Former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks explained on MSNBC Sunday that there's no way that Attorneys General Bill Barr and Jeff Sessions didn't know about the warrants to spy on reporters, Democratic members of Congress, their staff and families, and of his own White House counsel.
Barr, Sessions and former Justice Department deputy Rod Rosenstein have all denied they knew of the subpoenas to spy, but Wine-Banks explained that's impossible because something like this would go all the way to the top.
"It may be that the person that they were investigating, had a legitimate predication for the search warrants and that they had some reason to do this," she told MSNBC. "It could have been that he got called by somebody that they were already investigating. It doesn't mean this is normal. It is not normal, and I think the investigation is absolutely critical, holding someone accountable is important to stop this from ever happening again. We can't have members of Congress, the press, and the White House counsel subjected to this. And the reason Don McGahn, of course, is of concern is because he was cooperating with Mueller which made him an enemy of Donald Trump. Donald Trump was calling out [Adam] Schiff, he was calling out [Eric] Swalwell, people who were subject to this search warrant, and he certainly must have felt uncomfortable with his own White House counsel who was cooperating and telling the truth to Mueller. So, that's why it's of concern."
Sessions said that he was never briefed on this seizure of records. Barr played fast and loose with the language, saying that he never discussed the leak cases with Trump. That was similar language to Barr's refusal to answer when then-Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) questioned him about Trump or anybody else who "asked or suggested" that he open an investigation into his political foes. Barr pretended not to know what the word "suggested" meant and refused to answer.
Host Alicia Menendez asked Wine-Banks if it was possible they didn't have any idea what was going on.
"In my opinion, no, and let me tell you why," said Wine-Banks. "First of all, we had [Osmar] Benvenuto, who was brought in at the recommendation of the U.S. Attorney from New Jersey, who was put in by Barr to replace the New York attorney who he was pushing out. He recommended Benvenuto who came in, and Benvenuto has said -- in a recording, that he briefed Barr at least every other week. So, it is not credible. And if Barr didn't know about this, then Barr is the worst manager, the worst Attorney General ever, because that is his job. The Department of Justice policy requires that there be notice and approval from a higher source. So, it's not something that you can just subpoena a member of Congress' records or a reporter's records without something much more. So, it doesn't pass what I call the 'red face test.' It's like, could I stand up before a jury and say this in front of them without blushing or giggling? The answer is, no, I couldn't."
Apple said in a statement that the DOJ request provided "no information on the nature of the investigation and it would have been virtually impossible for Apple to understand the intent of the desired information without digging through users' accounts."
Presumably, the court documents would have detailed who appeared in court for the warrant and there should be enough of a paper trail that some of the Justice Department officials involved were named. Barr hasn't actually denied that he played any role in renewing the requests or that he didn't know of the investigation. He's only said he didn't discuss it with Trump. It's unclear why he would have discussed it given he wasn't there when the investigation was launched. The gag order against Apple was renewed over and over again, which would have also required a lot of paperwork.
See the video below:
Jill Wine-Banks www.youtube.com