Biden Family Scandal a Growing Issue
The White House has announced that Attorney General William Barr will step down from his post on December 23, in the wake of growing friction between Barr and President Donald Trump. The president was frustrated by Barr’s public statement that his Justice Department could find no signs of the widespread voter fraud that Trump claims cost him the victory he had earned in the November election. “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” Barr told the Associated Press.
More recently, Trump was embittered when learning of Barr’s decision to hide the ongoing federal investigation into the corrupt business dealings of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, from public view during the presidential campaign. Trump and his supporters believe that the largely successful effort by Biden’s allies in the media to suppress and discredit an October 14 report published by the New York Post on emails and messages incriminating Hunter Biden that were discovered on an abandoned laptop and turned over to the FBI, contributed to Joe Biden’s narrow victory in the presidential election.
In an anguished tweet over the weekend, Trump asked, “Why didn’t Bill Barr reveal the truth to the public, before the election, about Hunter Biden? Joe was lying on the debate state that nothing was wrong or going on. Press [falsely] confirmed [it]. Big disadvantage for Republicans at the polls!”
Trump announced on Twitter that he met with Barr on Monday at the White House to accept his resignation, and explained that the attorney general was leaving his post a month before the end of Trump’s first term on January 20 to “spend the holidays with his family.”
Despite their recent differences, Trump acknowledged that since taking over for Jeff Sessions as attorney general in February 2019, Barr has been one of his most effective cabinet members. “Our relationship has been a very good one, he has done an outstanding job!” Trump tweeted.
In his two-page resignation letter, Barr praised Trump for what he described as his historic accomplishments “in the face of relentless, implacable resistance,” and a “partisan onslaught… in which no tactic, no matter how abusive and deceitful, was out of bounds. . .
“The nadir of this campaign,” Barr wrote, “was the effort to cripple, if not oust, your administration with frenzied and baseless accusations of collusion with Russia.”
A senior Trump administration official told the Wall Street Journal that Barr resigned of his own accord. “He wasn’t pushed out or forced to resign. It was a very amicable meeting and, as you can tell from the letter, he thinks very highly of the president,” the official said.
As tensions grew between Trump and Barr in recent months, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, a longtime friend of Barr’s, served as the chief intermediary between the two, and made sure that the attorney general’s departure would be on amicable terms, at least publicly.
BARR’S SILENCE ON HUNTER WAS THE LAST STRAW
Barr was also reportedly growing frustrated with Trump’s increasingly harsh public criticism of him, and had been contemplating stepping down as attorney general for some time. Barr’s most recent public conflicts with Trump over the election fraud issue and the secrecy Barr had ordered for the Hunter Biden investigation may have prompted Barr to resign now to avoid the embarrassment of being fired.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Barr had ordered federal prosecutors and his senior colleagues at the Justice Department to prevent word of investigations into Hunter Biden from becoming public to keep the Justice Department out of campaign politics.
In a Fox News interview, Trump was highly critical of Barr for failing to inform the American people that the President-elect’s son was under federal investigation after Joe Biden had publicly denied the claim during a Democrat candidate debate earlier this year.
Trump claimed that in this case, Barr did not act as responsibly as Special Counsel Robert Mueller did. Trump recalled a January 2019 incident in which Buzzfeed published a story which claimed there was evidence that Trump told his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress. That prompted the Mueller’s office to announce that the story was “not accurate.”
In that case, Trump had rare words of praise for the Special Counsel. “He set it straight. A very bad thing was said and it was. . . a false statement. . . and Robert Mueller stood up and he said that is a false statement. And that was a great thing,” the president said.
Similarly, Trump said, “Joe Biden lied on the debate stage. He said there’s nothing happening, and Bill Barr should have stepped up.
“Bill Barr frankly did the wrong thing. When they are saying things, making statements and the press is purposely not reporting it, Bill Barr. . . had an obligation to set the record straight, just like Robert Mueller set the record straight,” by telling the media that Hunter Biden really was and is under investigation.
On the other hand, Barr’s order to conceal the federal investigation of Hunter Biden is consistent with Barr’s statement during the 2019 Senate confirmation hearing for his second appointment as attorney general. “The Attorney General must insure that the administration of justice — the enforcement of the law — is above and away from politics,” Barr told the senators. He added, “I believe this as strongly today as I did 27 years ago [when he served as attorney general for President George H.W. Bush]. Indeed, more strongly.”
