Watergate figure John Dean described the Trump DOJ’s surveillance of House Democrats as ‘Nixon on stilts and steroids’

john dean
John Dean is seen testifying before the House Judiciary Committee hearing about Lessons from the Mueller Report on June 10, 2019.

  • John Dean described the Trump DOJ’s surveillance of Democrats as “Nixon on stilts and steroids.”
  • Dean criticized Bill Barr, alleging that the former attorney general was committed to serving Trump.
  • Rep. Adam Schiff of California has called for “a full accounting of the Trump DOJ’s abuse of power.”
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John Dean, the former White House counsel under the late President Richard Nixon, on Friday described the Justice Department seizing the smartphone data of Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee as “Nixon on stilts and steroids.”

The comments came after The New York Times reported that former Attorneys General Jeff Sessions and William Barr subpoenaed Apple to gain access to the records of members of the committee, after they were informed of leaks in the Trump administration.

During an appearance on CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront, Dean, who helped bring down Nixon over the Watergate scandal, said the actions of former President Donald Trump’s DOJ went further than that of his former boss.

“Nixon didn’t have that kind of Department of Justice,” he said.

Dean then remarked on how the Nixon administration handled the 1971 leak of the Pentagon Papers, the classified documents that detailed the history of the US military and political involvement in Vietnam.

“I got a call from the Oval Office the day after he learned that, and could the Department of Justice bring a criminal action for this? Called over, found out the short answer was they could, but they won’t,” Dean said. “So Nixon couldn’t use the department as he wanted to.”

Burnett asked Dean if the actions of Trump’s DOJ went “beyond what Nixon did.”

“It is beyond Nixon, yes,” Dean said. “It’s Nixon on stilts and steroids.”

Read more: The Justice Department is scrutinizing Arizona’s pro-Trump vote audit as threats of violence and political fallout loom

Dean then laced into Barr, alleging that the former attorney general was long committed to serving Trump.

“The memo he wrote to get the job says ‘I’m ready to execute your presidency like a unitary executive presidency should be,’ which means no bars hold,” he told Burnett. “And he did that. It’s quite clear he didn’t have to be told on many things.”

He added: “We now know there are countless examples of norms he was willing to break.”

The DOJ’s Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, said in a statement Friday that his office would investigate the incident, after receiving queries from Democratic lawmakers in Congress.

“The review will examine the Department’s compliance with applicable DOJ policies and procedures, and whether any such uses, or the investigations, were based upon improper considerations,” the statement read. “If circumstances warrant, the OIG will consider other issues that may arise during the review.”

Democratic House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California, a longtime political adversary of Trump who was one of the subpoena targets, on Friday called for a thorough review of the matter.

“We need a full accounting of the Trump DOJ’s abuse of power targeting Congress and the press,” he tweeted. “An IG investigation is just the start. The full range of the misconduct must be examined, including Barr’s efforts to protect those who lied to cover up, and go after Trump’s enemies.”

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A federal judge ordered the DOJ to release a memo that Bill Barr used to clear Trump of obstruction of justice, saying ‘it is time for the public to see’ it

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Former Attorney General William Barr.

  • A federal judge ordered the DOJ to turn over an internal memo related to the Mueller probe.
  • Bill Barr cited the memo as the basis for his decision to clear Trump of obstruction of justice.
  • “It is time for the public to see that [the memo], too,” the judge said in Tuesday’s ruling.
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A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the Justice Department to turn over an internal memo that then-Attorney General Bill Barr cited as justification for clearing then-President Donald Trump for obstruction of justice.

Barr said at the time that he’d come to his decision “in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel and other Department lawyers” but did not publicize the OLC’s memo. In response, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit to obtain the memo.

In Tuesday’s ruling, US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the unreleased OLC memo that Barr used to clear Trump of obstruction actually “contradicts” his claim that the decision to charge the president was “under his purview” because the special counsel Robert Mueller did not “resolve the question of whether the evidence would support a prosecution.”

Barr announced the decision to clear Trump in a four-page letter to Congress in March 2019 summarizing Mueller’s findings in the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election.

“The letter asserted that the Special Counsel ‘did not draw a conclusion – one way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction,’ and it went on to announce the Attorney General’s own opinion that ‘the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense,'” Jackson wrote.

