Federal probe involving Giuliani is reportedly 'moving forward'

Are the officials investigating Giuliani alerting the public in case Attorney General Bill Barr tries to pull the plug on the probe?
Image: Rudy Giuliani
Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, attends the U.S. Supreme Court nomination announcement ceremony in the East Room of the White House on July 9, 2018. President Donald Trump said he would nominate Judge Brett Kavanaugh for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, a choice that could create the most conservative court in generations and threaten landmark rulings including the Roe v. Wade abortion-rights decision. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesAndrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

It was just last weekend when Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) divulged that the Justice Department has "created a process" to receive information from Rudy Giuliani. It was an unsettling revelation for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Donald Trump's personal lawyer has spent months chasing ghosts and shadows in eastern Europe, while cavorting with figures of dubious reliability.

Nevertheless, Attorney General Bill Barr soon after confirmed Graham's version of events was accurate: the Justice Department, Barr acknowledged, established an "intake process" through which Giuliani could peddle dirt on the Bidens directly to federal law enforcement.

It was against this backdrop that the Washington Post reported over the weekend that Rudy Giuliani is still facing a federal criminal investigation -- and it was just two weeks ago when federal prosecutors in New York "contacted witnesses and sought to collect additional documents" related to the probe.

The recent steps -- including an interview with a witness last week -- indicate that the probe involving Giuliani and two of his former associates is moving forward, even as the Justice Department has set up a process to evaluate claims Giuliani is making about alleged wrongdoing in Ukraine related to former vice president Joe Biden.

That is, of course, an important point. Indeed, it points to circumstances that are tough to defend: the Justice Department is both investigating Giuliani and accepting dirt from Giuliani simultaneously. Or as the Post's report added, "The parallel developments mean that one part of the Justice Department is scrutinizing Giuliani while another is accepting information from him allegedly concerning a political rival of the president."

What could possibly go wrong?

But while that context is important, we can also take an even broader view and consider why this was in the Washington Post in the first place.

While I'm not privy to the newspaper's sources, it's not exactly a secret that Attorney General Bill Barr has repeatedly intervened in cases of political interest to the president, American norms and the integrity of the rule of law notwithstanding. Similarly, there are reports of prosecutors looking over their shoulders, wondering when and whether Barr will show up at their door and take a hands-on role in politically sensitive investigations.

With this in mind, what do you suppose the odds are that the federal officials investigating Giuliani want the public to know about their ongoing work in case the attorney general pulls the plug on the probe? Or more to the point, how likely is it that these officials reached out to reporters in the hopes that the public attention would prevent Barr from shutting them down?