By refusing to reveal the investigation into Hunter Biden until after the election, Barr was attempting to restore the Justice Department tradition of strict non-partisanship in its pursuit of criminal investigations, by avoiding any announcement which could affect the outcome of an election. Barr’s refusal to allow the public to learn about the investigation was defended by George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, who said that the silence was necessary to keep the administration of justice separate from partisan politics.
Turley added that if Barr had allowed the investigation to be made public, he would have repeated the mistake made by former FBI Director James Comey when he called a press conference during the middle of the 2016 presidential campaign to announce that Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would not be prosecuted for violating federal law despite clear evidence that she mishandled classified documents on her private email server.
Trump announced that Barr’s post would be filled by Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who transferred to the Justice Department in May 2019 after holding the No. 2 job at the Transportation Department. Rosen has no prior experience as a federal prosecutor, but he would be acting as interim head of the Justice Department for less than a month if the Biden administration takes office as expected on January 20.
REPAIRING A DAMAGED JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
As Trump’s attorney general, Barr dedicated himself to restoring the damaged integrity and political independence of the Justice Department, even when that brought him into open conflict with Trump’s political agenda and provocative public statements. Barr did not hesitate to publicly disagree with the president if he believed that the White House was interfering with the non-partisan mission of the Justice Department. He also made it clear that he would resign if he thought that his ability to carry out his functions as attorney general had been compromised.
Barr’s supporters in the legal community were heartened by his determination to restore the Justice Department’s dedication to a non-partisan approach to its dual mission of law-enforcement and the protection of national security after years of politically-driven policymaking. “William Barr was the right man at the right time in overseeing highly political investigations and stood in the breach at times against both the left and the right,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “[He] did an incredibly good job trying to repair damage to our Department of Justice, trying to be fair and faithful to the law, and I think he’s got a lot to be proud of.”
BARR ASSERTED HIS INDEPENDENCE
But Barr’s Democrat and media critics often accused him of acting more like Trump’s defense attorney than a politically neutral law-enforcement official dedicated to non-partisan implementation of the law. They complained that Barr acquiesced to Trump’s attempts to intervene on behalf of his friends and political allies indicted by Special Counsel Mueller and his prosecutors for crimes unrelated to collusion with the Russians.
Barr’s critics cite specific instances when he overruled recommendations by career Justice Department prosecutors and ordered them to give more lenient treatment to Trump associates such as Roger Stone and Michael Flynn. Barr does not deny that he intervened in the Stone and Flynn cases, but insists that he only did so to correct what he saw as overreach by the prosecutors and flaws in the Justice Department’s approach to those cases.
Stone was the last of the Trump associates to be prosecuted by Mueller and his team. A longtime political dirty tricks specialist, Stone was forced to plead guilty to obstructing a congressional inquiry that threatened to embarrass President Trump, whom Stone has known for many years. In February of this year, when Justice Department prosecutors recommended that Stone be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison, Trump blasted them on Twitter, calling the lengthy sentence “horrible and unfair.”
Barr had also agreed that the proposed sentence was too harsh. But the president’s public complaint made it much harder for the attorney general to overrule the recommendation of his prosecutors in favor of a lighter sentence for Stone, because it then seemed as if he was giving in to pressure from the White House. Barr did reduce the sentencing recommendation anyway, but then issued a rare public rebuke to Trump on Twitter for making it “impossible” to properly do his job as attorney general. Despite the public pushback against the president, Barr was harshly criticized by former members of the Department of Justice, and all four DOJ prosecutors working on the Stone case asked to be reassigned.
Inside the Trump Justice Department, Barr developed a reputation for being so aggressive in promoting his own views that his aides nicknamed him “the Buffalo,” a reference to his willingness to overturn decisions made by career department employees and others which he believed were incorrect, regardless of the impact on their morale.
BARR’S ENCORE AFTER A DISTINGUISHED LEGAL CAREER
Barr is a longtime Republican, but did not support Trump as a presidential candidate during the 2016 GOP primary campaign. He compiled an excellent record during his previous stint as attorney general under President George H. W. Bush 30 years ago. In 1994, Barr went into private practice, where he became a highly successful corporate attorney for the next 14 years.
Barr also has a formidable reputation as a conservative legal thinker. Before his first stint as attorney general, he served in the late 1980s as the Justice Department’s in house legal-scholar, heading its Office of Legal Counsel. He is a longtime proponent of the unitary executive theory, which argues that under the Constitution, the president enjoys total authority over the executive branch of the federal government, making him immune to prosecution by the Justice Department as long as he is still in office.
Based upon that theory, in 2017, Barr criticized the partisan appearance of and questionable legal justification for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. In 2018, Barr sent a 20-page memo to senior DOJ officials which argued that Mueller should not have been investigating Trump for obstruction of justice because his actions as president, including the firing of FBI Director James Comey, were within his constitutional powers as head of the executive branch.
