- Attorney General William Barr gave President Donald Trump political advice about Rudy Giuliani’s public statements on the Russia investigation in an April phone call, The Wall Street Journal reported.
- Barr’s involvement in the matter is unusual, given that the attorney general is the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and is tasked with guarding the institution of the presidency, and not the president himself.
- Barr has been widely accused of behaving more like Trump’s personal lawyer than the attorney general, and he’s made headlines in recent days over his involvement in pushing foreign officials to work with him to investigate the origins of the Russia probe.
- Barr was also named in an explosive whistleblower complaint against Trump that accuses the president of abusing his power to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election.
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At the time, Giuliani did a number of cable news interviews in which he tore into the former White House counsel Don McGahn for cooperating with the former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
McGahn’s name appeared 529 times in Mueller’s final report in the inquiry, and he spent dozens of hours testifiying to prosecutors about his knowledge of Trump’s efforts to obstruct justice in the investigation.
Mueller’s team ultimately declined to make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” on whether Trump obstructed justice, citing Justice Department guidelines that state a sitting president cannot be indicted. And although Mueller’s team emphasized that its report “does not exonerate” the president, prosecutors did not bring criminal charges against Trump.
In his April phone call to Trump, Barr is said to have asked the president why Giuliani was attacking McGahn on TV and drawing attention to himself instead of declaring victory in the Mueller probe and calling for the country to move on, The Journal reported.
Barr’s interest in the matter is highly unusual, given that he is the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and is tasked with guarding the institution of the presidency and not the reputation of the president himself.
But this isn’t the first time Barr has been perceived as functioning more as the president’s personal lawyer than as the attorney general.
Late Monday, the Washington Post reported that Barr traveled overseas and personally asked top foreign intelligence officials to help with a Justice Department inquiry into the origins of the Russia investigation, led by US attorney John Durham.
“This is unheard of,” one former senior Justice Department official who worked closely with Mueller when he was FBI director, told Insider.
Robert Deitz, a former top lawyer at the CIA and the National Security Agency, also said he hadn’t heard “of so much involvement by the attorney general in this sort of investigation.”
“This is work for the gumshoes,” he told Insider. Barr’s involvement is all the more unusual, Deitz added, given Durham’s reputation. “I have worked with John Durham. He is absolutely a straight shooter. What he says one can rely on.”
Earlier Monday, The New York Times reported that Barr personally asked Trump to call Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, and ask that he assist with the Justice Department’s inquiry. The Associated Press reported that the call was one of a “number of times” Trump made similar calls at Barr’s behest.
And in a July 25 conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump repeatedly pressured Zelensky to work with Barr and Giuliani to help discredit the Russia investigation as well as to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
To date, there is no evidence that the DOJ or the FBI acted improperly while investigating the Trump campaign, and the call to “investigate the investigators” is widely perceived to be part of an effort to undermine the Russia probe and fuel Trump’s baseless conspiracy theories of a “deep state” plot to oust him from office.
Trump’s July phone call with Zelensky is at the center of an explosive whistleblower complaint that a US intelligence official filed against Trump accusing him of soliciting foreign interference in the upcoming election. It mentioned Giuliani 31 times and described him as a “central figure” in Trump’s efforts. It added that Barr “appears to be involved as well.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday accused Barr of being part of a “cover-up of the cover-up” and “going rogue” in relation to the Justice Department’s role in urging the acting director of national intelligence against releasing the whistleblower complaint to Congress. The extent of Barr’s involvement is an open question, but there’s no evidence he played a direct role.