However, the OLC’s memo “calls into question the accuracy of Attorney General Barr’s March 24 representation to Congress,” and it “raises serious questions about how the Department of Justice could make this series of representations to a court,” the ruling said.

Jackson pointed out that Mueller himself criticized Barr’s handling of the public release of the report and his description of the special counsel’s conclusions.

On April 18, 2019, Barr “appeared before Congress to deliver the report,” Jackson wrote. “He asserted that he and the Deputy Attorney General reached the conclusion he had announced in the March 24 letter ‘in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel and other Department lawyers.'”

“What remains at issue today is a memorandum to the Attorney General dated March 24, 2019, that specifically addresses the subject matter of the letter transmitted to Congress,” she added, referring to the OLC memo.

She continued: “It is time for the public to see that, too.”

Mueller’s findings in the obstruction investigation were widely discussed when his final report was released in April 2019.

He laid out 11 potential instances of obstruction by Trump, but the special counsel declined to make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment.”

Barr told reporters Mueller’s decision was not influenced by longstanding Justice Department guidelines that state a sitting president cannot be indicted. He said that in fact, Mueller’s determination – or lack thereof – was prompted by the inconclusive nature of the evidence.

But in his report, Mueller did not cite the nature of, or lack of, evidence as a reason he did not come to a decision on obstruction. He did, however, cite the OLC’s 1973 memo saying that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime.

Moreover, the special counsel’s team said (emphasis ours) that “if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.” The team continued: “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

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AG Bill Barr reportedly told a US attorney ‘I am going to f—ing fire your a–‘ if he talked to Matt Gaetz about DOJ business

Bill Barr
Attorney General Bill Barr has called China and Huawei a “monumental danger” to US economic and national security interests.

  • Bill Barr threatened to fire a US attorney after he spoke with Matt Gaetz about DOJ business, Politico reported.
  • “If I ever hear of you talking to Gaetz … I am going to f—ing fire your a–,” Barr said.
  • He reportedly made the threat last year, while the DOJ was investigating Gaetz for sex trafficking.
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Then-Attorney General Bill Barr was furious last year after a US attorney close to Rep. Matt Gaetz spoke to the lawmaker about Justice Department business, Politico reported Wednesday.

“If I ever hear of you talking to Gaetz or any other congressman again about business before the department, I am going to f—ing fire your a–,” Barr reportedly told Larry Keefe, Gaetz’s former law partner who then-President Donald Trump later tapped to lead the US attorney’s office for the Northern District of Florida.

The threat came as Keefe was looking to launch an investigation into purported voter fraud in Florida while then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was on the cusp of being the party’s nominee for the general election, according to Politico.

The exact timing of Barr’s phone call to Keefe is not clear, but it took place in the late summer or early fall, as the department was also investigating whether Gaetz had sex with a minor and broke federal sex-trafficking laws.

Sources familiar with the matter told Politico that lawyers in the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section were concerned that the scope of the investigation Keefe wanted was too broad. Keefe, meanwhile, is said to have discussed the situation with Gaetz. The Florida lawmaker told Politico that he and Keefe had just spoken broadly about “legal doctrine related to jurisdiction and venue” and not about the specifics of any investigation.

Eventually, Trump learned of their conversation, and Gaetz told Politico he’d spoken to the former president about voter fraud linked to absentee ballots, and then raised a legal theory Keefe had mentioned to him.

“I said to [Trump] that an appreciation for the Keefe position on venue would give good U.S. attorneys in every capital city the necessary jurisdiction to root out fraud,” Gaetz told Politico. “I also shared with President Trump that Keefe had faced substantial resistance from the Department of Justice.”

Gaetz said Trump told then-White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who was at the meeting, to discuss the idea with Barr. Upon hearing about the conversation, Barr became infuriated and called Keefe and threatened to fire him, Politico said.

Gaetz told the outlet he was not aware of the phone call but noted that he did get a call from Keefe saying he couldn’t discuss DOJ matters with Gaetz. Keefe told the outlet it was “not appropriate” for him to discuss his work as US attorney but that he stands by his decisions.

Barr was one of several senior Trump appointees at the department who were aware of – and greenlit – the investigation into Gaetz. Earlier this month, Politico reported that Barr specifically avoided being seen or photographed with Gaetz in public while the investigation was ongoing.