Barr believed that Mueller’s investigation was eroding the constitutional power of the presidency. He would later characterize the efforts by senior FBI and DOJ officials to sabotage Trump’s candidacy and the presidency as “one of the greatest travesties in American history.”
Barr insists that he did not send that 2018 memo to act as Trump’s political advocate or seek the job of attorney general for a second time. As he explained during his Senate confirmation hearing, coming out of semi-retirement at the age of 69, near the end of a long and distinguished legal career, he had only agreed to take the post again because of his deep concern over the deterioration of the Justice Department’s reputation for independence, and to uphold the constitutional authority of the president as head of the executive branch of government.
As Trump’s attorney general, Barr used his expert legal knowledge and experience to restore professionalism, independence and integrity to a Justice Department which had been badly compromised by its politicization by the Obama administration. He moved quickly to adopt tougher policies on illegal guns, drugs and gang crime, and responded to the nationwide spike in gun violence triggered by the protests this summer against the death of George Floyd by inaugurating “Operation Legend,” in which the Justice Department has sent anti-crime officers to local police departments across the country in cities where gun violence is raging out of control.
BARR’S SENSITIVE RESPONSE TO MOB VIOLENCE
In July, Barr testified before the House Judiciary Committee where he was grilled for five hours by committee chairman Jerry Nadler and his fellow Democrats over accusations that he ordered the use of excessive force against demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd. In June, violent demonstrators set fires and vandalized property in and around Lafayette Park opposite the White House, and in July they attacked and attempted to set fire to a federal courthouse building in Portland, Oregon. In both cases, federal officers responded with the use of non-lethal force, while local police mostly stood aside and did nothing to help.
“Shame on you,” Nadler told Barr for his handling of the violent protests. “Real leadership would entail de-escalation, collaboration and looking for ways to peacefully resolve our differences.” Instead, Nadler said, Barr has used “pepper spray and truncheons on American citizens [and is] projecting fear and violence nationwide in pursuit of obvious political objectives.”
In fact, while refusing to cede control to the mob, Barr’s sensitive policies eventually defused the volatile and high-profile situations in Portland and in DC, where federal property became the target of sometimes violent politically motivated protests.
BARR’S SELF-APPOINTED MISSION AND GOALS
Democrats on the committee did not give Barr a real opportunity to reply to their attacks on his character, but in his opening statement, Barr explained why he is under such vicious attack by Trump’s political enemies: “Ever since I made it clear that I was going to do everything I could to get to the bottom of the grave abuses involved in the bogus Russiagate scandal, many of the Democrats on this committee have attempted to discredit me by conjuring up a narrative that I am simply the president’s factotum who disposes of criminal cases according to his instructions.”
Barr said he had agreed to become Trump’s attorney general because he “believed my independence would allow me to help steer [the Justice Department] back to her core mission of applying one standard of justice for everyone and enforcing the law even-handedly, without partisan considerations” — and that since taking the job, “I have done precisely that.”
Barr briefly reviewed the major progress that has been made since the 1960s in the elimination of racial prejudice in the administration of law and order in this country. But he also said that members of the black community still have cause to fear that they might not be treated “even-handedly” in every encounter with the police. He therefore urged law enforcement officials across the country to “be conscious of the concerns and ensure that we do not have two different systems of justice.”
At the same time, Barr emphasized that, “the threat to black lives posed by [black against black] crime on the streets is massively greater than any threat posed by police misconduct.”
Barr never raised his voice or revealed his annoyance in responding to the provocative and insulting questions Democrats hurled at him. He demolished their claims that those responsible for the outbreaks of violence in dozens of American cities were, in fact, “peaceful protesters” demonstrating against the death of George Floyd and the “systemic racism” allegedly embedded in the nation’s local police departments. Barr also dismissed liberal claims that the rioting, which decimated business districts from Portland to Minneapolis to Manhattan, was provoked by the overreaction of racist local police or federal officers dispatched to protect federal property under attack.
Barr was similarly eloquent and persuasive in a pair of lengthy interviews this summer in which he presented an insightful view of the forces behind the deep divisions weakening the fabric of American society today, and the approaches he believes can help to restore the lost mutual trust and respect and begin to bridge the gaps to bring our society back together.
