Respect for intelligence — or science or ethics or principles — has never been a hallmark of the Trump administration.
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Now former intelligence agency professionals are left questioning the “pure insanity” of the top official in Donald Trump’s Justice Department — Attorney General William Barr — approaching foreign officials in an attempt to delegitimize the origins of the investigations into the Trump campaign’s ties to the proven Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
As the details emerge of the secret behind-the-scenes machinations of the administration to cover up their initial collaborations with foreign powers in the Trump’s first campaign — and to discredit the investigators who discovered the most incriminating facts in the case that sent Paul Manafort, the campaign’s original chairman, to prison — the veterans of our nation’s national security apparatus are gobsmacked by the news that Attorney General Barr had journeyed overseas to meet personally with senior foreign intelligence contacts to request their help in fulfilling President Trump’s intractable vendetta against America’s own intelligence community.
With Barr visiting Italy last week to plead his case in person with that nation’s chief foreign intelligence officials and having made the same overtures to their British counterparts, the desperation of the administration to find something — anything — to counteract the destructive narrative of the president’s illegal attempts to solicit a new round of foreign interference in the 2020 elections is palpable.
“This is unheard of,” one former senior Justice Department official who had a close working relationship with then-FBI Director Robert Mueller, according to Business Insider.
A long-serving veteran of the CIA’s clandestine services branch, John Sipher (is there a more perfect name for an undercover agent?), gave his own opinion on the senselessness of the Attorney General’s behavior via Twitter.
This is pure insanity. First of all its really dumb to think foreign services trust Barr more than their regular interlocutors. Also, it is crazy that people like Barr actually believe large groups of people were secretly conspiring in an election. Nuts! https://t.co/z6ZrQMXDZL
— John Sipher (@john_sipher) September 30, 2019
Sipher is likely correct in assuming that experienced intelligence operatives would view Barr’s approach as anything but bizarre and highly suspicious, particularly given that they likely have their own up-to-date assessments of the current U.S. political situation and the motivations behind Barr’s request.
According to Business Insider:
“Robert Deitz, a former top lawyer at the CIA and the National Security Agency, also said he hadn’t heard ‘of so much involvement by the attorney general in this sort of investigation.'”
“‘This is work for the gumshoes,’ he told the publication. Barr’s involvement is all the more unusual, Deitz added, given Durham’s reputation. ‘I have worked with John Durham. He is absolutely a straight shooter. What he says one can rely on.'”
John Durham is the United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut who has been put in charge of the Republican party’s pet project since they abandoned hearings on Benghazi — the investigation of the origins of the investigation into Donald Trump — despite the fact that this red herring of an issue has been sourced to a conversation between convicted Trump campaign staffer George Papadopoulos and an Australian diplomat in Europe.
Despite being the impetus for a constant fountain of accusations by Republican congressmen looking to curry favor with Trump, the allegations of impropriety by those tasked with investigating the Trump campaigns many ties to Russia have yet to be supported by a single piece of hard evidence, remaining a fever-dream talking point trotted out to try to undermine the confidence of the American public in the integrity of our federal investigatory bodies and law enforcement agencies — exactly the goal that Russia was dreaming of achieving by pitching in to help Trump win the presidency.
Attorney General Barr’s deep involvement in the efforts to discredit the people whom he supervises as the head of the Justice Department was shocking to former employees of the Department from when it was still considered an independent arbiter of right and wrong.
It’s “absolutely very unusual for the AG to get involved in making such requests,” said Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor who helped convict Mafia chief John Gotti.
“There are people at DOJ whose whole job is to coordinate investigative efforts with foreign governments,” he continued. “Makes a person wonder why Barr didn’t trust them to do this stuff. Something he didn’t trust career DOJ people to do? Something more political than justice-related?”
His opinion was reiterated by Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor from the Southern District of New York.
“There are established procedures through which DOJ can and does coordinate with foreign governments and prosecutors,” Honig told Business Insider. “It’ll be important to figure out if the AG went through these proper channels or tried to do it off the books, so to speak.”
“Proper channels” may as well be an untranslatable foreign phrase in the parlance of the Trump administration whose contempt for the rule of law and regulations extends even to the head of the department ostensibly charged with enforcing the nation’s legal structure.
It’s one more reason that Attorney General Barr should be high on the list of additional impeachments that the House of Representatives should immediately consider to ensure that no further damage to our federal institutions takes place due to the criminality of the Trump administration.
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Original reporting by Sonam Sheth at Business Insider.