'Ghostbuster' Bill Barr was the 'Who Ya Gonna Call?' guy for 3 treasonous GOP presidents

'Ghostbuster' Bill Barr was the 'Who Ya Gonna Call?' guy for 3 treasonous GOP presidents
Donald Trump and William Barr in 2019, U.S. Department of Justice
How Trumpian ‘conspiracist’ thinking now defines the ‘intellectual ecosystem of the American right’: author

The Manchurian Candidate was apparently more than just a movie.

A Russian agent in the employ of one of Putin’s oligarchs was paid millions to run Trump’s campaign and was passing secret campaign information to Russian intelligence that they used to target specific groups of American voters via Facebook and Twitter.

When this treachery was referred to the FBI, the lead agent there was later, it turns out according to The New York Times, also in the employ of Putin’s oligarchs.

And his bosses’ boss, Bill Barr — who has a new book out and is on what New York Times columnist David Firestone refers to as a “desperate salvage operation for what’s left of his legal and ethical reputation” — apparently tried to cover up much of it.

The depth and breadth of Bill Barr’s possible crimes against democracy while Attorney General for Trump are just now coming into clearer focus. We shouldn’t be surprised: like Ghostbusters, Bill Barr has been the “Who ya gonna call?” guy for Republican presidents committing treason for 30 years.

Most people know that when the Mueller investigation was completed — documenting ten prosecutable cases of Trump personally engaging in criminal obstruction of justice and witness tampering to prevent the Mueller Report investigators from getting to the bottom of his 2016 connections to Russia — Barr buried the report for weeks while lying to the American people about its content.

But what’s coming out now is far more sinister: the Trump campaign and Paul Manafort were working with Russian oligarchs Oleg Derapaska and Konstantin Kilimnik to prevent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — who they believed was an anti-Putin hardliner — from becoming president. Their combined efforts succeeded and Barr, when he learned about it, appears to have helped cover it up.

It’s now well documented that Donald Trump both solicited and welcomed help from Putin to seize the White House in 2016. His campaign manager, Paul Manafort, had also been in the direct employ — paid tens of millions of dollars (and then working for “free” running Trump’s campaign) — by Putin’s oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

(You may remember Deripaska was also the oligarch who helped Mitch McConnell win the 2020 election by announcing he was going to build a $200 million “many-new-jobs” aluminum operation in Kentucky — that was then cancelled after McConnell won reelection. McConnell helped get sanctions lifted, apparently so Derapaska could help his campaign, earning him the “Moscow Mitch” nickname.)

And Trump was in tight with the Russians throughout the election: the week before the 2016 election, unbeknown to American voters, Trump even signed a letter of intent with the Putin administration to build a Trump Tower in Moscow if he lost the race for president.

When the FBI got wind of the Trump campaign’s deep ties to Putin, they referred the case to the New York FBI field office, which handles spies and intelligence operations.

But on October 4, 2016, one month before Election Day, the FBI had named Charles McGonigal special agent in charge of the FBI counterintelligence division in New York City.

Apparently nobody realized at the time that McGonigal would also end up in the employ of Deripaska, just like Manafort. McGonigal, who was arrested last week, apparently deep-sixed the investigation, hiding the whole sordid story.

As reporters Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman, and Katie Benner at The New York Times reported in a bombshell article last week:

“Mr. Trump would repeatedly portray the Mueller report as having found ‘no collusion with Russia.’ The reality was more complex. In fact, the report detailed ‘numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign,’ and it established both how Moscow had worked to help Mr. Trump win and how his campaign had expected to benefit from the foreign interference.”

As an apparent result of McGonigal clearing Trump, and Manafort working with Deripaska and Putin to keep Russian interference rolling along to help the Trump campaign, 8 days before the 2016 election (right after Comey had announced he was looking into Hillary’s emails again) — The New York Times ran a bizarre and extraordinarily misleading story exonerating Trump with the headline:

“Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia.”

Knowing that he was running for office with the help of a hostile foreign power — something close to treason — Trump had reason to be paranoid. Once in office he did and said everything he could to discredit claims he was a Putin stooge.

His most effective effort in that regard was bringing Bill Barr in as Attorney General, heading up the Justice Department and overseeing the FBI.

