The Justice Department took less than a month to abandon an inquiry into President Donald Trump’s communications with his Ukrainian counterpart about investigating Joe Biden, reigniting concerns among critics that DOJ is serving as a shield for the commander in chief, the Washington Post reports. A few weeks after intelligence leaders asked the department to examine a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the head of the department’s criminal division decided there was not sufficient cause even for an investigation. DOJ lawyers reviewed a rough transcript of the call and verified its authenticity, but took no other steps, such as conducting interviews. They looked only at whether Trump might have violated campaign finance laws, not corruption statutes, even though some analysts said there seemed to be evidence of both.
Officials say Attorney General William Barr wasn’t involved in the decision to not investigate the July 25 phone call. Repeatedly in the call, Trump pressed Zelensky to launch an investigation into Biden and his son. He interspersed his demands with references to help that the U.S. had given Ukraine, and a vague promise of how Zelensky might be able to meet Trump at the White House. Trump mentioned that Barr, and his personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, could aid the inquiries he wanted. Legal analysts said that was suggestive not only that Trump was seeking a contribution from a foreigner — which would violate campaign finance laws — but that he also seemed to hint at a corrupt bargain in which Zelensky would get a White House meeting or other help in exchange for digging up dirt on Trump’s foe. Senior Justice Department officials said campaign finance laws required them to “quantify” the value of what Trump was seeking for his campaign, and that was impossible to do.