Attorney General William Barr may be on his way out the door, but American Oversight is still uncovering new details about his unprecedentedly politicized tenure as head of the Justice Department. Calendars and phone logs recently produced in response to an American Oversight Freedom of Information Act lawsuit reveal frequent meetings between Barr and some of President Donald Trump’s most devoted allies in Congress, including throughout the course of impeachment proceedings in late 2019. The calendars also show contact between Barr and department officials who reportedly faced significant political pressure from the administration.
Barr announced this week that he would resign before Christmas, but his time at the Justice department has been marred by an erosion of norms that American Oversight and other watchdogs are still trying to fully document.
The new records cover May 2019 through April 2020 and shed light on Barr’s day-to-day contacts, specifically his meetings with certain members of Congress who would be some of the president’s most ardent defenders during impeachment proceedings.
For example, Barr met with Rep. Matt Gaetz and Sen. Lindsey Graham on Sept. 10, 2019 — the day after three House committees announced an investigation into the Trump administration’s halt of aid to Ukraine. Barr also had a call with Graham the next day. However, the details of some other calendar entries on Sept. 10 and 11 are redacted.
A week later, on Sept. 17, Barr met with Sens. Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and Mike Lee. Then on Sept. 24 — the day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced her support for a formal impeachment inquiry — Barr held calls or meetings with Graham, then-Rep. Mark Meadows, and Rep. Jim Jordan. Similar calls and meetings with members of Congress continue throughout the records.
Most apparent references to White House meetings in the calendars were redacted, but the regular contact between the Barr and officials there can be partially surmised by entries that reflect Barr traveling “en route to White House” or “WH.” In two cases, Barr headed to the White House after being in contact with Jessie Liu, the former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia who oversaw the criminal cases against Trump allies Michael Flynn and Roger Stone until shortly before the agency leadership’s highly unusual and controversial interventions in both cases.
The calendars show a July 15, 2019, meeting with Liu at the attorney general’s office. This was followed by scheduled transportation to and from the White House for Barr and senior aide Brian Rabbitt with a hour-long gap in between, although no meeting at the White House is specified.
Barr also spoke with Liu on the phone on Feb. 12, 2020 — the day Liu resigned from the administration following Trump’s withdrawal of her nomination for a senior role at the Treasury Department — then was transported via limo to the White House for an apparent meeting, the details of which are redacted.
The records also reflect regular contact between Barr and then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman, who oversaw an investigation into Trump lawyer and ally Rudy Giuliani before he was fired by the president in June of this year, after Barr’s unsuccessful attempts to get Berman to leave his post in the days before.
Other notable entries include a July 26, 2019, breakfast with Trump’s son-in-law and White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, an August 2019 call with embattled National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre, and a December 2019 meeting with Ken Caruso, an associate and partner of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Finally, the calendars also show a March 2020 meeting with U.S. Attorney John Durham, whom Barr appointed to investigate the origins of the Russia probe. Our past FOIA litigation for records related to Durham’s highly politicized investigation revealed that Barr met frequently with Durham — 18 times in the seven months after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into foreign election interference ended. There is also an itinerary for Barr’s August 2019 trip to Italy, during which the attorney general reportedly made one of his attempts to enlist foreign assistance in looking into the Russia investigation’s origins.
As the attorney general prepares his exit from the administration, American Oversight will continue to hold Barr accountable for how he has abetted Trump’s efforts to turn the Justice Department into his own political tool.
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