White House critics said Wednesday that Attorney General William Barr should be impeached following news that the Justice Department declined to investigate President Donald Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky.
In late August, according to the Washington Post, intelligence officials referred Trump’s call with Zelensky to the Justice Department as a possible campaign finance violation.
“Terrible implications for our democracy if DOJ is saying that the solicitation of opposition research by a candidate from foreign governments is totally legal and totally cool.”
—Rick Hasan, University of California, Irvine
A White House memo (pdf) on the call released Wednesday confirmed reports that Trump asked Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and offered Barr’s services.
“I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it,” Trump told Zelensky. “I’m sure you will figure it out.”
The Justice Department ultimately decided not to investigate the conversation. In a statement Wednesday, DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said the department “reviewed the official record of the call and determined, based on the facts and applicable law, that there was no campaign finance violation and that no further action was warranted.”
Buzzfeed, citing an anonymous senior Justice Department official, reported that the DOJ’s Criminal Division determined “the information discussed on the call didn’t amount to a ‘thing of value’ that could be quantified, which is what the campaign finance laws required.”
Kupec said Trump “has not asked the Attorney General to contact Ukraine—on this or any other matter.”
The Justice Department reportedly advised Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire to not release to Congress a whistleblower complaint involving Trump’s Ukraine call.
Rick Hasan, professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine, called the Justice Department’s conclusion “totally wrong.”
“Even [former Special Counsel Robert] Mueller concluded opposition research is a thing of value for campaign finance purposes,” Hasan tweeted. “Terrible implications for our democracy if DOJ is saying that the solicitation of opposition research by a candidate from foreign governments is totally legal and totally cool.”
Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said the Justice Department’s refusal to investigate the call “raises new questions.”
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) said the memo on the U.S. president’s call “is damning for Donald Trump and for those involved, including AG Barr.” Lieu echoed House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler’s (D-N.J.) demand that Barr recuse himself from all matters related to the Ukraine conversation.
The memo, tweeted Lieu, “confirms that Donald Trump requested a foreign power to investigate his political opponent, and it shows he wanted the Justice Department to also investigate his opponent, all to benefit his campaign.”
“This is soooo illegal,” Lieu said.