Bill Barr Complains that His Special Counsel Was Unable to Match Robert Mueller’s Record of Success
Even before the Igor Danchenko trial, Billy Barr declared victory in defeat — arguing that if John Durham could just “fill in a lot of the blanks as to what was really happening,” the inevitable acquittal would still give Durham an opportunity to spin fairy tales about what Durham imagines happened.
“What these cases show is that these are difficult cases to win,” Barr said. “There’s a reason it takes so long, and you have to build up the evidence because at the end of the day, you’re going before these juries that aren’t going to be disposed to side with the people they view as supporting Trump.”
Danchenko is slated to go on trial next month on charges of lying to the FBI about the Steele dossier, for which he was the main source. The dossier claimed that Trump and members of his campaign and company had established extensive ties to the Russian government and had colluded during the 2016 election.
The trial is widely expected to be the final criminal prosecution from Durham’s investigation before he submits a report of his findings to Attorney General Merrick Garland.
But despite Durham’s limited success in the courtroom, Barr defended the investigation he ordered, saying the courtroom was allowing Durham to establish a record of what had occurred with the so-called Russiagate investigation.
“I think Durham got out a lot of important facts that fill in a lot of the blanks as to what was really happening,” Barr said. “My expectation is … the Danchenko trial will also allow for a lot of this story to be told, whether or not he’s ultimately convicted. I hope he’s convicted, but if he isn’t, I still think it provides an avenue to tell the story of what happened.”
Like an obedient puppy, Durham did use the trial as an opportunity to get extraneous details into the public record. On top of the $1 million dollar offer that Brian Auten said, vaguely, Christopher Steele might have gotten if he had corroborated the dosser — which has been treated like an FBI attempt to bribe a source for dirt on Trump and as the most exonerating possible detail, rather than an effort to investigate a real threat to the country — Durham went out of his way to give the full names of people at various meetings so Carter Page and Donald Trump can add them to lawsuits.
Mind you, along the way, the trial also revealed the FBI’s own assessment of Danchenko’s cooperation, which contributed to 25 investigations and which Barr burned to a crisp by exposing him, with Lindsey Graham’s help, as a source in 2020.
Q. And you were concerned, in July of 2020, when you became aware that Attorney General Barr was going to release a redacted version of Mr. Danchenko’s interview in January of 2017?
Q. You were upset about that?
A. I was.
Q. You found out about that during a telephone conference, right?
A. I did.
Q. And you disagreed with that decision?
A. I did.
Q. The OIG had already completed a report on that investigation, correct?
Q. And you thought that the release of that document was dangerous?
Q. You even wrote up a memo of that phone call you were on in July of 2020 where you learned that they were going to publish a redacted version of his interview, correct?
A. I did.
Q. And within an hour of Mr. Danchenko’s January interview being released to the senate judiciary committee, the senate judiciary committee, I won’t say who, released it to the public?
A. They did.
Q. So, Agent Helson, you wrote in October of 2020 that from 2017 until present day, Mr. Danchenko had provided information on at least 25 FBI investigations assigned to at least six field offices?
Q. In addition, he aided the United States Government by introducing the United States Government to a sub-source who had provided additional information separate to his report, correct?
Q. And it’s noted that he — his reporting contributed to at least 25 active FBI investigations.
Q. In July of 2020 his identity became public after the release of the redacted version of his interview in January of 2017. Since that public disclosure, he has received threatening messages via social media and email. It’s resulted in significant damage to his reputation from false and baseless claims aimed to undermine his credibility. Those are your words, correct?
Q. The Washington Field Office had assessed that this will have negative ramifications with respect to his ability to provide for his family via personal income for the foreseeable future, correct?
Q. And while the FBI cannot promise complete anonymity to anyone who provides information, his identity became public only after the decision was made to release the redacted version of his interview, correct?
Q. As a result of that act, his ability to continue to provide information viable to the FBI is diminished as is his ability to provide financial support to his family.
After the trial, Barr has been spending time on Fox News declaring — as much of the frothy right has — that this record, of how he deliberately harmed national security for revenge, exposed the corruption of what Barr calls “Russiagate,” the moniker frothers use to distract from the real substance of the Russian investigation.
