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Bill Barr’s screw-up on the whistleblower complaint set the stage for Trump’s impeachment – here’s how

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According to a report in the Daily Beast, Attorney General William Barr could have forestalled the impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump if he had simply followed standard procedures when the Justice Department was given the now pivotal government whistleblower’s complaint to investigate.

With three Democratic-controlled House committees launching impeachment inquiries of the president based upon a complaint alleging the president was attempting to trade foreign aid for dirt on possible political foes, among other issues, Barr’s handling of the report became pivotal for the president — and not in a good way.

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According to the Beast, Barr’s hubris may eventually contribute to Trump’s ouster because he believed his DOJ could bury the whistleblower report.

“Barr became Trump’s favorite Cabinet member in March of this year when he held back release of the Mueller Report’s damaging findings while misstating them in a deceitful letter to Congress. Possibly overconfident following the success of that disinformation effort, Barr’s DOJ set out to prevent the whistleblower’s grave allegations against the president regarding Ukraine from even coming to light, let alone being investigated,” the report states. ” It was the DOJ that instructed acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire to violate his express statutory obligation to turn over the whistleblower’s complaint to Congress. The DOJ went so far as to create a widely mocked opinion from the previously respected Office of Legal Counsel purporting to justify this audacious violation of the law. “

However, as Barr came to find out, the future of investigating the complaint fell on the DOJ’s criminal division, and that is where things went awry.

“As later came to light, the DOJ’s Criminal Division claimed that it had exclusive jurisdiction to investigate the merits of the whistleblower’s claim,” the Beast reports. “In a DOJ that followed normal-course ethical and law enforcement standards, the attorney general (who, rightly or wrongly, had been directly implicated in potential misconduct by the president) would have recused himself and the deputy attorney general would have appointed a special counsel, as occurred in the Russia investigation.”

“The criminal division then apparently closed its file, without conducting any factual investigation into what turned out to be a wide-ranging criminal scheme involving numerous high-level government officials, including the president,” the report states, which, in turn, led to the intelligence community’s inspector general stepping in and finding the complaint met a statutory “urgent concern” standard and that Congress needed to be alerted.

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“What happened next was all but inevitable. House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff made the scheme to hide the complaint public, ultimately pressuring the White House to cough up the complaint, and then the summary of Trump’s call with the Ukrainian leader,” the Beast report noted. ” Once those cats were out of the bag, Schiff had all he required to merit commencing the investigation that has consumed Washington.”

“The great irony is that if Barr and his DOJ had even pretended to follow procedure here, with the AG recusing himself while a special counsel investigated the whisteblower’s complaint, they might have succeeded in bottling the matter up. Instead, Barr himself opened the door for—and all but necessitated—Congress’ investigation,” the report concludes. 

You can read more here (subscription required). 

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