Bill Barr Is Knee Deep In Sh*t. And So Is White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.
Bill Barr, you got some 'splainin' to do! The attorney general's decision to steal the whistleblower complaint from the Intelligence Committee's Inspector General looked BAD even before the transcript of President Armtwister's phone call with the Ukrainian president came out yesterday. Trump's persistent attempts to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to work with Barr and Rudy Giuliani to gin up fake dirt on Joe Biden made it WORSE. Now that we've seen the whistleblower complaint it looks UNFUCKINBELIEVABLY CORRUPT.
The very first paragraph of the body of the complaint says, "the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference in the 2020 U.S. election" and that "Attorney General Bill Barr appears to be involved as well." It should go without saying that Barr's recusal from any matter relating to the whistleblower complaint was not optional here, since he's now a fact witness as to whether Trump put his plan into effect. That he's out there now shouting from the rooftops that the orange Boss Hogg never did tell him to GIT THEM BIDEN BOYS is kind of the point. This is exactly what the Special Counsel statute was written for:
The Attorney General, or in cases in which the Attorney General is recused, the Acting Attorney General, will appoint a Special Counsel when he or she determines that criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted and -
(a) That investigation or prosecution of that person or matter by a United States Attorney's Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department or other extraordinary circumstances; and
(b) That under the circumstances, it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter.
But Bill Barr isn't concerned with pesky "laws." He put his head together with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone -- we see you, Pat! -- and conspired to bury that shit so deep Congress would never find out about it. Over at the White House, they jammed the transcript of the call into a vault for highly classified documents.
White House officials told me they were "directed" by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored for coordination, finalization, and Cabinet-level officials.
Instead the transcript was loaded into a separate electronic system that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature. One White House official described this act as an abuse of the electronic system because the call did not contain anything remotely sensitive from a national security perspective.
Really, Pat? REALLY?
And on his end, Bill Barr made sure there was a classified Office of Legal Counsel memo saying that hiding the whistleblower from Congress forever was entirely appropriate. As we are typing this, (acting) DNI Joseph Maguire is swearing to Congress that he had every intention of complying with the statute by handing over the complaint to the Intelligence committees once the executive privilege issues were resolved. But here on Planet Earth, the OLC never dealt with privilege at all -- it simply dummied up a legal justification to take it out of Maguire's hands and bury it permanently.
You have asked whether the DNI has a statutory obligation to forward the complaint to the intelligence committees. We conclude that he does not. To constitute an "urgent concern," the alleged misconduct must involve "the funding, administration, or operation of an intelligence activity within the responsibility and authority" of the DNI. 50 U.S.C. § 3033(k)(5)(G)(i). Similar to other aspects of the ICIG's responsibilities, the urgent-concern provision permits employees to bring to the intelligence committees' attention credible allegations of serious abuses arising from within the U.S. intelligence community. This provision, however, does not cover every alleged violation of federal law or other abuse that comes to the attention of a member of the intelligence community. Where, as here, the report concerns alleged misconduct by someone from outside the intelligence community, separate from any "intelligence activity" within the DNI's purview, the matter is not an "urgent concern" under the statute.
Having made sure that Maguire was never going to get it to Congress, the OLC decided that the appropriate handoff was a "criminal referral" to the Justice Department's Criminal Division. So Barr handed it over to his good buddy Jeffrey "The New Rod" Rosen -- or so he says -- who decided that SURPRISE there's nothing to see here. The Justice Department looked at the transcript and none of the other conduct alleged in the complaint, interviewed zero witnesses, and in less than a month gave the president a clean bill of health, ruling out further prosecution.
And they would have got away with it too, with Donny's good buddies Bill 'n' Jeff making the whole thing disappear, if ICIG Michael Atkinson hadn't blabbed to Congress. Then the whistleblower made it clear that he or she wasn't going away, and Mitch McConnell forced the White House to cough it up for whatever reason.
We are old enough to remember when Hillary Clinton's stupidass email server merited a year of public inquiry and Loretta Lynch was forced to stand down because she had a 10 minute conversation with Bill Clinton. In fact, we are old enough to remember when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed a special counsel to investigate possible criminal conduct by the president. And yet Bill Barr, a fact witness to the serious, criminal allegations against Donald Trump, never even bothered to consult with ethics officials, much less recuse himself from the investigation.
So, yeah, Bill Barr may have a wee little problem here. On the plus side, it looks like Donald Trump finally found his Roy Cohn.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.