Yesterday, Attorney General William P. Barr issued new restrictions over the opening of politically sensitive investigations, an effort meant to avoid upending the presidential election as the F.B.I. inadvertently did in 2016 when its campaign inquiries shaped the outcome of the race.
“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 the memo, which was obtained by the New York Times. The attorney general went on to emphasize that “we also must be sensitive to safeguarding the department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality and nonpartisanship.”
The memo establishes certain requirements for the FBI and other agencies under the purview of the Justice Department to meet before opening a “politically sensitive” criminal or counterintelligence investigation against candidates or donors. Barr must personally give approval for investigations into presidential and vice presidential candidates, as well as their respective senior staffs.
The move follows Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on the FBI’s obtainment of a FISA warrant against former Trump-campaign adviser Carter Page as part of the agency’s investigation into suspected collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents. The report detailed various errors and material omissions in the FBI’s initial application for a FISA warrant and subsequent renewals.9
“We identified multiple instances in which factual assertions relied upon in the first FISA application were inaccurate, incomplete, or unsupported by appropriate documentation, based upon information the FBI had in its possession at the time the application was filed,” the report read.
The FBI in 2016 carried out investigations pertaining to both presidential candidates. While the Trump campaign was investigated for possible connections to Russia, a claim that the Mueller Report subsequently found to be based on insufficient evidence, the bureau in October 2016 also reopened its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for classified messages.
On the heels of Trump’s impeachment acquittal, SecDef Esper issues memo to all DoD employees and military personnel to “uphold DoD’s longstanding tradition of remaining apolitical.”— Amanda Macias (@amanda_m_macias) February 6, 2020
Attached is the memo and guidance issued last year on ethical conduct and political activities: pic.twitter.com/2LC9R6clSw
The Treasury Department has complied with Republican senators’ requests for highly sensitive and closely held financial records about Hunter Biden and his associates and has turned over “‘evidence’ of questionable origin” to them, according to a leading Democrat on one of the committees conducting the investigation.
For months, while the impeachment controversy raged, powerful committee chairmen in the Republican-controlled Senate have been quietly but openly pursuing an inquiry into Hunter Biden’s business affairs and Ukrainian officials’ alleged interventions in the 2016 election, the same matters that President Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani unsuccessfully tried to coerce Ukraine’s government to investigate.
Unlike Trump and Giuliani, however, Sens. Charles Grassley, chairman of the Finance Committee; Ron Johnson, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee; and Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, have focused their efforts in Washington, seeking to extract politically useful information from agencies of the U.S. government. They’ve issued letters requesting records from Cabinet departments and agencies, including the State Department, the Treasury, the Justice Department, the FBI, the National Archives and the Secret Service.
Grassley and Johnson have sought to obtain some of the most sensitive and closely held documents in all of federal law enforcement — highly confidential suspicious activity reports (SARs) filed by financial institutions with FinCEN, an agency of the Treasury that helps to police money laundering.
The senators’ requests to the Treasury have borne fruit, according to the ranking Democratic senator on the Finance Committee, Ron Wyden of Oregon, who contrasted the cooperation given to the Republican senators with the pervasive White House-directed stonewall that House Democrats encountered when they subpoenaed documents and witnesses in the impeachment inquiry.
“Applying a blatant double standard, Trump administration agencies like the Treasury Department are rapidly complying with Senate Republican requests — no subpoenas necessary — and producing ‘evidence’ of questionable origin,” Wyden spokesperson Ashley Schapitl said in a statement. “The administration told House Democrats to go pound sand when their oversight authority was mandatory while voluntarily cooperating with the Senate Republicans’ sideshow at lightning speed.”
It’s kind of amazing that Senate Republicans are already deep into their effort to Benghazi-fy Ukraine, and we’ve barely heard about it. https://t.co/G763hxG3X5— Paul Waldman (@paulwaldman1) February 6, 2020