A new leak from the Justice Department suggests that the Mueller investigation was not the first investigation that William Barr buried as Attorney General. A few hours ago (from when I wrote this), Reuters published an exclusive report revealing a huge stinky previously unknown scandal that has Attorney General, William Barr in the crosshairs. www.reuters.com/…
Before William Barr became Trump’s Attorney General, he represented Caterpillar Inc, a Fortune 100 company, in a federal criminal investigation of it by DOJ. A week after Barr was nominated for the job of Attorney General, officials at main Justice in Washington ordered the investigative team in the active criminal probe of Caterpillar to take “no further action” in the case.
As Reuters reports, the circumstances were highly unusual:
“Bruce A. Green, a former federal prosecutor who teaches at Fordham Law School, said it is not unheard of for attorney generals to have clients who had business before the DOJ. … But Green said he could not recall a case where agents were told to take no further action on a matter involving an incoming attorney general’s former client without some kind of explanation. “Why would you just stop?” he asked.”
The case that was shut down was far from an insignificant matter. Rather, DOJ was investigating an elaborate multi-billion-dollar scheme that Barr’s former client, Caterpillar, set up to shift billions of dollars of profits to an overseas subsidiary for what it admitted was purposes of avoiding payment of United States income taxes. (To avoid any confusion about the issue, it is important to note that many types of morally repugnant corporate income tax avoidance are legal. However, others are not. The issue that DOJ was investigating was whether Caterpillar’s tax avoidance strategy was illegal and fraudulent.)
According to Reuters:
“The government’s questions about Caterpillar’s tax structure started with a whistleblower lawsuit in 2009 that laid out what it said was a complex “tax dodge” to route Caterpillar profits on parts sales through a company in Switzerland. Then, in 2014, the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations dug into the issue, and alleged the company adopted a sales strategy that ‘shifted billions of dollars in profits away from the United States and into Switzerland, where Caterpillar had negotiated an effective corporate tax rate of 4% to 6%.’ The Senate investigators quoted company insiders who said the system was structured for “tax avoidance.”
…The next year, a federal grand jury in Illinois launched a criminal investigation. In March 2017, federal agents raided three Caterpillar offices, wheeling out evidence in large black plastic boxes. In a report written for the government, a consultant for the investigators, Leslie Robinson, called the tax strategy ‘fraudulent rather than negligent.’”
Here’s where the story starts to get interesting:
“Two weeks after the raid, Caterpillar Chief Executive Jim Umpleby announced the hiring of Barr as company counsel. Barr would “take a fresh look at Caterpillar’s disputes with the government, get all the facts, and then help us bring these matters to proper resolution based on the merits.”
Caterpillar’s decision to seek out Bill Barr to represent it in this particular matter seems really odd, at least on the surface. The case was a highly complex tax matter that hinged on nuanced interpretations of arcane tax regulations and guidance materials. Matters such as this are usually handled by highly specialized tax attorneys, yet Bill Barr was not a tax attorney at all. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Barr
Caterpillar certainly had the means to hire one of the best tax attorneys in the nation but chose Bill Barr instead. Why? At that time, Barr had already served as Attorney General of the United States under Bush Sr., and was best known for having successfully deep-sixed the Iran Contra Investigation. www.vice.com/… Caterpillar’s selection of Barr as its lead counsel suggests that it did not have confidence in resolving its own case on the merits and instead decided to hire a fixer who had both the background and the high level connections that could make the case go away.
Fast forward one year. Per Reuters again:
“In November 2018, as the White House scanned potential lawyers to take the job of the attorney general, Barr’s name was among those floated. On December 7, the White House announced his selection. …
In January 2019, Robinson, a professor at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, sent a note to FDIC agent LeBeau asking if the case was “dead or progressing.” … ‘Quite frankly I am somewhat in the dark as well,’ LeBeau replied. He said he had understood that a new U.S. attorney was in discussions with Caterpillar, but knew little more. ‘I know the process is going incredibly slow.’(underline added)
This October, Robinson communicated again with the investigators. In emails reviewed by Reuters, she asked what had happened to the case, explaining that a Reuters reporter had inquired. That’s when LeBeau explained, copying other agents and a prosecutor on the email, that they had been told to take no further action a week after Barr’s nomination 20 months ago. (underline added)
‘We were given no additional explanation,’ he wrote.”
Interestingly, Barr had a familiar accomplice in burying this investigation:
“The decision, the email said, came from the Justice Department’s Tax Division and the office of the deputy attorney general, who was then Rod Rosenstein.”
The full story is here: www.reuters.com/…
Bill Barr has certainly been an odd Attorney General. I have often pondered what compelled him at his age and with his experience to actively seek to be Trump’s Attorney General. www.google.com/… It was clear that he had an agenda. However, his agenda was not at all clear to me.
My ponderings turned to horror when William Barr, once nominated and confirmed, broke so many longstanding Department policies to protect Trump. I know what he did (at least the part that has been publicly disclosed). However, I don’t know what his true motives were. He remains a paradox to me. I know that I am not the only one thinking that there has to be more to the Barr story. A whole lot more. The Caterpillar case is not the answer to the Barr paradox. However, it may be the beginning of a trail of clues (or crimes) that could lead to an answer.
This scandal is too new to have been given a name yet by the media. To avoid it getting lost in the increasing banal queue of ”___–gate” scandals and pseudo scandals, I suggest that we name it “The Case of the Debarred Butterfly Larva.” Now that the story has broken, I hope that the scuttling of this case be will be thoroughly examined by Joe Biden’s new Attorney General, one of the countless issues concerning Trump and his henchmen that the new AG will need to investigate after January 20th.
Finally, this is a new DOJ leak. I doubt that it’s timing is a coincidence. I also doubt that it will be the last leak regarding Barr’s tenure as AG. With nobody outside of Trumpland still denying that Joe Biden will be President on January 20, 2021, more leaks like this are likely to come. Each one will bring us a bit close to the truth about Barr and/or Trump. If the entire truth about either is ever revealed, I suspect that it will be uglier than anyone, other than a sociopath like they are, could ever imagine.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.