ENDING THE RUSSIA COLLUSION HOAX
A month after he assumed the post of attorney general last year, Barr infuriated Trump’s political enemies by releasing his summation of Mueller’s inconclusive two-year long investigation, which finally exposed the Russia-Trump collusion theory to the public as a hoax. Mueller had deliberately written his final report on his investigation — which he delivered to Barr in March 2019 — in such a way that its full contents would have to remain classified, enabling members of Mueller’s staff to leak the portions most damaging to Trump to the media.
But Barr frustrated Mueller’s intentions by quickly writing his own brief summary of Mueller’s inconclusive findings and releasing it immediately to the public. That short-circuited the process by which Mueller had hoped to further discredit the president, even though his investigation failed to uncover any hard evidence of Trump’s guilt.
The first part of Mueller’s report exonerated Trump of all the charges against him of colluding with the Russians, because no hard evidence of it could be found. In the second part, Mueller sought to imply that Trump might have been guilty of obstruction of justice by firing FBI Director James Comey and publicly criticizing the investigation. But Barr’s summary pointed out that Mueller’s investigation had failed to produce any evidence of obstruction that would hold up in a court of law.
Barr’s summary finally destroyed the remaining shreds of credibility of the bogus Russian conspiracy theory. It outraged Democrats and Trump’s other enemies, and immediately turned Barr and his performance as Trump’s attorney general into a major political target.
Their accusations that Barr’s summary distorted Mueller’s findings were refuted by the fact that it was co-written by Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who had appointed Mueller to serve as Special Counsel in May 2017 and who had overseen the investigation until Barr took over as attorney general in February 2019. Mueller was also forced to admit that Barr’s summary of his report was factually accurate. Mueller’s bumbling testimony before a Democrat-led congressional committee about his findings that July wound up exposing his investigation as an embarrassing fiasco.
Ever since, Democrats have repeatedly accused Barr of manipulating DOJ policies to serve President Trump’s political interests. But Barr has never let the accusations get under his skin. Under tough grilling from hostile congressional Democrats in August, Barr insisted that all his actions and policy decisions were independent and uninfluenced by partisan political considerations, and impressed even his political opponents with his cool, unflappable demeanor.
Jerry Nadler has been one of Barr’s most outspoken critics. Upon receiving word of Barr’s resignation, Nadler responded by accusing him of misleading the American people and damaging his own cabinet agency in many ways. “Whomever Joe Biden chooses as the new attorney general will have a tremendous amount of work to do to repair the integrity of the Department of Justice. The work must begin without delay,” Nadler said.
GETTING TO THE BOTTOM OF THE ANTI-TRUMP CONSPIRACY
In May 2019, Barr appointed Connecticut US attorney John Durham to “get to the bottom” of the Russia-Trump collusion hoax and investigate any wrongdoing by former Obama administration, as well as members of Mueller’s staff, who vigorously pursued the bogus allegations long after they knew there was no credible evidence to support them.
Barr was puzzled by the persistence of the anti-Trump investigation. “The question really is, what was the agenda after the  election that kept them pressing ahead after their case collapsed? He is the president of the United States,” the attorney general noted last December.
To assist Barr and Durham in their counter-investigation, Trump invested Barr with unprecedented powers to declassify top secret information to give his prosecutors access to CIA and other intelligence files which could provide new information on the origins of the Trump-Russia collusion hoax.
Trump often publicly expressed his frustration before the election that Durham’s investigation had so far yielded only one criminal indictment of a low-level Justice Department attorney. In August, Kevin Clinesmith, a lawyer working on the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation team, pled guilty to doctoring an email submitted in 2017 as evidence in an FBI application to the FISA court to renew the search warrant on Carter Page seeking to find non-existent evidence of Trump campaign collusion with the Russians.
The doctored email was first exposed in a report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz about the problems with the FISA applications, which was published before Barr appointed Durham to uncover more facts about the Russia collusion hoax. Trump and his allies had hoped that the Durham investigation would yield more information and criminal indictments of Obama administration and senior FBI officials involved in the plot against Trump, in time for them to use it to help Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.
Justice Department officials said that the Durham investigation had been hampered by delays due to the pandemic, which had prevented the federal grand jury handling the case from meeting to issue the subpoenas to gather evidence that Durham needed to pursue his investigation.
BEHIND TRUMP’S HUNTER BIDEN FRUSTRATION
Over the weekend, Trump tweeted his despair over the likelihood that Hunter Biden and Democrats who violated the law by promoting the Russian collusion hoax against him will escape punishment once Joe Biden enters the White House. “If Biden gets in, nothing will happen to Hunter or Joe. Barr will do nothing, and the new group of partisan killers coming in will quickly kill it all. Same thing with Durham. We caught them cold, spying, treason and more (the hard part), but ‘Justice’ took too long. Will be DOA [dead on arrival]!” the president lamented.
