelinsky is made of sterner stuff, almost Churchill like and inspiring even to an old soldier like me.

  13. Doctor My Eyes says:

    Well, it’s Fiona Hill, and I’m not sure what that means other than anyone who can work well with John Bolton . . . . Still, sounds more plausible than I wish it did:

    “Ukraine has become the front line in a struggle, not just between democracies and autocracies but in a struggle for maintaining a rules-based system in which the things that countries want are not taken by force,” Hill said. “Every country in the world should be paying close attention to this.”


    “Every time you think, ’No, he wouldn’t, would he?’ Well, yes, he would,” Hill said. “And he wants us to know that, of course. It’s not that we should be intimidated and scared…. We have to prepare for those contingencies and figure out what is it that we’re going to do to head them off.”

  14. Peterr says:

    From CNBC:

    Superyachts owned by Russian billionaires who have ties to President Vladimir Putin are on the move as the United States and its allies prepare further sanctions on their property following the invasion of Ukraine.

    Data reviewed by CNBC from Marine Traffic shows that at least four massive yachts owned by Russian business leaders have been moving toward Montenegro and the Maldives since a wide array of sanctions were announced in recent days by leaders from around the world, including the U.S. Treasury targeting Russia’s central bank. The Maldives doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the U.S., according to Nomad Capitalist. . . .

    OK, so some may end up keeping their super yachts out of the clutches of the US Treasury, but other than the Maldives, they may not have a whole lot of places to visit on those yachts.

    • ottnott says:

      The lack of a treaty works in both directions. If you were to, say, burn a super yacht to the waterline in the Maldives and flee to the US…

      • Rayne says:

        I was thinking how cool underwater drones are these days, how easily they can be purchased for civilian/residential use.

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