In early February, Attorney General William Barr was forced to acknowledge that the Justice Department was accepting dirt on Joe Biden’s family provided by President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. This was after Giuliani had embarked on a very public mission to uncover politically damaging information about Biden’s son, Hunter, in Ukraine — including efforts that helped lead to Trump getting impeached. At the time, Barr attempted to dismiss the plainly obvious ethical concerns of entertaining Giuliani’s shady allegations, claiming that the DOJ had an obligation to accept such information from anyone, while also trying to downplay how seriously the department would take Rudy’s information. Barr said that he had “established an intake process” for evaluating the credibility of Giuliani’s dirt.
On Friday, the New York Times reported that the Justice Department took Giuliani’s allegations far more seriously than Barr let on they would. That “intake process” included Barr tasking Pittsburgh-based U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady with evaluating Giuliani’s so-called evidence, which led Brady to open an investigation into Hunter Biden, on top of another probe led by federal prosecutors in Delaware.
In other words, the president’s personal attorney — who was himself under investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan over his own business ties to Ukraine — was successfully able to get the Justice Department to open a new, suspicious investigation into the family of the president’s political opponent during an election year.
The investigation based on Giuliani’s very shady dirt led to no charges, according to the Times, but Brady apparently had taken the matter very seriously: He had multiple meetings with Giuliani and Giuliani’s lawyer, who sent Brady reams of documents. The aggressive and unusual inquiry raised plenty of red flags in the Justice Department:
Colleagues saw Mr. Brady, whom Mr. Trump nominated to the post in 2017, as a deeply partisan leader. While an assistant prosecutor in the office during the George W. Bush administration, he said he would never serve a Democrat, and he left after former President Barack Obama was elected …
Officials said that Mr. Brady almost immediately started pushing to take aggressive steps … The steps were outside “normal investigative procedures,” one former senior law enforcement official with knowledge of the events said, particularly in an election year; Justice Department policy typically forbids investigators from making aggressive moves before elections that could affect the outcome of the vote if they become public.
The Times reports that FBI officials balked at Brady’s requests to ramp up the investigation in a way that could disrupt the election:
Mr. Brady’s demands soon prompted a tense confrontation with F.B.I. officials at the bureau’s headquarters in Washington. The meeting was mediated by Seth D. DuCharme, now the acting U.S. attorney in Brooklyn and at the time a trusted aide and ally of Mr. Barr’s at the Justice Department in Washington.
The F.B.I. viewed the investigative steps into Mr. Biden that Mr. Brady sought as unwarranted because the Delaware inquiry involving money laundering had fizzled out and because they were skeptical of Mr. Giuliani’s material. For example, they had already examined a laptop owned by Mr. Biden and an external hard drive that had been abandoned at a computer store in Wilmington and found nothing to advance the inquiry.
But Brady kept pressuring the FBI, and agents subsequently “found ways to ostensibly satisfy Mr. Brady without upending the election.”