Barr loudly claimed that the Clinton campaign and the FBI itself had been “spying” on Trump, and appointed special prosecutor John Durham to get to the bottom of the nefarious crime.

Durham, after spending $6 million over 4 years investigating the case, found nothing to implicate either Clinton’s campaign or the FBI. He and Barr did, however, during a trip the two took to Italy, find criminal activity by Donald Trump himself, which they then proceeded to bury so deep it’s still only partially known.

But we know of other instances that are troubling.

In his first month in office, Trump outed an Israeli spy to the Russian Ambassador, resulting in MOSSAD having to “burn” (relocate, change identity of) that spy. That, in turn, prompted the CIA to worry that a longtime US spy buried deep in the Kremlin was similarly vulnerable to Trump handing him over to Putin.

As CNN noted when the story leaked two years later:

“The source was considered the highest level source for the US inside the Kremlin, high up in the national security infrastructure, according to the source familiar with the matter and a former senior intelligence official.
“According to CNN’s sources, the spy had access to Putin and could even provide images of documents on the Russian leader’s desk.”

The CIA concluded that the risk Trump had burned the spy was so great that, at massive loss to US intelligence abilities that may have helped forestall the invasion of Ukraine, we pulled the spy out of Russia in 2017.

Similarly, when they met in Helsinki in July of 2018, Trump and Putin talked in private for several hours and Trump ordered his translators’ notes destroyed; there is also concern that much of their conversation was done out of the hearing of the US’s translator (Putin is fluent in English and German) who may have been relegated to a distant part of the rather large room in which they met.

Things were picking up for our Manchurian Candidate in 2019, as Putin was planning his invasion of Ukraine while Trump was preparing for the upcoming election. In February of that year Trump put Barr in charge of the Justice Department and the FBI.

Once again, reports of Trump’s treasonous activities were apparently deep-sixed by Charles McGonigal in the FBI and his boss’s boss, Bill Barr.

— On July 31, 2019 Trump had another private conversation with Putin. The White House told Congress and the press that they discussed “wildfires” and “trade between the nations.” No droids in this car…

— The following week, on August 2nd, The Daily Beast’s Betsy Swan reported that Trump had just asked the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for a list of all its employees (including all our spies and overseas intelligence officers) who had worked there more than 90 days, and the request had intelligence officials experiencing “disquiet.”

— Within a year, The New York Timesran a story with the headline: “Captured, Killed or Compromised: C.I.A. Admits to Losing Dozens of Informants.” The CIA then alerted spies around the world that their identities had probably been compromised, apparently by the president himself.

— Three weeks after Trump groveled before Putin in Helsinki while attacking US intelligence agencies from the podium, Rand Paul flew to Moscow on Trump’s behalf and hand-delivered a package of classified documents to Putin which remain undisclosed to this day. In response, Senator John McCain went to the floor of the Senate to say that “The Senator from Kentucky is now working for Putin.”

But with Bill Barr now in charge of the Justice Department and Derapaska’s guy Charles McGonigal in charge of the FBI’s oversight of Russian spying activity, these reports also appear to have gone nowhere.

Barr continues to stonewall about his involvement in the Durham investigation, including what may be substantial overreach or even crimes committed in the course of that investigation.

While shocking, this was not Bill Barr‘s first time playing cover-up for a Republican president who’d committed crimes that could rise to the level of treason against America.

Back in 1992, the first time Bill Barr was U.S. Attorney General, iconic New York Times writer William Safire referred to him as “Coverup-General Barr” because of his role in burying evidence of then-President George H.W. Bush’s involvement in “Iraqgate” and “Iran-Contra.”

Christmas day of 1992, the New York Times featured a screaming all-caps headline across the top of its front page: Attorney General Bill Barr had covered up evidence of crimes by Reagan and Bush in the Iran-Contra “scandal.”

Earlier that week of Christmas, 1992, George H.W. Bush was on his way out of office. Bill Clinton had won the White House the month before, and in a few weeks would be sworn in as president.

But Bush’s biggest concern wasn’t that he’d have to leave the White House to retire back to Connecticut, Maine, or Texas (where he had mansions) but, rather, that he may end up embroiled even deeper in the Iran-Contra treason.

