Attorney General William Barr confirmed that the Justice Department theoretically would assess information from Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s Ukraine-related investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden.
“We had established an intake process in the field so that any information coming in about Ukraine could be carefully scrutinized by the department and its intelligence community partners so that we could assess its provenance and its credibility,” Barr said during a Justice Department press conference on Monday. “That is true for any information that comes to the department related to the Ukraine, including any information Mr. Giuliani might provide.”
Barr’s comments came after Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham announced on Sunday that Barr told him he was “receiving information coming out of Ukraine” from Giuliani and that DOJ “would see if it’s verified.”
The South Carolina Republican said he’d spoken with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and Barr about how to handle Giuliani’s foray into Ukraine, which was a part of the recent impeachment effort against President Trump. Graham said the two men told him to “take very cautiously anything coming out of the Ukraine against anybody.”
Giuliani has said he is “ramping up” his investigations into the Bidens following Trump’s acquittal by the Senate.
In January, the DOJ rejected as “100% false” allegations made by Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Giuliani, that Barr was “absolutely” involved in Giuliani’s Ukraine scheme. Last month, DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said the department’s position “has not changed” since September, when the Ukraine controversy broke via an anonymous whistleblower complaint, and the department emphatically distanced itself from Giuliani’s efforts.
A DOJ official confirmed with the Washington Examiner on Monday that the department stood by its September statement. The DOJ official said a process had been set up outside of DOJ headquarters to determine the accuracy of any information Giuliani or others might obtain from Ukraine.
“The President has not spoken with the Attorney General about having Ukraine investigate anything relating to former Vice President Biden or his son, and the President has not asked the Attorney General to contact Ukraine — on this or any other matter,” the DOJ said last year. “The Attorney General has not communicated with Ukraine — on this or any other subject. Nor has the Attorney General discussed this matter, or anything relating to Ukraine, with Rudy Giuliani.”
During a Monday press conference announcing indictments against Chinese military hackers, Barr said he was open to receiving information from Ukraine but would be careful to ensure it wasn’t disinformation.
“The DOJ has the obligation to have an open door to anybody who wishes to provide us information that they think is relevant. But as I did say to Sen. Graham, we have to be very careful with respect to any information coming from the Ukraine,” Barr said. “There are a lot of agendas in the Ukraine, a lot of cross-currents, and we can’t take anything we receive from the Ukraine at face value.”
Barr was reportedly dismayed to discover Trump grouped him in with Giuliani during a controversial phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July. A transcript showed Trump saying Giuliani could help the country investigate the Bidens.
“I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call, and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call, and we will get to the bottom of it,” Trump told Zelensky.
In the call, immediately after Zelensky expressed interest in purchasing anti-tank weaponry known as Javelins, Trump asked Zelensky “to do us a favor though,” to look into a CrowdStrike conspiracy theory and possible Ukrainian election interference in 2016. Trump later urged Zelensky to investigate “the other thing,” referring to allegations of corruption related to the Bidens.
The FBI’s Deputy Director David Bowdich was pressed on Monday about how the DOJ receiving information from Giuliani was different from it receiving information from British ex-spy Christopher Steele, whose unverified dossier was used in Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants targeting Trump campaign associate Carter Page. The former MI6 agent was paid by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which had been hired by the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee through an intermediary.
“I will stand on the attorney general’s previous answer,” Bowdich said. “We’re taking information as we would in any case. We will evaluate it appropriately.”
“I’m not going to be the Republican Christopher Steele,” Graham said on Sunday.
When asked if the FBI was investigating the Bidens, the FBI deputy director declined to say. Last week, a memo from Barr made it clear that the FBI must obtain the attorney general’s signoff before investigating any 2020 candidates or campaigns.
“I’m not going to talk about any investigation, as I never would. We don’t talk about open investigations,” Bowdich said.