The Justice Department had not always been on the side of full transparency


Some time after The Washington Post began reporting on the nature of the whistleblower’s complaint about Trump’s phone call, the Justice Department pushed to release the rough transcript. Leaders there believed that doing so could quell the budding controversy, because in his conversation with Zelensky, Trump did not explicitly push for a quid pro quo tying Ukrainian aid to the politically beneficial investigations he sought. The White House was initially resistant.

The Justice Department had not always been on the side of full transparency, blocking transmission of the whistleblower complaint to Congress after its Office of Legal Counsel determined it was not appropriate to do so – even though the intelligence community inspector general felt the law required it to be handed over. Unbeknown to the public, the department weighed whether to investigate a potential campaign finance crime, though ultimately concluded there was not sufficient basis to do so after an inquiry limited essentially to reviewing the rough transcript of the Trump-Zelensky call.

Though Barr did not hold a news conference clearing Trump of any wrongdoing, the Justice Department did issue its statement saying it would not investigate the matter – at least for campaign finance violations. While that was a partial win for Trump, it has allowed Congress to expedite its impeachment inquiry without fear of impeding law enforcement – and make public unflattering testimony about the president and his allies’ dealings in Ukraine.

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