In other words, George HW Bush’s concern was that he and his colleagues may face time in a federal prison after he left office, a concern nearly identical to what Richard Nixon faced when he decided to resign to avoid prosecution.

Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh was closing in fast on him and Reagan, and Bush’s private records, subpoenaed by the independent counsel’s office, were the key to it all.

Walsh had been appointed independent counsel in 1986 to investigate the Iran-Contra activities of the Reagan administration and determine if crimes had been committed.

Was the criminal Iran-Contra conspiracy limited, as Reagan and Bush insisted (and Reagan said on TV), to later years in the Reagan presidency, in response to an obscure hostage-taking in Lebanon?

Or had it started in the 1980 presidential campaign against Jimmy Carter with treasonous collusion with the Iranians, as the then-president of Iran asserted? Who knew what, and when? And what was George H.W. Bush’s role in it all?

In the years since then, the President of Iran in 1980, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, has gone on the record saying that the Reagan campaign reached out to Iran to hold the hostages in exchange for weapons.

“Ayatollah Khomeini and Ronald Reagan,” President Bani-Sadr told the Christian Science Monitor in 2013, “had organized a clandestine negotiation, later known as the ‘October Surprise,’ which prevented the attempts by myself and then-US President Jimmy Carter to free the hostages before the 1980 US presidential election took place. The fact that they were not released tipped the results of the election in favor of Reagan.”

That wouldn’t have been just an impeachable crime: it was every bit as much treason as when Richard Nixon blew up LBJ’s 1968 peace talks with North and South Vietnam to win that November’s election against Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

Walsh had zeroed in on documents that were in the possession of Reagan’s former defense secretary, Caspar Weinberger, who all the evidence showed was definitely in on the deal, and President Bush’s diary that could corroborate it.

Elliott Abrams had already been convicted of withholding evidence about it from Congress, and he may have even more information, too, if it could be pried out of him before he went to prison. But Abrams was keeping mum, apparently anticipating a pardon.

Weinberger, trying to avoid jail himself, was preparing to testify that Bush knew about it and even participated, and Walsh had already, based on information he’d obtained from the investigation into Weinberger, demanded that Bush turn over his diary from the campaign. He was also again hot on the trail of Abrams.

So Bush called in his attorney general, Bill Barr, and asked his advice.

Barr, along with Bush, was already up to his eyeballs in cover-ups of shady behavior by the Reagan administration.

Safire had started referring to Barr as “Coverup-General” in the midst of another scandal — Bush illegally selling weapons of mass destruction to Saddam Hussein — because the Attorney General was already covering up for Bush, Weinberger, and others from the Reagan administration in “Iraqgate.”

Ironically, that illegal sale of weapons to Saddam Hussein in the late 1980s and early 1990s was cited by George W. Bush, Bush’s son, as part of his justification for illegally invading Iraq in 2003.

On October 19, 1992, Safire wrote in The New York Times of Barr’s unwillingness to appoint an independent counsel to look into Iraqgate:

“Why does the Coverup-General resist independent investigation? Because he knows where it may lead: to Dick Thornburgh, James Baker, Clayton Yeutter, Brent Scowcroft and himself [the people who organized the sale of WMD to Saddam]. He vainly hopes to be able to head it off, or at least be able to use the threat of firing to negotiate a deal.”

Now, just short of two months later, Bush was asking Barr for advice on how to avoid another very serious charge in the Iran-Contra crimes they committed to defeat Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election. How, he wanted to know, could they shut down Walsh’s investigation before Walsh’s lawyers got their hands on Bush’s diary?

In April of 2001, safely distant from the swirl of D.C. politics, the University of Virginia’s Miller Center was compiling oral presidential histories, and interviewed Barr about his time as AG in the Bush White House. They brought up the issue of the Weinberger pardon, which put an end to the Iran-Contra investigation, and Barr’s involvement in it.

Turns out, Barr was right in the middle of it.

“There were some people arguing just for [a pardon for] Weinberger, and I said, ‘No, in for a penny, in for a pound,’” Barr told the interviewer. “I went over and told the President I thought he should not only pardon Caspar Weinberger, but while he was at it, he should pardon about five others.”