I was disappointed, obviously. I think they did a good job prosecuting the case. Their ability to put evidence on, in a very difficult case, was limited by some rulings, and they weren’t able to get access to some witnesses overseas. So it was a tough — it was a tough case, so this should show people that it’s hard to win these cases, and sometimes it takes time to … to achieve justice. But as people say — I think Andy McCarthy said — the real public interest being served here was exposing the full extent of the corruption that was involved in Russiagate [sic] and the abuse by the FBI in that whole episode. And I think Durham is going to get a report out that’s gonna lay out all the facts.
Barr and everyone else are pointing to the exposures they and Durham made to justify their actions because they didn’t have evidence to support their claims.
Barr is whining that getting false statements convictions is hard. But Robert Mueller was able to prove that:
- Alex Van der Zwaan lied to cover up his efforts, in conjunction with Konstantin Kilimnik and Rick Gates, to cover up Manafort’s effort to spin Ukraine’s politicized Yulia Tymoshenko prosecution during the 2016 election
- George Papadopoulos lied to cover up his advance knowledge of the Russian effort to help Trump
- Mike Flynn lied to cover up his back channel calls with Sergei Kislyak to undermine Obama Administration policy (and also that he was a paid agent of Turkey during the campaign)
- Michael Cohen lied to hide the secret negotiations he had directly with the Kremlin about an impossibly lucrative real estate deal
- Paul Manafort conspired to cover up a front organization he set up with Konstantin Kilimnik and (at a preponderance of the evidence standard) lied to cover up his August 2016 meeting with Kilimnik
- Roger Stone lied and intimidated Randy Credico to cover up his real back channel to the Russian operation
I mean, Robert Mueller had no problem getting convictions, whether from guilty pleas, jury verdicts, or (in the case of Manafort’s lies about the August 2, 2016 meeting) a judge’s ruling.
One reason he had no problem was that these defendants were generally guilty of a lot more than just lying. It’s a lot easier to get Flynn to admit he lied about his back channel discussions with the Russian Ambassador, after all, when he was also on the hook for secretly being an agent of Turkey. It’s lot easier to get Papadopoulos to admit he lied about his advance warning of the Russian operation when he’s trying to stave off foreign agent charges tied to Israel. It’s a lot easier to get a jury verdict against Stone when he spent months plotting out his lies with multiple people on emails.
Mueller wasn’t able to get false statement verdicts from everyone, mind you. For example, because Steve Bannon and Erik Prince deleted their texts from early January 2017, Mueller did not charge them for false statements made to cover up meetings to set up a back channel with UAE and Russia. That’s one lesson that Durham should have taken to heart: Absent the mobile app records from Sergei Millian and Igor Danchenko, he had no way of knowing whether Millian called Danchenko on July 26, 2016.
That’s not the only evidentiary complaint Barr makes here. He’s complaining that Durham was unable to get hearsay admitted against Danchenko. He’s angry that Durham was not permitted to introduce Millian’s wild Twitter boasts as evidence without requiring Millian to show up and make those claims under oath. And he’s complaining that Durham wasn’t able to introduce his pee tape conspiracies without charging it.
But the most alarming of the former Attorney General’s statements — before and after the trial — embrace the notion that it is a proper goal of failed prosecutions to expose information that does not rise to the level of criminality.
As I’ll show in a follow-up, the Durham fiasco is part of a piece of Barr’s larger actions, both his other failed prosecutions — most notably, that of Greg Craig — but also his efforts to undo the convictions for which there was no reasonable doubt of guilt.
It’s not enough to talk about Durham’s unprecedented failure … it’s not enough to note that Durham and his prosecutors repeatedly failed to take basic investigative steps before embracing and charging conspiracy theories that juries didn’t buy … it’s not enough to note how, in an attempt to prove those conspiracy theories, Durham and his prosecutors and abused the prosecutorial system.
Durham’s entire project is a continuation of Barr’s unprecedented politicization of DOJ, one that not only places Republicans attempting to secretly work for hostile nations above the law, but that has made the country far less safe in many other ways.
It’s not just Durham prosecuted two men without any real hope of winning conviction, all to expose things that aren’t crimes. It’s that Billy Barr hired him to do just that.