The New York Times revealed the existence of the Gaetz sex-trafficking probe late last month. The Republican lawmaker has denied any wrongdoing and said he never paid women for sex or had a sexual relationship with a minor as an adult man. Prosecutors are said to have zeroed in on Gaetz as part of a broader probe into his associate, the former Florida tax collector Joel Greenberg. Greenberg has been indicted on 33 felony counts, including carrying out the sex trafficking of a minor between the ages of 14 and 17.

Earlier this month, prosecutors and Greenberg’s defense attorneys told a federal judge that they were close to striking a plea deal.

“I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Greenberg’s lawyer, Fritz Scheller, told reporters afterward.

The Times later reported that Greenberg has been cooperating against Gaetz since last year.

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Biden won’t ask his attorney general candidates about potential investigations into his son, Hunter

Joe Biden
President-elect Joe Biden speaks about the Electoral College vote certification process at The Queen theater on December 14, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.

  • President-elect Joe Biden has not yet selected his nominee for attorney general but will not ask candidates for the position about their plans surrounding any investigations into his son, Hunter, incoming White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Sunday on Fox News.
  • When Attorney General Bill Barr leaves the White House this week, he will be replaced for the remainder of Trump’s term by Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.
  • According to a previous report from the Associated Press, Trump has floated the idea of firing Rosen should he refuse to appoint a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden.
  • Rosen has previously declined to comment whether or not he’s interested in pursuing an investigation into the president-elect’s son. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President-elect Joe Biden has not yet selected the person he will nominate to serve as attorney general in his administration, but he will not ask candidates about their intent to investigate his son, Hunter Biden, incoming White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Sunday. 

“He will not be discussing an investigation of his son with any attorney general candidates,” Psaki told Chris Wallace during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday. “He will not be discussing it with anyone he is considering for the role and he will not be discussing it with a future attorney general.”

She added: “It will be up to the purview of an attorney general in his administration to determine how to handle any investigation. As you know, U.S. attorneys, that’s a personnel decision, we’re far from there at this point in the process.”

Biden has already announced a number of appointees to his administration, including people he hopes will fill high-level positions like Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of State, and Secretary of Defense. Biden cannot officially make any nominations until after he is inaugurated in January and his nominees will also need to be confirmed by the Senate. 

Biden has also named a number of other officials who will work in his administration. At a press conference Saturday, the president-elect named a team of individuals leading his administration’s charge against climate change.

Read more: EXCLUSIVE: Jared Kushner helped create a Trump campaign shell company that secretly paid the president’s family members and spent $617 million in reelection cash, a source tells Insider

Throughout his failed bid for re-election, Trump and his allies attempted to undermine Biden by targeting his son, 50-year-old Hunter, leveraging theories and conspiracies against him, many relating to his work with the Ukrainian oil company Burisma

Earlier in December, the president-elect’s son announced that his “tax affairs” were the focus of a federal criminal investigation, further raising questions about his father’s intent to take a hands-off approach to the dealings of the US Department of Justice.  The investigation reportedly stemmed from a 2018 money-laundering investigation, The New York Times previously reported.

More recently, Trump has reportedly expressed interest in pressuring the attorney general to nominate a special counsel to investigate the president-elect’s son. On December 14, Trump announced that Attorney General William Barr would resign from his position, which he has held since 2019, on December 23. During Trump’s final weeks in office, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen will serve as acting attorney general. 

Barr reportedly knew about the criminal investigations into Hunter Biden’s financial dealings prior to the November election but kept them from the public, reportedly drawing ire from the president.

Last week, The Associated Press reported that Trump would consider firing Rosen if he did not announce special counsel investigations into the president-elect’s son relating to his taxes and Trump’s baseless allegations over voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Rosen on Wednesday declined to stay publicly whether he will appoint a special counsel to investigate the president-elect’s son, saying he would continue “to do things on the merits and to do things on the basis of the law and the facts.” 

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Trump discussed the possibility of firing Attorney General William Barr during a Friday meeting: report

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Attorney General William Barr.

  • President Donald Trump discussed the possibility of firing Attorney General William Barr during a Friday meeting, according to a CNN report.
  • There are no indications of whether the president will follow through with such an action before his term ends in January.
  • Trump is reportedly livid that Barr kept the federal investigation into Hunter Biden’s taxes under wraps during the 2020 presidential campaign.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump discussed the possibility of firing Attorney General William Barr during a Friday meeting at the White House, but there are no indications of whether he’ll follow through with such an action before his term ends in January, according to a CNN report.

