Two Democratic members of Congress, including Reps. Ted Lieu (Calif.) and Kathleen Rice (N.Y.), have now asked the inspector general overseeing the Justice Department to investigate whether an investigation of Trump ally Tom Barrack “was inappropriately suppressed” during the Trump era. Barrack has been criminally charged with illegal lobbying on behalf of the United Arab Emirates, and CNN reports that, based on revelations from a source, “the investigation was largely completed well before the time period when prosecutors are discouraged from advancing politically sensitive matters ahead of an election” — but it didn’t move forward until now.
Lieu and Rice wrote as follows:
‘We understand prosecutorial discretion. But that discretion can never be based on how wealthy or connected a defendant happens to be. No one should be above the law, not the former President and not his friends. A bedrock foundation of our democracy is that every person is treated equally under the law.’
Barrack, besides his general alignment with Trump, even served as the chair of the committee that handled the festivities around Trump’s presidential inauguration in 2017. CNN notes that then-U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue harbored “misgivings” about moving forward with the Barrack case during the Trump era, adding that it’s “unclear if he delayed the case outright or if prosecutors chose not to move forward at the time knowing the US attorney would not support it.” Either way, the case is now going ahead, adding to the legal trouble for those in the former president’s orbit. Longtime top Trump company executive Allen Weisselberg has been criminally charged, for instance — alongside the company itself — for a scheme to evade taxes on expensive benefits for executives.
Michael Horowitz, the inspector general overseeing the Justice Department, has already opened an investigation into another Trump era issue. Specifically, he is examining the obtaining by Trump era officials of communication records of two Democratic members of Congress along with family members and staffers of both. That data ended up in the Trump administration’s possession as part of an investigation into leaks of government information. Relatedly, Horowitz is also investigating the Trump Justice Department’s attempts to obtain communications data of certain journalists from prominent outlets.