Barr’s phrase “what was really happening” makes me think of a recent discussion on this site in which principles chided someone for saying everyone knows Trump is guilty. They insisted that, on this site, someone is not guilty until a court has declared it so. Barr, former AG of the US, is here relying on the “everyone knows” version of truth rather than the legally proven version. One would hope from better from a former. Also what comes to mind is Colbert’s ironic truthiness as well as his (parodic) insistence that he finds his truth from what his gut tells him.
It is not up to Barr to simply proclaim “what was really happening”, nor can he know what was really happening in the absence of competent investigation. This is the whole f**king reason for a system of justice!
It’s as if Bill Barr were writing lyrics for a Gilbert & Sullivan opera of the Trump years, a prelude to fascism in America. “When everyone is somebody, then no one’s anybody.” If “everyone” knows who’s guilty, all DoJ need do is arrest and imprison, pretty much like Putin’s Russia.
“prelude to fascism in America”
Fascism has been in America (and most other places, too) for about as long as humans have lived in large groups. So, the presence of fascism should be taken as a given. Its prevalence is what must be opposed.
Fascism in control of government is a different thing. But, yes, it’s been around at least since the Robber Barons, and before that, among the petty tyrants and their petty domains.
OMG that is my favorite operatic line of all time.
Thank you. That helps crystalize it for me, and why this site is so invaluable. Doesn’t get ahead of its skis, and that makes the credibility of the highest order. I share the frustration that Trump has yet to be truly brought to justice as of yet. And appreciate Rayne’s pushback on the gloom and doomers who see a smoking gun and declare defeat because they want it now dammit! wah wah wah. Because the narrative is the narrative that must be combated, not falling prey to the disinformation by giving in and amplifying it. Frustrating to allow the facts to slowly wind their way through due process before any declarations of guilt can be made (thank you Bmaz).
This site gives me hope.
Thank you all for your attention to detail and for informing us greatly. And for the regular commentators that fill in the blanks.
Most of all thank you Dr. Wheeler.
[Thanks for updating your username to meet the 8 letter minimum. /~Rayne]
Billy resigned. Billy resigned before J6. Billy resigned before MAL. Billy resigned from Time Warner and applied to be tfg’s AG. Billy is smart and he chose Luddite Johnny. Johnny wasn’t the sharpest pencil but he bit down hard and refused to let evidence or fact’s influence his convictions. Juries have spoken. Billy and Johnny are just getting started. The trials are over and now the real story can be told. Emptywheel.net has the evidence and receipts.
Marcy – apparent typo in transcription of Barr comments on Fox:
“and they were able to get access to some witnesses overseas” should be:
“and they weren’t able to get access to some witnesses overseas”
Of course the use of the federal criminal-prosecution apparatus to tell some broader story is improper, and an abuse of power, and thus arguably demonstrates Barr’s own corruption. His comments should generate a broad uproar and reaction; it’s sad that this does not seem to be occurring.
Ok, credit where it’s due–Thank you Peter Stzok!
Indeed. It may be cause for sanction in fact. Hopefully there will be a law suit and complaints to the bar about Barr. Barr treated this as a political plaything and nothing more. And he set his political attack dog Durham upon these folks. Is there any reasonable doubt that this was not the case? How many millions of US tax payer monies were wasted on this political stunt by the ex-AG? If one more life is ruined by it, may it be Bill Barr’s.
Wondering if it will ever occur to Barr that the Russia investigation was legitimate and the deal Trump made was worse than anyone thinks
A person of integrity would take an opportunity like this to reflect upon such happenings and ask themselves what the difference is here.
Billy Barr is not a person of integrity.
It seems the premise republicans begin with is that everything a public servant does is predicated upon their tribal allegiance. And that’s an insult to people of integrity.
Of course, there’s always this: Every accusation a republican makes is a reflection of actions they, themselves, are taking.
More succinctly, with Republicans every accusation is a confession.
[Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. Rather, please use the same information when commenting each time. I’m having a problem validating your identity because there have been different emails and addresses used for previous comments. It would help if you updated your username to a unique variation with at least 8 letters. Thanks. /~Rayne]
Thanks! I don’t know what other usernames I’ve used here other than “madhaus” but yes I’ve had/used other emails. I’ve added a digit to bring my username to 8 characters.