In a meeting with advisors, Trump was reportedly livid that Barr reportedly kept the federal investigation into Hunter Biden’s taxes under wraps during the 2020 presidential campaign, according to CNN.

Hunter, the son of President-elect Joe Biden, was a constant source of conservative attacks during the presidential campaign, with many in the Trump orbit relentlessly accusing him of having sought business deals while his father was vice president, despite lacking any verifiable evidence.

Trump was also reportedly angered that Barr was considering leaving his position before Trump’s term in office was complete, according to CNN.

In early December, the president’s displeasure with Barr reached a boiling point, with advisors pleading with him to keep Barr on board. 

On Saturday morning, Trump took to Twitter to complain about Barr’s tenure, calling him “a big disappointment.”

The president also publicly called out Barr for not disclosing the Hunter Biden investigation before the election.

“Why didn’t Bill Barr reveal the truth to the public, before the Election, about Hunter Biden,” he tweeted. “Joe was lying on the debate stage that nothing was wrong, or going on – Press confirmed. Big disadvantage for Republicans at the polls!”

Barr has served as Attorney General since February 2019, succeeding Jeff Sessions, who had a tumultuous tenure after recusing himself from the Russia investigation and drawing the enduring ire of Trump. He previously served in the role under then-President George H.W. Bush from November 1991 to January 1993.

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Attorney General Bill Barr reportedly knew about the Hunter Biden tax probes for months but kept them under wraps before the election

william barr
US Attorney General William Barr arrives for the event where US President Donald Trump signs an executive order on police reform, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, on June 16, 2020.

  • Attorney General William Barr knew about two criminal investigations into Hunter Biden’s financial dealings for months before the general election but kept them from the public, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • The news is a remarkable twist in Barr’s tenure as President Donald Trump’s attorney general, during which he repeatedly took steps to benefit the president and feed into his conspiracy theories.
  • According to The Journal, Barr knew about the Biden tax investigations since at least the spring but tried to keep them under wraps in accordance with Justice Department rules that prevent prosecutors from taking overt investigative steps that could affect the outcome of an election.
  • Thursday’s report will likely infuriate Trump, who has been frustrated with Barr in recent months and came close to firing him on several occasions before aides talked the president out of it.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Attorney General William Barr knew for months about two investigations into Hunter Biden’s financial activity but worked to shield them from the public, The Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday.

The news is a remarkable twist in Barr’s tenure as President Donald Trump’s attorney general, during which time he repeatedly took steps to aid the president and feed into his talking points about the Russia investigation, the Obama administration, and the 2020 election.

Barr’s reported attempts to keep the Hunter Biden probes from becoming public were in accordance with Justice Department rules that restrict prosecutors from taking public investigative steps that could affect the outcome of an election. President-elect Joe Biden won the 2020 general election, notching 306 Electoral College votes compared with Trump’s 232.

Hunter Biden announced that he was being investigated on Wednesday after CNN reached out to the Biden transition team when it learned that the younger Biden was the subject of criminal inquiries into his finances.

“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,” Hunter Biden said in a statement on Wednesday. “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.”

Subsequent media reports said the investigation was broader in scope than Hunter Biden initially indicated, with The New York Times revealing that the tax probe grew out of what started off as a money-laundering investigation in late 2018. Politico also reported, citing one source, that in addition to Delaware prosecutors, the securities fraud unit at the Manhattan US attorney’s office investigated Hunter Biden’s finances, and as of early 2019, prosecutors in both Delaware and Washington, DC, were examining possible foreign ties and money laundering.

The Times reported that the money laundering inquiry has since fizzled out from a lack of evidence, but that investigators with the Internal Revenue Service are continuing to scrutinize Hunter Biden’s taxes.

The younger Biden has not been charged in any criminal activity related to the investigations or prior inquiries. The president-elect is also not a subject of interest in the probes focusing on his son.

Thursday’s reporting from The Journal about Barr’s role in keeping the Hunter Biden investigations from the public will likely infuriate the president, who has been frustrated with the attorney general in recent weeks and was on the brink of firing him several times before aides talked Trump out of it.

The Justice Department declined to comment to The Journal, and the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

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