Bill Barr’s Continued Manipulations: First DC US Attorney, then SDNY, Now Eastern District of NY

Bill Barr has been involved in a game of Three-Card Monte with US Attorney assignments. First, he pulled DC US Attorney Jessie Liu out of her position as top prosecutor in DC, installed a lackey, Tim Shea, who then started doing favors for Donald Trump’s criminal associates, reducing Roger Stone’s sentencing recommendation and trying to tank the Mike Flynn case altogether. Barr then tried to do the same thing to Southern District of New York US Attorney Geoffrey Berman, trying to install Jay Clayton, a non-prosecutor as the top prosecutor in SDNY. Berman had the last laugh as he both exposed Barr as lying about the claim that Berman had resigned (he hadn’t) and securing the appointment of his Deputy Audrey Strauss as SDNY Acting US Attorney. Now, Barr is at his shell game again, trying to swap a high-ranking DOJ official, Seth DuCharme, for the US Attorney at the Eastern District of New York US Attorney’s Office, Richard Donoghue. Will Barr get away with this latest game of musical chairs . . or musical US Attorneys?

The Hunter Biden story is a troubling tale of privilege

For all his barking and hucksterism, Rudy Giuliani is having limited success drawing the gullible into his sideshow tent. But the fact that Giuliani’s spectacle involving the Biden family is as phony as a horse that does arithmetic does not mean there is no story worth examining. The real story of Joe Biden and his troubled son Hunter is full of pain and littered with questions and deeply relevant to our populist moment.

I claim no intimate knowledge of this story beyond the soul-baring that Hunter performed with reporter Adam Entous of the New Yorker — an airing of family laundry without precedent, that I can recall, in the rollout of a presidential campaign. To that text I add the widely shared experience of an addict in the family, plus several decades spent listening to Americans talk about the people who seek to lead them.

It’s likely you already know the beginning of the story, at least through Joe’s eyes. The high point of his young life, his election to the U.S. Senate, collided fatally with the low point: a car wreck in which his young wife and daughter were killed. Two young sons, Beau and Hunter, survived the wreck — to live with the wreckage. Because let’s be real, folks, as Joe Biden likes to say: The crash took their mother, but in a real sense, that election took their father. I don’t care how many Amtrak trains the ambitious young senator caught to kiss his sons’ foreheads as they drifted off to sleep, or how many rides the boys took on the Capitol Hill subway as Dad worked. Politics is a punishing life for the children involved — presidential politics especially. And Joe Biden has always been running for president.

Beau Biden coped by making himself into a chip off the old block. That left Hunter to find his own lane. As Entous details it, the youngest Biden tried the arts, law, finance, political influence peddling. The consistent themes are booze and cocaine. The profile groans under a litany of failed rehabs.

There’s an old saying about addiction. The man takes a drink (or a sniff), then the drink takes a drink, until the drink takes the man. It will take the bystanders, too, if they let it. Addiction is ravenous. But there was always someone in Joe Biden’s life to help him out with Hunter. It’s heartwarming when family and friends swoop in to care for the boys while Daddy serves the people of Delaware. But little boys have little needs, while big boys have bigger needs.

Soon enough, directionless Hunter has a six-figure job at a bank run by Biden supporters. When Hunter grows bored, there’s another lucrative job under the tutelage of a former Biden staffer. When Hunter wants a house he can’t afford, he receives a loan for 110 percent of the purchase price. And when he goes bust, another friendly banker mops up the damage.

Then his brother Beau contracts fatal brain cancer, and the last wobbly wheels come off Hunter Biden’s fragile self. At this point, the New Yorker piece becomes a gonzo nightmare — much of it narrated by Hunter himself — of hallucinations, a car abandoned in the desert, maxed-out credit cards, a crack pipe, a strip club and a brandished gun.

If, as the magazine headline put it, Hunter Biden now jeopardizes his father’s campaign, the article makes clear Joe Biden feels a share of the blame. Yet, by the time the senator was vice president, the folks still willing to help Hunter were of a sketchier variety. There was a Chinese businessman who, Hunter said, left him a large diamond as a nice-to-meet-you gift. And a Ukrainian oligarch who hired Hunter at a princely sum to do nothing much. (Neither the firm nor Hunter Biden identified any specific contribution he made). Joe Biden’s response, according to his son, was: “I hope you know what you are doing.”

Hope! What family of an addict hasn’t fallen back to that last trench? Denial, they say, is not just a river in Egypt.

In sum, the story of the Bidens, father and son, is more pathetic than nefarious. Yet it might do damage anyway. Less privileged Americans can’t be faulted if they wonder why their addicted loved ones are on the streets or in the morgue while the vice president’s son is blessed with diamonds and sinecures. Multitudes locked up for years under Joe Biden’s crime bill might ask why the author’s son traveled the world scot-free. And sober working people making $50,000 a year may be skeptical of a system in which a vice president’s addicted son reportedly collected that sum every month.

McCarthy calls on Pelosi to suspend Trump impeachment inquiry, accuses her of ‘recklessness’

Coming amid concerns by GOP lawmakers that they will be sidelined or shut out of the impeachment inquiry into Trump, McCarthy criticized Pelosi for the “swiftness and recklessness” which House committee chairs have proceeded with the impeachment inquiry and pleaded with the House speaker to ensure Republican participation in the proceedings.