[Thanks for updating your username to meet the 8 letter minimum. /~Rayne]
One more thing, given the dossier was mostly disinformation, isn’t it highly likely that Danchenko was already burned as a source?
The dossier was not “mostly disinformation”, was raw intel: unverified at the time but since then has been MOSTLY confirmed.
You must be new here. Please pick a longer name.
[This Rose is not new a new commenter which is why I didn’t add a request; I can see enough of their comment history to validate this which community members cannot. In the very near future I will make an ask for all community members whose names are less than 8 letters long. In the mean time, let moderators handle this issue. /~Rayne]
Wow. First time I’ve read a commenter do this policing that Rayne is obviously on top of. Is it cuz Rose is traditionally a woman’s name? I think there is even a Roger that Rayne told to choose a more distinctive user name. Wonder why Rose got the commenter so energized?
It’s partly my fault because I haven’t finished the leg work I need to do to fix comments. I don’t want to get everybody’s hopes up because it won’t be a major change; I don’t dare publish a post yet about it until I can say exactly what will happen.
But I do want to start conditioning community members about the near-term changes to be made. Hence the pokes about name changes. It *is* odd that a woman’s name triggers this reaction instead of the Tom/Thomas/Franks/Will/William/Dave/David/John/Jon/Joe/Joseph and more, because we have so many of these most common given names in U.S. for males and it hasn’t cause members the level of concern that it should.
Oh brother. The statement that the dossier has been mostly “confirmed” is the reason for the joke, and anyone who reads this blog regularly wouldn’t say that. I don’t police the board and it’s insulting to insinuate motive is anything beyond the “confirmed” claim, which is pure bullshit.
Consider this your
You could have focused on the content of the comment, but no. You replied,
You were policing another commenter’s name. Not. Your. Job.
If one is a foreign power looking to inoculate their bribed Manchurian candidate politician against investigations by the targeted state, you can’t have done any better than the Steele dossier.
A future candidate could literally livestream from Moscow hotel with Russian hookers peeing on the bed and no one from any side would believe it.
That this screed follows the Billy Barr Charm / Reconciliation Tour is proof that the tour was insincere, as the regulars here noted while Barr was out and about. One wonders whether the courtier press will ask hard questions on the Sunday shows when he books for speaking fees, but I doubt it.
As a hypothetical, let’s say Pope Francis weighs in ex cathedra on the importance of being honest without ‘ends justifying the means exceptions’ to being a good Catholic. Would the US CCB dare to challenge Francis on that? It might be the easiest of options for dealing with the Opus Dei crowd.
As Doc Wheeler noted, the treatment of Sussmann and Danchenko contrasts on all levels (including the philosophical ones if Barr was honest) to the treatment of Individual-1 and Flynn. Why was obvious guilt ignored for Barr’s fellow-travelers and assumed for the outsiders (with examples)? So if Barr is as good a Roman Catholic as he loudly says he is then bearing false witness is verboten. The Gospel of Matthew discusses those who are noisily religious: the Pharisees in Matthew 23. It does not end well for those that use religion as a show prop.
From Barr in the first paragraph quoted above:
So is Barr saying Durham did a bad job during voir dire, or saying that the jury was corrupt? This sure sounds like “Durham would have won if we had an honest jury,” which as someone who has served on multiple juries really pisses me off.
Don’t blame the jury that your hand-picked prosecutor couldn’t investigate his way out of a paper bag.
Don’t blame the jury that your hand-picked prosecutor couldn’t be bothered look at the evidence ALREADY IN THE DOJ’S POSSESSION before indicting someone — and still didn’t look at that evidence for MONTHS.
Don’t blame the jury that your hand-picked prosecutor was so inept that he couldn’t meet multiple deadlines for turning over items required in discovery.
Don’t blame the jury that your hand-picked prosecutor can’t make a closing statement at trial that is not filled with lies provable by the evidence introduced during the trial.
Take it from a former juror, Bill: this is NOT a good look for you, no matter how comfortable you are with blaming others for your mistakes.
He wasn’t just blaming the jury, but specifically blaming all non-worshippers of Donald Trump. At its core, it’s yet another accusation that everyone and anyone who questions the actions of Trump and his supporters is dishonest and corrupt.
