Dispatch October 25, 2019

Giuliani and Barr Are Two Sides of the Same Coin


Attorney General Bill Barr and Rudy Giuliani are running parallel efforts to help Trump politically: one from inside the government and another from outside. While Giuliani’s schemes have drawn the ire of investigators in Congress and beyond, Barr’s line of attack doesn’t just benefit Trump—it also lends a huge helping hand to Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin.

Barr and Giuliani are working to substantiate the conspiracy theory that the Russia investigation was an international plot to undermine Trump.

  • Trump himself clearly sees their efforts as one and the same: In his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump repeatedly told Zelensky he should talk to both Barr and Giuliani about his political opponents and the origins of the Russia investigation.

Barr’s “investigate the investigators” strategy has been getting shadier by the day.

  • Barr has reportedly tried to pressure at least three foreign governments—Australia, the United Kingdom, and Italy—into manufacturing evidence that the Russia investigation was an international effort led by the Obama administration to undermine Trump.
  • All three governments have rebutted this:
    • The United Kingdom has consistently denied the Trump administration’s allegations that the British government spied on the Trump campaign to undermine it.
    • Australia rebuffed efforts to suggest that an Australian diplomat who sounded an early alarm about Russian influence was secretly an FBI plant.
    • Italy reportedly told Barr in person that there was no basis for the right-wing conspiracy theory that professor Joseph Mifsud, who told George Papadopoulos about the Russian dirt, was secretly an Italian agent.
  • We know how the Russia investigation started: George Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat over drinks that he had advance knowledge of Russia’s plans to attack American democracy.
  • But we also know that by the time the FBI investigation opened, Russia had already intervened in the election, hacking the DNC and releasing emails before the Democratic National Convention.

With Barr, Trump finally got his Roy Cohn. This is exactly the job that Trump hired him for in the first place.

  • Trump only ever had one problem with Barr’s predecessor, Attorney General Jeff Sessions: his recusal from the Russia investigation, which prevented him from becoming Trump’s attack dog on Russia.
  • Trump has repeatedly made clear that that he expects the attorney general to protect and safeguard him from criminal prosecution. He had famously lamented about Sessions, “Where’s my Roy Cohn?”
  • Barr established his bona fides in the cover-up department almost 30 years ago, when he earned the nickname “Cover-up General” for helping President George H.W. Bush quash the Iran-Contra investigation.
  • In the leadup to Barr’s nomination, Trump reportedly considered Barr as a candidate for his personal defense attorney. That may have something to do with the unsolicited memo Barr sent the Justice Department in 2018—before he was attorney general—the exact reasoning he later used to clear Trump of obstruction of justice in the Mueller investigation.
  • Most recently, Barr has refused to recuse himself from the Ukraine investigation, despite repeated calls for him to do so because of his personal involvement in Trump’s efforts to extort Zelensky.

The biggest beneficiary of this charade is Vladimir Putin.

  • Putin, a former KGB officer, has long sought to undermine US intelligence.
  • Now, at the direction of Trump and Barr, the Department of Justice is investigating the intelligence community for exposing Russia’s intelligence operations against the United States—the very role our intelligence community is supposed to serve.
  • Barr is amplifying and giving credence to Kremlin disinformation that Russia did not intervene in the 2016 election.
  • By investigating the investigators Barr is creating a chilling effect within the intelligence community, which is working to expose Russian interference. With the 2020 election around the corner, Barr is making it less likely the intelligence community will work to combat Russian attacks out of fear of potentially being criminally investigated.

Giuliani’s corrupt and extortive machinations threaten our national security and tarnish the reputation of the United States around the globe. Barr’s inside game is an abuse of his power and turns the Department of Justice into another tool for the president’s reelection campaign. In the process, they both are not only providing cover for the president’s corrupt behavior but also rewarding the Russian government; casting doubt on whether the Kremlin truly attacked American democracy; and punishing those who had the courage to say so.

For the real story of why the Russia investigation began, read “Barr’s Conspiracy Witch Hunt: Why It Would Have Been Malpractice For the FBI Not To Have Investigated Trump and Russia.”