Prosecutors investigating Giuliani seized wider array of materials than previously disclosed

Oopsies. Looks like the investigation into personal Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani is broader than what was previously reported. A court document unsealed Tuesday revealed that federal prosecutors obtained correspondence from email and iCloud accounts that appear to belong to two former Ukrainian government officials, according to CNN. Additionally, prosecutors seized a cell phone and iPad belonging to a pro-Trump Ukrainian businessman.  

CNN also accessed redacted portions of the court filing by cutting/pasting it into a new document and found that federal prosecutors obtained the "historical and prospective cell site information" of both Giuliani and Victoria Toensing, an attorney who informally advised Donald Trump and aided Giuliani's dirt digging efforts. Investigators executed a search warrant on both attorneys last month.

According to CNN, the Ukrainians involved are former Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yuriy Lutsenko, former head of the Ukrainian Fiscal Service Roman Nasirov, and businessman Alexander Levin.

The court filing came from Joseph Bondy, the defense lawyer for indicted former Giuliani associate Lev Parnas. It contained some juicy revelations, including the fact that federal prosecutors had described materials they obtained starting in late 2019 and extending through last month. Bondy was petitioning the judge in Parnas' case for a status conference on the seized materials, which he believed to be relevant to Parnas' defense. 

But here's the juiciest part of the CNN scoop:

Bondy wrote that the evidence seized "likely includes e-mail, text, and encrypted communications" between Giuliani, Toensing, former President Donald Trump, former Attorney General Bill Barr, "high-level members of the Justice Department, Presidential impeachment attorneys Jay Sekulow, Jane Raskin and others, Senator Lindsey Graham, Congressman Devin Nunes and others, relating to the timing of the arrest and indictment of the defendants as a means to prevent potential disclosures to Congress in the first impeachment inquiry of then-President Donald. J. Trump."

Just to be clear, none of this is verified and even Bondy used the term “likely.” But wow—encrypted communications between Trump, Barr, Sekulow, Graham, and Nunes, potentially related to an effort to silence Parnas and presumably his partner, Igor Fruman, in advance of Trump's first impeachment inquiry. 

Hard to know whether Bondy is right, but any encrypted communications among that cast of characters that proved fruitful for prosecutors would certainly be interesting. 

Trump and the right are buzzing with hatred toward Hunter Biden … and Bill Barr

To be absolutely clear: Bill Barr is a terrible attorney general who has used his position to grossly distort the whole purpose of the Justice Department. He auditioned for the role with a letter claiming the Russia investigation was illegal, substituted his own “summary” for the findings of the actual Mueller report, and personally signaled for his prison guard shock troops to begin a violent attack on unarmed protesters. Barr has spent most of the last two years trying to fulfill Donald Trump’s every conspiracy theory dream by appointing special investigators, providing an endless stream of disinformation to right-wing media, and traveling the world in an attempt to find an ally willing to roast U.S. intelligence agencies. And all of that is on top of Barr’s previous star turn in which he played a central role in dismissing charges resulting from Iran-Contra. He’s a bad attorney general, a bad American, and simply a bad man.

But just because Barr is determinedly malevolent, and saved Trump from what should have been an impeachment over the plain fact that his campaign engaged in every form of cooperation with the Russian government in order to subvert the outcome of a U.S. election, it doesn’t mean that Trump is always going to be happy with him. And now, in the twilight of both their careers, Trump is increasingly treating Barr as an enemy.

In Trump’s mind, there are only two possible roles anyone can serve: Completely subservient bootlicker, or infuriating opponent. There is no in between.

So the fact that Barr didn’t wholeheartedly join in with Rudy Giuliani and his parade of Hunter Biden laptops as confirmed by blind shop owners before the election had already made Barr suspect. Trump repeatedly tweeted a mixture of disdain and distaste for Barr in the weeks before the election as it became clear that, unlike 2016, there was not going to be some last-minute statement from the DOJ or FBI to provide Trump a last-minute vote infusion. And now a story from The Wall Street Journal has Trump hammering away at Barr again while Trump supporters are calling Barr a traitor and Republican senators are demanding yet another very special counsel. 

The claims from the WSJ began with a story in which Hunter Biden admitted that his federal income taxes are under investigation. Of course, Donald Trump has claimed that he could not reveal his tax returns for the last ever because he’s perennially under audit. It’s also widely known that Trump’s taxes are the subject of investigations by the State of New York. However, what’s routine for Trump is apparently supposed to be scandalous for Joe Biden’s surviving son—a son who will have no role in the upcoming administration. The investigation into Hunter Biden’s taxes apparently predates both Barr and Trump’s phone call to Ukraine but is said to be restricted to tax issues and “doesn’t implicate other members of his family or the president-elect.”

