The fallout from President Donald Trump‘s controversial request for foreign-sourced dirt on former vice president Joe Biden and his son continues to irradiate the political landscape.
What began as a whistleblower complaint withheld from Congress in apparent violation of federal law has quickly metastasized into an administration-wide scandal that has high-profile legal and political voices calling for the appointment of a new special counsel.
At issue here is conduct of Attorney General William Barr—who Trump discussed as a potential lead for his proposed Hunter Biden corruption dragnet during that now-infamous phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Barr has come under fire both: (1) the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel keeping the whistleblower complaint under arguably inapplicable lock-and-key; and (2) for the decision that Trump’s Ukrainian ask about the Biden family was not a violation of campaign finance law.
Ancillary to that second issue, however, is whether or not Barr should have overseen the DOJ criminal division’s investigation into the whistleblower complaint’s allegations in the first place. Why? Because Barr is mentioned by Trump as Zelensky’s primary point person to help facilitate the Biden/corruption inquiry. But per ABC News, Barr, while not recused, didn’t make the so-called “final call” on making the campaign finance referral go away:
The Assistant AG for the Criminal Division made the “final call” to conclude the matter, and said Attorney General William Barr was “not involved in the analysis by the criminal division.” There was no consideration for the AG to formally recuse himself from the matter, the official said, and no consideration of the appointment of a special counsel.
Nonetheless, there was an outcry over a “conflict of interest”:
AG Barr, according to WH transcript, was being enlisted to help Ukraine open a case on Trump’s political opponent.
He’s also now in charge of evaluating a criminal referral to DOJ on whether Trump’s behavior violated campaign finance laws.
Time for Special Counsel 2.0
— Asha Rangappa (@AshaRangappa_) September 25, 2019
Barr should resign, immediately. A special counsel must be appointed. Trump must be impeached. Giuliani needs a criminal defense attorney.
— John Weaver (@jwgop) September 25, 2019
“How on earth could any political appointee be involved in the decision whether or not to prosecute the man who appointed them to their job?” asked former U.S. Attorney for Oregon Dwight Holton. “Everyone there should have been recused from this.”
Above noted CNN analyst, lawyer, and former FBI special agent Asha Rangappa also latched onto that line of thought. She quote-tweeted Holton and added, “This is precisely what the Special Counsel [regulations] are for.”
Former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, who wrote the regulations now-former Special Counsel Robert Mueller operated under, also chimed in favoring a special counsel to investigate the whistleblower’s claims.
“This is the paradigmatic case for it,” Katyal wrote on Twitter, “involves possible wrongdoing by [the president and] now Barr himself mentioned in the ‘transcript.’ [Special counsel] wouldn’t say Barr can then take case and clear [the president].”
Respected attorney and legal commentator Luppe Luppen also weighed in on Barr’s ethical duty viz. an alleged plot that included himself as the man inside:
Barr OBVIOUSLY should have been recused. Full stop. He’s part of it–a fact witness at the very least. The question they should have been considering is whether anyone inside the DOJ could evaluate the issue or whether a special counsel was needed. https://t.co/l0glQJdq2v
— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) September 25, 2019
As the Ukrainian corruption scandal continues to drop bodies worth of shoes, odds are that calls for impartial investigators–special counsels or otherwise–are only likely to increase.
[image via Chip Somodevilla_Getty Images]