Maddow hammers sketchy behavior at Bill Barr's DOJ involving Michael Cohen
Bill Barr (Photo via AFP)

More questions are surfacing about why Michael Cohen went to prison for the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels but Donald Trump was never charged with anything. Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg has finally agreed to reconsider charging Trump for his personal involvement in shady business practices that resulted in 17 guilty convictions for his companies.

Now that the information is being revealed as part of that trial, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow harkened back to a book published by the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who questioned possible corruption happening in the main Justice Department in Washington by trying to shelve any connection to not only Cohen's conviction but any connections to Trump.

"They pursued no charges against Trump. Instead, they told the court that this other guy committed the crime with Trump and for Trump and at Trump's direction, they prosecuted the other guy and sent him to prison and they never brought charges against Trump. Never said anything about it. Nor did Trump's business get prosecuted even though prosecutors spelled out in court the business was used to launder the funds that cohen and Trump used to commit the crime."

Meanwhile, David Pecker of the National Enquirer essentially did the same thing as Donald Trump, only he used private funds from a company to do it, and never went to prison because he made a "deal" with the prosecutors to say he met with Cohen on the issue. Now, Pecker is being forced to talk to the newly impaneled grand jury about this piece of the scandal.

The first part of the answers came from Geoffrey Berman, the former SDNY district attorney, who explained that he witnessed a lot of corruption at the Justice Department, particularly as it surrounded this case. It began with the DOJ officially reaching into the SDNY and taking over the probe, "to protect Trump in this case," said Maddow.

"Even though I was not overseeing the Cohen case, I still had to deal with other issues involving it, all of them deriving from the same source: Main Justice, and its attempts at interference," Berman writes in his book.

"When Bill Barr took over as U.S. Attorney General, in February 2019, six months after Cohen's guilty plea, he not only tried to kill the ongoing investigations we were engaged in, but incredibly, he suggested that Cohen's conviction on campaign finance charges should be reversed," Berman continued in the book. "Barr summoned my deputy who was overseeing the Cohen case, in late February to challenge the basis of Cohen's plea as well as the reasoning behind pursuing similar campaign finance charges against other individuals. He was told to cease all investigative work on the campaign finance allegations until main Justice determined there was a legal basis for the campaign finance charges to which Cohen pled guilty and until Barr determined there was a sufficient federal interest in pursuing charges against others."

Raw Story spoke to Michael Cohen after the Berman book was published in Sept. 2022 and asked about the details provided in the book. He was already at work on his own book, Revenge: How Donald Trump Weaponized the Department of Justice Against his Critics, which was published in Oct. 2022 and connected the links between his case, Berman's book and how he thinks Trump was able to manipulate the law through Attorney General Bill Barr.

Cohen's story got worse when he was allowed to be released to house arrest due to the COVID-19 crisis. Somehow, Cohen was given a nondisclosure agreement saying that he would only be released if he agreed not to speak publicly about the president or the case and wouldn't publish a book. Cohen refused and was swiftly sent back to prison. He lodged a lawsuit and the judge who got the case was aghast that the Justice Department would even suggest something. Since then, Cohen has been asking about who was behind that at the DOJ. Even after Merrick Garland took over the department, any government entity involved has refused to turn over any information requested by the press, members of Congress and when the House Judiciary Committee requested information.

One of the key pieces of information detailed in Berman's book is that they slashed the court details about Cohen's case from 40 page to about 21 pages ensuring that all mentions of "Individual 1," a.k.a. Donald Trump, was removed from the filings.

"And although they didn't want to go along with it, they went along with it and felt like they had to," said Maddow on Monday. "And if you've ever spent any time as an elementary school student on a playground with bully, you will know what happens when you let someone push you around like that. That, of course, is never the end of it. It just gets worse from there."

She cited that Berman goes on in his book to say that after appointing Barr, he personally intervened in the hush money investigations.

"While Cohen pleaded guilty our office continued to pursue investigations related to possible campaign finance violations, when Barr took over as attorney general in Feb. 2019, six months after Cohen had pleaded guilty, Barr not only tried to kill the ongoing investigations but incredibly suggested that Michael Cohen's conviction on campaign finance charges could be retroactively reversed," said Berman.

So, one of the first things Barr did as attorney general was to haul in the prosecutors in the hush money case to challenge the basis of Cohen's plea and challenge any further charges for the same, Berman explained.

"The prosecutor was told to cease all investigative work on the campaign finance allegations until the office of legal counsel, a part of Main Justice determined if there was a legal basis for the campaign finance charges to which Cohen pled guilty and until Barr determined there was a sufficient federal interest in pursuing charges against others," Berman's book continues. "The directive Barr gave the prosecutor which was amplified that same day by a follow-up phone call was explicit. Not a single investigative step could be taken, not a single document in our possession could be reviewed until the issue was resolved and if Main Justice decided there was no legal basis for the Cohen charges, the attorney general of the United States would direct us to dismiss the guilty pleas of Michael Cohen, a man who implicated the attorney general's boss, the president."

Berman admits that he tries not to make assumptions and bases his opinions only on the facts presented. This all raised questions for him.

More than two years later, none of what happened was investigated.

See clips from the Maddow opener below or at this link.

Trump Stormy Daniels payment case resumes beyond reach of Bill Barr's obstacles

part 2 corruption at DOJ under Barr