William Barr was invited to meet justice department officials last summer, on the same day he submitted an “unsolicited” memo that heavily criticized special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into obstruction of justice by Donald Trump.
Barr, who was a private attorney at the time, met the officials for lunch three weeks later and was then nominated to serve as Trump’s attorney general about six months later.
The revelation about the meeting, which was arranged by Steve Engel, the head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice, and which has not previously been publicly disclosed, raises new questions about whether the White House’s decision to hire Barr was influenced by private discussions he had about his legal views on Mueller’s investigation. …
In written answers to questions posed by senators as part of his confirmation hearing, Barr said he had provided copies of his memo to Rosenstein and Engel on 8 June 2018. He said he had discussed his legal opinions with Rosenstein at lunch in early 2018 and then later, on a separate occasion, he briefly discussed his views with Engel. He then said in written answers that after writing the memo: “There was no follow-up from any of these Department officials”.
But a person with knowledge of the matter said that Engel extended an invitation to Barr on 8 June last year – the day the memo arrived at the justice department – for a “brown bag” lunch, in which he was invited to speak to justice department staff.
The lunch then occurred on 27 June.
A spokeswoman for the DoJ confirmed that the lunch occurred. “The timing was coincidental and the memo was not discussed,” the spokeswoman said.
“This revelation adds yet another data point that suggests Barr’s outlandish memo signaled he would protect Mr Trump even on highly dubious or erroneous legal grounds, and that he was swept into the administration on that basis,” said Ryan Goodman, a law professor at NYU and former special counsel at the Department of Defense.
Did Barr lie to Congress? Sure looks like it to me. Out of the blue, Barr delivers his infamous memo to the DoJ. On that same day the DoJ invites him to a lunch which occurred 19 days later. And we are to believe that the “memo was not discussed” at that lunch? If the memo was discussed at that lunch, then Barr did indeed lie to Congress when he testified that after writing the memo: “There was no follow-up from any of these Department officials.”
Another damning piece of the puzzle: The DoJ official who invited Barr to lunch was Steve Engel. His job is to liaise with the White House on legal matters. Engel is a die hard Trump supporter. He wrote the memo justifying Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker as Acting Attorney General despite the fact that Whitaker was never confirmed by the Senate. It’s just beyond belief that Engel wasn’t coordinating in some way between Trump and Barr to ensure that the next AG’s allegiance would be to Trump and not the rule of law.
It’s high time that Barr be hauled into Congress to testify again. The House Judiciary Committee must ask him: Are you pursuing the truth, as is your sworn duty, or are you actually part of a conspiracy to obstruct justice?