Peterr, thanks for hitting on this point. I’ve mentioned in other comments that I’ve never served on a jury, but people on this site have already noted how carefully juries seem to be and how they seem to take their job seriously. I know that this country has a long history of things like all-white juries convicting black people of questionable crimes, for example, and that therefore it’s not as simplistic as “juries are always right” in response to Barr, but it does strike me as a particularly cynical and reductive argument to come from a former US AG. Even Durham thanked the jury for their work.
You know things are bad when Barr can’t even clear the Durham bar — about as low a bar as you can get.
In the end, it was the Jurors who deserve the most credit that the Justice system worked. They sat through the trial, listened to the witnesses and the evidence. For Sussmann, they deliberated for about 6 hours (1 count) and for Danchenko, they deliberated for about 9 hours (4 counts). Both acquitted. Sussmann and Danchenko paid a high price in time, worry and legal fees. Also, the Judges (Cooper and Trenga) kept Durham from spinning irrelevant conspiracy spider webs.
Thank you, Peterr. That enraged me too. What malevolent bad faith Barr displays for those tasked with sorting out and making sense of these cases–and for juries in general. The casual way he tossed that comment off made it even worse. THIS is how the system of justice becomes politicized: when the nation’s top prosecutor clarifies that only juries who agree with him are honest and competent.
Barr has always been full of it. I knew him in college, a big supporter of the Vietnam War. But rather than volunteer after graduation as you would expect, he never served. Let the little people do the dying I suppose.
It seemed intentional that he stayed at Columbia for his undergraduate and master’s degrees, until a year or so after the draft effectively ended. He then joined the CIA, so he could fight from the safety of his cubby hole while working on his law degree at GW, alma mater of J. Edgar. Nothing strange about that at all.
It certainly fits with the “the election was free and fair only if Republicans win” mentality.
There was actually a guy who had run some GOP campaigns last year who hid that in an attempt to serve on the jury (he was weeded out in voir dire). Another reportedly what quite entranced with Durham’s little story.
This is EDVA, not some hippy gathering, but the center of NatSec establishment in the country.
I’d be curious as to how many members of the jury hold a security clearance. As you say, this is EDVA . . .
Barr’s notion that no Trump supporters were on the jury seems likely to be a falsehood, as plenty of Trump supporters live in the Eastern District of Virginia.
Even worse is Barr’s suggestion that all Trump supporters would be incapable of correctly evaluating the evidence.
In sum, Barr lied about the composition of the jury, and then he disparaged the fantasy jury that exists only in his warped mind.
Having lived in the greater DC area in both VA and MD for about a decade before moving to the sticks, the common view is that VA is where Justice department and retired military live, and MD is where employees from department of Ag and Education live. Even with the big NSA compound and Fort Meade in MD, most all the brass drives over from VA.
Matter of fact, Billy lives in EDVA territory! No shame, no shame at all…
…This sure sounds like “Durham would have won if we had an honest jury,”…
This was my impression also that Barr blamed the juries in these cases.
But, I bet Billy and John enjoyed their extensive travels in Europe doing important background work for the cases that flopped!
It’s an article of faith in Trumpland that all Washington DC juries are automatically anti-Trump and thus corrupt and untrustworthy. It’s one of the justifications Trump media used to explain why Trump took his fight with the DOJ to Judge Cannon.
Thank you Dr. Marcy. I see Erik Prince is named. What happened to him? Has he escaped investigation?
“Our founding fathers recognized that morality was the foundation of a successful republic.”
This very useful blog post reminds me of another thing one often reads here. It is a mistake to ask law enforcement to be more than law enforcement, a terrible mistake to push political goals onto it. Bill Barr has made that terrible mistake. I yield to no one in eagerness to see Mr. Trump brought to justice, if he is guilty. The point of his trial, if any, would be whether he broke the law and it could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, no more, no less. I keep coming back to this site to be reminded of that.
I have expanded my username here — used to be TimB. Adding this only so folks will have continuity of my comments if they wish.
[Thanks for updating your username to meet the 8 letter minimum. /~Rayne]
Why would Johnny D. bring a false statements charge against Danchenko, knowing full well that the main FBI witnesses were not going to help his case?
I don’t think Johnny had the kahunas to charge anyone in government so he’s using these trials too expose some of these investigators potential bad behavior.
