Look What Bill Barr Just Did While You Were Busy With Coronavirus

We are sorry, but at some point, as coronavirus becomes our new normal, we are all going to have to figure out how to hold two things in our heads at once. (We are preaching to ourselves as much as to you.) Smart people are starting to grapple with questions of whether Donald Trump can actually be trusted with the emergency powers he has (SPOILER fuck no), and people are rightly concerned about the precedent of Republican Ohio Governor Mike DeWine forcibly canceling (OK fine, "postponing") the other party's primary election for a very good reason, but in an act that under any other circumstances would have people in the streets raising holy hell.

The point is, we gotta watch these motherfuckers like hawks, while we also try to keep ourselves and our friends and families safe from the pandemic. Just a month ago, we were shouting from the rooftops about Attorney General Bill Barr taking ever more obvious actions to turn the Justice Department into nothing more than a vehicle for avenging Trump's personal grievances, after DOJ intervened to reduce the recommended sentence for Trump's crime buddy Roger Stone. The president of the United States was attacking the foreperson of the Stone jury on Twitter.

None of that went away. It's just in the background.

So how is Bill Barr using his coronavirus time? Is he making sure all the Cracker Barrels and Bob Evanses within a 200-mile radius of DC are willing to deliver to where he lives, all the way up Donald Trump's a-hole, so he doesn't have to go out and get coughed on? No, he's just social distancing from the Russians who attacked our election in 2016 and are doing it right now, again, in 2020.

Barr's DOJ filed a motion on Monday saying that on second thought, we shouldn't prosecute the funders of those Russian troll farmers who attacked the election. Why? National security reasons, you betcha, Scout's honor!

In short, a trial which could risk the exposure of classified information to a Russian intelligence-linked company "with no presence in the United States and no exposure to meaningful punishment in the event of a conviction, promotes neither the interests of justice nor the nation's security," the government concluded.

The case was against Concord Management and Concord Consulting, the funders/parent shell companies that control the St. Petersburg troll farms, where the Russians go to work every day and sit at computers and figure out ways to undermine America and its elections on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and probably Sea Captain Date. The head of Concord, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, is an oligarch known as "Putin's Chef," which means he is in tight with Big Daddy. And DOJ just ... dropped the charges. (The motion was granted last night.)

This case was weird, because when Robert Mueller dropped the indictments, nobody expected anybody would actually show up in court, considering how they were all Russians. However, Mueller's indictments made their point and laid out, in excruciating detail, that we know exactly what Russia is up to, and we have the receipts.

But then Concord decided to fight it in court, or tried to make it look like they were very seriously fighting it in court, and that was where shit got weird. They weren't actually cooperating with the case, and they didn't actually submit to the Court's jurisdiction. As the government's filing notes, "Concord [sought] to selectively enjoy the benefits of the American criminal process without subjecting itself to the concomitant obligations."

They fucked with the discovery process, and somehow documents from that discovery process ended up back in Russia and then leaked on Twitter, seemingly as yet another Russian influence operation meant to discredit Mueller's investigation. (Albeit a pretty amateur-ish one.) They tried to smear the judge, Trump appointee Dabney Friedrich, who was not amused by Concord's American lawyers. At one point, the lawyers appeared to accuse the judge of being somehow in CAHOOTS! with Rachel Maddow. They said the "fuck" wordin a filing. TBH, the lawyers were absolute fuckin' clowns.

It was weird, like we said.

And look, maybe the Department of Justice for real had a good reason for doing what it just did. Indeed, its stated reason for dropping the charges is that the Russians were "exploiting the case to gain access to delicate information that Russia could weaponize." As the New York Times puts it:

At one point, prosecutors complained that a cache of documents that could potentially be shared with the defendants included details about the government's sources and methods for investigation, among its most important secrets. Prosecutors feared Concord might publish them online.

With the case set to go to trial next month, prosecutors recommended that the Justice Department drop the charges to preserve national security interests and prevent Russia from weaponizing delicate American law enforcement information, according to the official. The prosecutors also weighed the benefits of securing a guilty verdict against the companies, which cannot be meaningfully punished in the United States, against the risk of exposing national security secrets in order to win in court.

That's actually not unreasonable. And the Times notes that all the other indictments against the troll farm and other Russians still stand. It's just this one case, where the defendants were DOIN' THE MALARKEY. So if we are to take the Department of Justice at its word, it just wasn't worth it to potentially give up American national security secrets/sources and methods to these asshole Russians, when they aren't going to end up seeing the inside of an American coronavirus incubator prison cell anyway.

But then again, this is Bill Barr's Justice Department, and these are the people and entities from Russia who funded what Mueller called a "sweeping and systematic" attack on our nation's 2016 election. And again, Russia is currently attacking our 2020 election right now, as we type this.

Also too, all these things were true about the case against Concord over a year ago. Why now?

Like we said, this DOJ action might actually make sense. It might not. We need more information.

And we still have to watch them like hawks. Bill Barr is not a good person, and neither is Donald Trump, and none of them can be trusted not to use this global crisis to destroy American institutions more than they already have.

[New York Times / Daily Beast / filing]

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Evan Hurst

Evan Hurst is the managing editor of Wonkette, which means he is the boss of you, unless you are Rebecca, who is boss of him. His dog Lula is judging you right now.

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