Two Democratic members of Congress are asking the Justice Department’s inspector general to open an investigation into whether the probe of Trump ally Tom Barrack, indicted earlier this week, “was inappropriately suppressed,” after CNN reported Wednesday that prosecutors had enough evidence to charge him last year.
Reps. Ted Lieu of California and Kathleen Rice of New York requested an “investigation into whether Mr. Barrack or any other friends of the former President were given special treatment by the Department of Justice during the last Administration, and whether his case was inappropriately suppressed.”
READ: Indictment of Tom Barrack in foreign lobbying case
“We understand prosecutorial discretion,” they wrote in a letter dated Thursday and obtained by CNN. “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.”
CNN reported that federal prosecutors wanted to move forward on the case and believed they could obtain an indictment, one source familiar with the matter said. The source said the investigation was largely completed well before the time period when prosecutors are discouraged from advancing politically sensitive matters ahead of an election.
But two sources told CNN the US attorney in Brooklyn at the time, Richard Donoghue, expressed misgivings about the case. 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.
William Barr, then the attorney general, had reservations about foreign lobbying cases, particularly since the Justice Department had struggled with such prosecutions in the past.
Barrack, the head of a real estate and private equity firm and a longtime Trump ally who served as chairman of his inaugural committee, was indicted Tuesday for illegal foreign lobbying on behalf of the United Arab Emirates in connection with what prosecutors described as an effort to influence the Trump campaign in 2016 and the first year of his administration.
In addition to asking the inspector general to examine the circumstances surrounding Barrack’s indictment, Lieu and Rice also requested the inquiry include a look at whether “any other friends of the former President were given special treatment by the Department of Justice during the last Administration.”