I do think it’s odd that some of Danchanko’s handlers seemed disinterested in verifying Danchenko and his sources and they let this unverified bs go on for years.
Who is “Johnny D”? Is that Johnny Depp? Johnny Damon? Who you talking about Willis?
DUDE, I keep using it.
So, it is Johnny Depp!
Isn’t it a little early in your time zone to be hitting the bourbon?
Begs the question, when do I get to start?
Whatever’s the social norm in your time zone, that’s when. But you don’t need my permission.
A Pedro post for dark comedy.
If it’s the right bourbon, it is never too early.
I’m a fan of Michters single barrel…A reasonably priced yet quite smooth and mellow bourbon.
(The Michters people told me the check was in the mail ;-) )
Spouse is a Weller Antique 107 dude. I’m an Iron Fish finished in maple syrup barrels.
But I’d rather a nice añejo tequila.
Jefferson’s is mine, but the Noble, finished in port casks, is very good. On topic, it’s a game for many of the intel folks; keeping the game going is important.
Lol.. Apologies Bmaz , I know how much you dislike nicknames and the such. Johnny D is none other than John Durham special council.
Also known to Trump as Bull Durham.
Dingo. Johnny Dingo.
You must be referring to Easy D
Or J.D. Mandel, or maybe Dickie Dee.
So, not a single thread on Garland’s slumbering fear and favor investigation? Even establishment law-talkers are starting to say like wtf. I mean, just because you’re going to uncover more and more crimes doesn’t mean you can’t go with what you have now.
WTF is likely that the current judicial precedents and interpretations of 4th and 5th Amendment rights against unreasonable search, seizure, self-incrimination are harder to work with within the legal environment that the Trump organization has so far thrived in. Lawyers for Trump et al are often found using legal interpretations from “dubious” to “entirely innovative” to make appeals, request for stays on appeal, etc, etc, causing delays where unlawyered schmoes would already be under indictment and have trial dates set. To counter this, DOJ is having to take a lot more effort to simply get returned document and records that some of these scofflaws have stolen from the government. In many cases, they still have not gotten those records AFAIK. To see how this is working out for them, see the DOJ lawsuit against Navaro to get government records subpoenaed by DOJ actually returned to the USG, continue to watch the fiasco in the Mar-a-Lago “privileged documents!” per-emptive lawsuit by Trump. It’s all bad popcorn pretty much…but DOJ has to wade through it.
And the sad fact is that even with the Durham fiasco and all that led up to it: Team Trump’s misdirect, including Barr’s so-called summary of the Mueller Report, and firehose of false denials about the Russia collusion was successful. How many people in the USA today are aware that Trump’s 2016 election probably would not have happened without the Russian interference? and that Team Trump was in direct communication with the Russians throughout?
Barr’s disinfo here is par for the course. And we can expect more if Durham’s failure stays in the news. Russia’s role in 2016 is a sensitive topic for the Trumpers and for DJT himself, they jump hard on anything that contradicts their “no collusion” “Russia hoax” narrative.
I think Durham made it easy for the jury to reach its not guilty verdict by lying about the Mueller Report. If I had been sitting in the jury box listening to the lawyers’ arguments and counter-arguments with my aged brain, I might have had difficulty following the details of the case. But my ears would have perked right up when Durham cited the Mueller report and said, “there’s no evidence of collusion here or conspiracy.” That flat-out lie (I was going to say bald-faced lie but Durham’s walrus-esque facial shrubbery rules out that description) would have been the deciding factor for me in determining that Durham couldn’t be trusted to tell the truth.
What amazes me in Barr’s public persona is how seamlessly he shifted from being Trump’s majordomo , working to vindicate slime like Roger Stone, to being the senior Republican legal authority, passing judgment on Trump’s actions long after the fact. So far, no one in the mainstream media has called him on it, Ms. Wheeler and team being the noteworthy exceptions. If there is a master villain in this whole sad Trumpworld debacle, it is Billy Barr. The rest are clowns and jesters. Barr is going to walk – scot-free!
Well billy, the gut rules emotion, but I have a feeling with every fiber of my being that you will pay for all the deceit and violence you have wrought. Our friend Jesus is still watching…