“Unfortunately, you have given no clear indication as to how your impeachment inquiry will proceed – including whether key historical precedents or basic standards of due process will be observed,” McCarthy said in his letter. “In addition, the swiftness and recklessness with which you have proceeded has already resulted in committee chairs attempting to limit minority participation in scheduled interviews, calling into question the integrity of such an inquiry.”

HOUSE COMMITTEES SUBPOENA POMPEO FOR UKRAINE DOCUMENTS AS PART OF IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY

Hours after McCarthy’s letter was posted, Pelosi responded with her own note suggesting Democrats would not be hitting pause anytime soon. She wrote that “existing rules of the House provide House Committees with full authority to conduct investigations for all matters under their jurisdiction.”

Pelosi added: “We hope you and other Republicans share our commitment to following the facts, upholding the Constitution, protecting our national security, and defending the integrity of our elections at such a serious moment in our nation’s history.”

On Thursday night, McCarthy fired back. “Your proclamations of fairness fall flat when you deny a process that provides it. Simply put, you are failing to meet the basic standards of due process observed by past speakers of the House,” he wrote in a letter. “Without transparent and equitable rules and procedures, the American people will forever understand this sham process for what it is—the fulfillment of a partisan goal to reverse the 2016 election.”

McCarthy’s complaint about limiting Republican participation is a reference to reports that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., was limiting Republicans’ ability to ask questions during Thursday’s testimony by former U.S. envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker.

In his initial letter to Pelosi, McCarthy asked a number of questions, including whether Pelosi plans to hold a full House vote on authorizing the impeachment inquiry, whether she plans to grant subpoena powers to both the committee chairs and the ranking members, and whether she’ll allow Trump’s lawyers to attend the hearings.

After concerns were first raised about an “equal playing field” during the Volker session, Fox News is told Democrats made concessions and agreed to equal representation from Democratic and Republican counsels in the room. However, even though there are representatives from the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees, only the Intelligence Committee can ask questions.

Volker – who resigned from his post last week — testified Thursday in a closed-door interview about an anonymous whistleblower’s complaint about a July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s family’s dealings in the country.

Volker was expected to voluntarily give a transcribed interview before the Schiff-led Intelligence Committee as part of its impeachment inquiry into whether Trump abused his authority by asking Ukraine’s president to investigate Biden, a leading candidate for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination. Trump is being investigated amid claims that he threatened to withhold $400 million in military aid unless Ukraine investigated Biden, his son Hunter, and their business dealings in the country.

The House minority leader’s letter earned him the praise of President Trump, who also took the opportunity to slam the Democrats who opened the impeachment inquiry into him.

McCarthy’s questions come a day after the leading Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, said in a letter to Chairman Eliot L. Engel, D-N.Y., that despite statements made by Pelosi and other Democrats, “there is not a ‘House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry” because the entire House has not voted on the matter.

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Citing House Rules X and XI, McCaul said that until Congress members from both parties vote to create a special impeachment task force to carry out proceedings, “Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff lacks the jurisdiction to investigate the Department of State’s conduct of United States foreign policy toward Ukraine. That prerogative belongs to our Members.”

“Official impeachment inquiries are initiated by the adoption of a House resolution empowering or creating a committee or task force to undertake such activities,” McCaul continued. “In both the Nixon and Clinton cases, the Judiciary Committee debated and reported a resolution authorizing the Judiciary Committee to investigate whether there were sufficient grounds to impeach the President, which was then debated and voted on by the full House of Representatives. There have been no such debates or votes in this Congress.”

Trump Defends Conversation With Ukraine Leader

President calls for Kiev to investigate Biden as whistleblower complaint prompts congressional probe

WASHINGTON—President Trump defended a conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart as “totally appropriate” and reiterated his call for Kiev to investigate his potential 2020 opponent Joe Biden, as lawmakers look into the president’s and his lawyer’s efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to undertake such a probe.

Mr. Trump declined to say whether in a July conversation he had asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to have his government investigate Mr. Biden, the former vice president and now Democratic presidential candidate. But, Mr. Trump told reporters Friday: “Somebody ought to look into that,” referring to Mr. Biden.

Any probe of Mr. Biden centers on the then-vice president’s efforts to seek the ouster of former Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin, who had investigated a private Ukrainian gas company, Burisma Group, of which Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was a board member.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has accused Mr. Biden of acting to protect his son, even though Mr. Shokin had already completed his investigation of Burisma Group before he left office. Mr. Biden has said he sought Mr. Shokin’s ouster because he wasn’t doing enough to investigate corruption.

Yuriy Lutsenko, Ukraine’s current prosecutor general, told Bloomberg News in May he had no evidence of wrongdoing by Mr. Biden or his son.

Mr. Trump, during an event at the White House with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, said he didn’t know the identity of the whistleblower. But he also accused the whistleblower of partisan motivations and said his conversation with Mr. Zelensky “couldn’t have been better.”

Asked whether the whistleblower complaint involved the July call with Mr. Zelensky, the president said: “I really don’t know.”

Michael Atkinson, the Trump-appointed inspector general of the intelligence community, met Thursday morning with the House Intelligence Committee in a closed-session. Mr. Atkinson declined to tell lawmakers the substance of the complaint or if it involves the president, but he did say it involves more than one episode and is based on a series of events, according to multiple people who attended or were briefed on the meeting.