Barr Reportedly Told DOJ Officials To Try To Undermine Michael Cohen Conviction

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Although Cohen had already pleaded guilty and accepted a sentence, Barr questioned the charges’ legal merits.

The New York Times reports that according to anonymous sources, Attorney General William Barr may have attempted to undermine Michael Cohen’s conviction to a greater extent than was previously understood.

  • Cohen, a former attorney for President Donald J. Trump, pleaded guilty in December 2018 to violating campaign finance laws and acknowledged his role in paying hush money to two women who said they had affairs with Trump, the Times also reports.
  • Even though this took place prior to Barr’s appointment as attorney general, he apparently challenged the case early into his career beginning in 2019.
  • The Times suggests that this indicates a much longer build-up in the tense relationship with the United States attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York that culminated in the abrupt dismissal of Geoffrey S. Berman.
  • The Times explains, “Barr spent weeks in the spring of 2019 questioning the prosecutors over their decision to charge Mr. Cohen with violating campaign finance laws, according to” anonymous sources who had been briefed on the matter but were not authorized to speak publicly about it.
  • According to these anonymous sources, Barr even instructed Department of Justice officials to draft a memo outlining legal arguments that could raise questions about what the Times calls a “somewhat novel” use of campaign finance laws in Cohen’s conviction and impede future prosecution for similar crimes.
  • These same sources claim that the New York prosecutors resisted the effort, and ultimately Barr did not instruct them to withdraw the case.
  • The Times explains that Barr’s “unexpected involvement in such a politically sensitive case” may indicate that he already had plans to influence the Southern District of New York. The office had a reputation for being independent of the Capitol.
  • Sources claim that Barr told aides and federal prosecutors that the Southern District needed to be reined in.

The Times adds,

Ultimately, Mr. Berman, [who is a Republican and had donated to Trump’s 2016 campaign,] was ousted in a dizzying series of events, heightening criticism that Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr were purging the government of people perceived as disloyal to the White House.

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