How Bill Barr blocked investigations to protect Trump in Ukraine probe: new book
Attorney General William Barr. Image: Office of Public Affairs/Flickr

The new book written by former U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, of the Southern District of New York, makes a number of accusations that former Attorney General Bill Barr went to great lengths to protect Donald Trump and any of his allies. Over and over, Berman cites examples of Barr doing "Trump's bidding."

The Ukraine scandal began as a probe into Rudy Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were funneling cash to politicians from corporations. Each of the cases involving Fruman and Parnas also involved Giuliani, he explains in Holding the Line: Inside the nation's preeminent U.S. Attorney's office and its battle with the Trump Justice Department.

For a time, Berman said that the SDNY was acting independently on its own cases involving the two men. Barr, Berman said, seemed like a kind of rival to Giuliani, who was constantly whispering in the president's ear. But when the case began to dip into issues involving Trump, Barr was quick to get involved.

"Barr seemed always eager to be of service to the president—to be, as I said, the most valuable player in his cabinet. So, he wants to manage this situation. He has no way of knowing where it might go—and really, nobody does—but it looks to him as if it has the potential to spiral," the book says. At one point Berman even goes so far as to assert that Trump was able to use the DOJ as his own personal law firm and score settler.

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In Jan. 2020, Barr came up with the idea of an "intake process in the field," which no one at the FBI or SDNY had ever heard of in their careers. By Feb. 2020, Barr was announcing the "intake process in the field" to the media. It would be a kind of collecting information and intelligence from Giuliani's Ukraine probe into Joe Biden's family, Barr explained.

SDNY spent a lot of time and effort dealing with Parnas and Fruman only to be told that suddenly "Rich Donoghue, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, who sat in Brooklyn; and Scott Brady, the US Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, in Pittsburgh" would be taking over the additional pieces of the investigation.

If Donoghue's name sounds familiar it's because he was ultimately promoted to the main Justice Department, and became one of the people to testify in the House Select Committee's investigation of the Jan. 6 attack on Congress. He and a few other top DOJ officials revealed that they were able to stop Trump's use of the department to declare the 2020 election invalid.

"He’s a first-rate attorney. But he went along with Barr’s machinations, even when that meant interfering in SDNY’s cases," Berman writes of Donoghue.

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Scott Brady was later found to have exhibited behavior "unbecoming of a US attorney or any DOJ leader" in an inspector general's report over those who internally demanded Barr let them "investigate voter fraud" before the counting was even finished.

The fact that the SDNY had done so much work and was now being removed from overseeing any additional Ukraine matters didn't sit right with Berman. Barr claimed it was to "spread the work out," and to keep things flowing. It didn't matter, Berman wanted to see the information gathered in the so-called "intake process in the field" to determine if they could use it in prosecutions.

"I believe it was really an effort by Barr to keep tabs on our continuing Lev and Igor investigation and keep us segregated from potentially helpful leads or admissions being provided by Rudy," said Berman. "This became immediately clear to me and to [William] Sweeney when we tried to access the information Rudy was providing." Sweeney became the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office in 2016.

Rudy and his lawyer met several times with the DOJ folks, but never with the SDNY. When Berman asked for the meeting notes, known as 302s, he was denied. Sweeney asked too, he also was denied.

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“Geoff, in all my years with the FBI I have never been refused a 302,” Sweeney said. “This is a total violation of protocol.”

"Sweeney asked Jacqueline Maguire, his special agent in charge, to reach out to the acting head of the FBI’s office in Pittsburgh, Eugene Kowel, to request the 302s and related information," Berman recalls in the book. "A few days later Kowel got back to Maguire and repeated what Brady had told him about the 302s: 'It’s not my job to help the Southern District of New York make a case against Rudy.'"

The FBI is all one unit, the idea that they would be blocking information from others isn't normal. Ultimately, Sweeney had to go all the way to the FBI leadership in Washington, D.C. just to get the meeting notes with Giuliani. Berman called it "one of the crazier things" he's seen in his career, "which is really saying something."

"I think Barr wanted to put the Ukraine probes into the hands of US attorneys whom he knew and trusted more than me," Berman wrote. "I had already engaged in the long push and pull with him over our involvement in Trump v. Vance, which he ran through Rosen but which I knew he was stage-managing."

Berman described what happened in the case with Michael Cohen that Barr questioned the basis of the probe, then suggested the conviction be reversed. For months following he then stopped any investigations that came out of that initial probe. In the Cohen case, Barr stopped any future investigations into whether Trump violated campaign finance laws when he ordered the lawyer to give hush money payments to past lovers. The exact same thing happened in the Parnas/Fruman case.

"Barr sought to carefully manage the fallout," wrote Berman, and any tentacles that came out of the early piece of the Ukraine probe.

Berman's book, "Holding the Line" is available Tuesday and you can view more of Raw Story's coverage here.