Last week, after receiving a federal subpoena, Hunter Biden acknowledged for the first time that he was under federal investigation. In a statement, he said, “I learned yesterday for the first time that the US Attorney’s Office in Delaware advised my legal counsel, also yesterday, that they are investigating my tax affairs. I take this matter very seriously but I am confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisors.”
Fox News also reported that Hunter Biden has been under a federal grand jury investigation based on questionable foreign transactions.
An email sent to Hunter Biden in January 2017, first reported by NBC News this week, indicated that he failed to properly report approximately $400,000 in income that he received as a board member of Burisma, a corrupt Ukrainian energy firm, starting in 2014. The email was sent by Eric Scherwin, who was the president of the Rosemont Seneca investment firm in which Hunter Biden was a partner. The email discussed income that Hunter Biden had received over a period of three years through Rosemont from various sources, including Burisma. “In 2014, you joined the Burisma board and we still need to amend your 2014 returns to reflect the unreported Burisma income,” Scherwin wrote to Biden. “That is approximately $400,000 extra, so your income in 2014 was closer to $1,247,328.”
President Trump’s request during a phone call to the president of Ukraine to launch an investigation of the Biden connection to Burisma was a central issue in the impeachment trial of President Trump earlier this year.
Another newly released 2017 email confirms another allegation about Hunter Biden which the media suppressed when it was first reported by the New York Post three weeks before the presidential election. It documents a request which Hunter Biden made to the manager of the House of Sweden, a DC building containing his business office, to provide keys for his “office mates,” including his father, Joe Biden, his stepmother, Jill Biden, and his uncle, Jim Biden, for space he intended to share with an “emissary” for a chairman of a Chinese-owned energy company. It also casts further doubt on Joe Biden’s denial that he had any knowledge of his son’s foreign business dealings.
Fox News also reported this week on a 2014 email sent to Hunter Biden by a Burisma advisor asking how he could influence his father — the then-vice president — to halt a criminal investigation into the company. All these reports tend to confirm the original allegations by President Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, that Hunter Biden was part of an ongoing influence peddling scheme involving Ukraine, China, and other members of the Biden family.
Trump campaign advisor Steve Cortes told Fox News that these long-suppressed stories about Hunter Biden are being reported on mainstream media outlets only now because, “What changed is we had an election and they believe that their candidate has won, so corporate media is now suddenly interested in covering what has always been and what we knew in October was the biggest and most explosive story of the entire campaign.”
Even the New York Times has now lifted its informal embargo on all stories mentioning Hunter Biden’s illicit activities by reporting that AG Barr earlier this year had assigned a possible second investigation of Joe Biden’s son to Scott Brady, a federal prosecutor based in Pittsburgh, after Trump lawyer Giuliani delivered new evidence on possible criminal activities involving Hunter Biden in Ukraine and elsewhere. Robert Costello, a legal associate of Giuliani, met with Brady several times to go over the evidence, but according to the Times report, the Justice Department has not yet decided to go forward with the second investigation.
According to the New York Times report, the new investigation based in Pittsburgh was supposed to start up while the original investigation — launched by the David Weiss, the US attorney in Delaware in 2018, regarding possible money laundering activity — would continue. The same report stated that the investigation did not turn up any evidence of money laundering, but it did reveal potential tax law violations by Hunter Biden which are now being pursued by federal investigators.
PRESERVING THE DURHAM INVESTIGATION
On December 1, Barr announced he had promoted Durham to the status of special counsel back in October, to make sure that his investigation into the Russian collusion hoax would proceed uninterrupted to its conclusion, regardless of the outcome of the November presidential election. Under the Special Counsel law, Durham can only be removed by the next attorney general for cause, whereas a regular federal prosecutor can be summarily dismissed or reassigned by his Justice Department superiors at will.
Barr’s resignation letter included an update on the Justice Department’s review of Trump’s voter-fraud allegations in the 2020 election, and contained his assurances that the investigation into those allegations “will continue to be pursued. At a time when the country is so deeply divided, it is incumbent on all levels of government…to do all we can to assure the integrity of elections and promote public confidence in their outcome,” Barr wrote.
As he prepares to leave his post after two years of outstanding accomplishment and service to his country, the Justice Department, and his president, Barr is still looking forward instead of back. He can be justly proud of the critical role he played in helping get this country through a very difficult time. What’s more, Barr did it with uncommon measures of quiet dignity, wisdom, grace, and intelligence — qualities that are far too rare in our government leaders today.