Justice Department 'laying groundwork' for Trump criminal investigation based on Ukraine revelations: report

According to a report from Politico, there is evidence that the Justice Department may be ramping up their own investigation of Donald Trump based on recent revelations about his Ukraine scandal.

The report leads off with, "Legal experts see signs that DOJ is laying the groundwork for a potential criminal probe into whether the president and his top advisers broke federal laws by withholding a White House meeting and nearly $400 million dollars in foreign aid from Ukraine unless the country’s new leaders agreed to investigate Trump’s political rivals."

"In Washington, D.C., the FBI has already contacted an attorney for the whistleblower who first revealed the scheme," the report continues. "In New York, federal prosecutors are expanding a probe into Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who played a pivotal role in the Ukraine campaign. And on Capitol Hill, lawmakers busy with impeachment are collecting documents and testimony that could help fuel any DOJ probe into the president and others around him who were involved in the scheme."

According to the report, a possible investigation against Trump would likely put Attorney General William Barr on the hot seat with his own department if he tries to interfere with career investigators.

As Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) put it, "This is a dereliction of duty by Bill Barr to not treat this as a criminal matter. It’s Bill Barr protecting the president. The way to handle it would have been to appoint a special counsel to investigate all these matters.”

According to the report, revelations about Ukraine that began trickling out back in October caught the attention of Justice Department officials.

"In recent weeks, the department has started to show an interest in some of the players central to the Ukraine plot," Politico reports. "In early October, federal prosecutors indicted two Giuliani business associates — Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — on campaign finance charges. The charges covered actions that occurred while the two were working with Giuliani on a campaign to spread negative information about Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, with the goal of getting her ousted."

"DOJ’s Washington headquarters also has an interest in Giuliani’s case," the report states. "That disclosure came out in a round-about way. Last month, department spokesman Peter Carr issued a statement to The New York Times confirming DOJ had been poking around on a separate case involving at least one of Giuliani’s other clients. That case included a meeting between Giuliani and the department's criminal division chief, Brian Benczkowski, over the summer. "

Reporting, "legal experts and lawmakers say the different DOJ and FBI moves could indicate a federal probe that’s edging closer to the president," Politico notes there is still some questions over what investigators are looking at and that it may not pan out.

"The last time the department investigated the president — special counsel Robert Mueller’s multi-year probe — it stopped short of charging Trump with any crimes, citing an internal legal opinion that says a sitting president can’t be indicted while in office. The same issues would apply to the Ukraine situation," the report concludes.

You can read more here.