Which is exactly what Bush did, on Christmas Eve when most Americans were with family instead of watching the news. The holiday notwithstanding, the result was explosive.

America knew that both Reagan and Bush were up to their necks in the Iran-Contra hostages-for-weapons scandal, and Democrats had been talking about treason, impeachment, or worse.

The independent counsel had already obtained one conviction, three guilty pleas, and two other individuals were lined up for prosecution in the case that lost Jimmy Carter the White House. And Walsh was closing in fast on Bush himself.

The second paragraph of the Times story by David Johnston laid it out:

“Mr. Weinberger was scheduled to stand trial on Jan. 5 on charges that he lied to Congress about his knowledge of the arms sales to Iran and efforts by other countries to help underwrite the Nicaraguan rebels, a case that was expected to focus on Mr. Weinberger’s private notes that contain references to Mr. Bush’s endorsement of the secret shipments to Iran.” (emphasis added)

History shows that when a Republican president is in serious legal trouble, Bill Barr is the go-to guy.

For William Safire, Iran-Contra was déjà vu all over again. Four months earlier, referring to Iraqgate (Bush’s criminally selling WMDs to Iraq), Safire opened his article, titled “Justice [Department] Corrupts Justice,” by writing:

“U.S. Attorney General William Barr, in rejecting the House Judiciary Committee’s call for a prosecutor not beholden to the Bush Administration to investigate the crimes of Iraqgate, has taken personal charge of the cover-up.”

Safire accused Barr of not only rigging the cover-up, but of being one of the criminals who could be prosecuted.

“Mr. Barr,” wrote Safire in The New York Times in August of 1992, “...could face prosecution if it turns out that high Bush officials knew about Saddam Hussein’s perversion of our Agriculture export guarantees to finance his war machine.”

He added:

“They [Barr and colleagues] have a keen personal and political interest in seeing to it that the Department of Justice stays in safe, controllable Republican hands.”

Earlier in Bush’s administration, Barr had succeeded in blocking the appointment of an investigator or independent counsel to look into Iraqgate, as Safire repeatedly documented in the Times.

In December, Barr helped Bush block indictments from another independent counsel, Lawrence Walsh, and eliminated any risk that Reagan or George H.W. Bush would be held to account for Iran-Contra.

Walsh, wrote Johnston for the Times on Christmas Eve, “plans to review a campaign diary kept by Mr. Bush.” The diary would be the smoking gun that would nail Bush to the scandal.

“But,” noted the Times, “in a single stroke, Mr. Bush [at Barr’s suggestion] swept away one conviction, three guilty pleas and two pending cases, virtually decapitating what was left of Mr. Walsh’s effort, which began in 1986.”

And Walsh didn’t take it lying down.

The Times report noted that:

“Mr. Walsh bitterly condemned the President’s action, charging that ‘the Iran-contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed.’”

Independent Counsel Walsh added that the diary and notes he wanted to enter into a public trial of Weinberger represented:

“{E]vidence of a conspiracy among the highest ranking Reagan Administration officials to lie to Congress and the American public.”

The phrase “highest ranking” officials almost certainly included Reagan, Bush, and Barr himself.

Walsh had been fighting to get those documents ever since 1986, when he was appointed and Reagan still had two years left in office. Bush’s and Weinberger’s refusal to turn them over, Johnston noted in the Times, could have, in Walsh’s words:

“[F]orestalled impeachment proceedings against President Reagan” through a pattern of “deception and obstruction.”

Back in the 1990s, Barr successfully covered up the involvement of two Republican presidents — Reagan and Bush — in two separate and impeachable “high crimes,” one of them almost certainly treason committed just to win a presidential election.

And now we learn he apparently went so far as to cover up Trump’s involvement with Putin, leading to multiple opportunities for Trump to extort Ukraine and pass sensitive intelligence along to Russia.

Barr has a long history of supporting what many would call fascism in the United States.

He argued for more prisoners here in the US, at the same time we have 4 percent of the world’s population and 20 percent of the world’s prisoners. He authorized, according to Senator Ron Wyden, illegal and unconstitutional spying on American citizens. And he stood by Trump throughout his efforts to extort Ukraine on behalf of Putin.

Bill Barr tries to portray himself as a teddy bear. Don’t buy it.

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