But what has the whole right wing in an uproar is the idea that … Barr knew. Barr knew, and he didn’t make a statement that Trump could use before the election. For Trump, this isn’t just an excuse to attack Barr for failing to come through the clinch, but also to claim that Biden’s term is going to be “so plagued by scandal” that the Supreme Court just might as well hand the election to Trump and save everyone some time and embarrassment.

And of course, Barr did know. He knew that while Hunter Biden’s taxes were being investigated by an office of the department he controlled. Barr also knew that no crime has been alleged, no one has been indicted, and that nothing appeared to be connected to the actual candidate for office. A fuming Trump supporter inside the DOJ also complained that Barr knew about another investigation involving Hunter Biden, an investigation that the WSJ was quick to highlight … before reaching the point where it admits that its sources indicate Hunter was “never a specific target for criminal prosecution.” Connected to the first investigation, this appears to be more a matter of looking at a bank that may have made some shady deals rather than anything specifically done by Hunter Biden.

So what Barr knew was that Hunter Biden’s taxes were being examined in one investigation, and Biden was not the target of a second investigation. Still, Barr’s failure to jump up and down and scream about a family of criminals is apparently all that was required to toss him from the good graces of Trump and his supporters.

Of course Barr may think that trying to at least approximate normal behavior on this one topic at a time when Trump is about to depart center stage might be enough to get him accepted back into normal society. He’s going to be disappointed.

AG Barr’s Justice Department still trying to deep-six Mueller grand jury materials

Attorney General Bill Barr's Justice Department is going to extraordinary lengths to block House Democrats from seeing the grand jury evidence from the Mueller probe. 

In a Thursday filing, the department's solicitor general urged the Supreme Court to halt a lower court order directing the department to turn over the grand jury materials to the House Judiciary Committee by May 11. The Justice Department argued for the opportunity to complete its appeal of the appeals court ruling to the Supreme Court.

“The government will suffer irreparable harm absent a stay. Once the government discloses the secret grand-jury records, their secrecy will irrevocably be lost,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote. “That is particularly so when, as here, they are disclosed to a congressional committee and its staff.”

Red alert, red alert! Congress might learn the truth about all the stuff that has heretofore been hidden from the public. 

At issue for House Democrats is whether Trump lied in his written testimony to the Mueller team. House Democrats sought access to the information last year as they mulled impeaching Trump. 

Congress is not necessarily granted access to such materials, but a Nixon-era precedent was set when the courts ruled an impeachment investigation a "judicial proceeding." In the current case, both the federal court and the appeals court panel followed that precedent to rule in favor of House Democrats gaining access to the materials. 

Barr tightens grip on FBI, saying any 2020 candidate investigations must first get AG approval

There won't be any investigations of Donald Trump this campaign season. Attorney General William Barr sent a memo Wednesday to the FBI and U.S. attorneys across the nation instructing them to get his approval before opening any new inquiries during the 2020 election cycle, according to The New York Times.

Barr used the backdrop of 2016 and the inspector general's report criticizing some aspects of the FBI's investigation into Trump's campaign as justification for his new decree. The department, he wrote, had a responsibility to safeguard against "improper activity or influences" in the election. “In certain cases, the existence of a federal criminal or counterintelligence investigation, if it becomes known to the public, may have unintended effects on our elections,” Barr wrote.

In other words, Trump is still really pissy about the Russia probe—even though it was never public—and wants to ensure that none of the other corrupt activities he is surely engaged in will interfere in his election, not to mention get investigated at all.

Barr, a man who skewed the rollout of the Mueller report in Trump's favor and declined to investigate Trump Ukraine call for criminal violations, advised, "we also must be sensitive to safeguarding the department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality and nonpartisanship.” Whatever reputation the Justice Department had for delivering fairness is already long gone under Barr's leadership.

In the big picture, this is just one more move by Barr to consolidate power. During the Senate impeachment trial, Barr also installed a loyalist as the new U.S. attorney in D.C., the largest U.S. attorney’s office in the country that also happens to handle many of the most politically sensitive cases in Washington. In another recent development, the Justice Department, which had recently sought six months of jail time for former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, is now saying probation time would be acceptable. 

In ways both obvious and cunning, Barr continues to prove his commitment to doing Trump’s bidding, no matter the task.