Both the Director of National Intelligence and the Intelligence Community Inspector General referred the whistleblowers' complaint to the Justice Department in late August.
Those notifications kicked off the Justice Department's analysis of whether there was a possible violation of a campaign finance criminal statute. The inspector general also referred the matter to the FBI for criminal investigation separately.
Notably, the DNI contacted Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) for guidance. It was that office that determined the complaint could be looked at as a possible criminal matter.
So what was Barr’s role and who made the decision there was no criminal violation? Barr had “minimal involvement” in the Justice Department’s handling of the referral, an official briefed on the matter said.
The criminal division, led by Brian Benczkowski, and the office of Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen primarily dealt with the legal analysis under criminal law — though the final decision also involved the heads of the National Security Division and the Office of Legal Counsel. The career prosecutors from the public integrity section and other lawyers worked on the assessment that arrived at the final decision that there was no criminal violation.
"All relevant components of the Department agreed with this legal conclusion," Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec said.
Here's a timeline of events, according to senior DOJ officials:
- August 12: Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (ICIG) got the whistleblower's complaint.
- August 26: ICIG sent letter to DNI, saying the complaint appeared to be credible
- The last week of August: The DNI contacted OLC. This is how the matter first came to the attention of the Justice Department. OLC made clear that a criminal referral could be appropriate, so it was treated as a referral. Essentially around the same time, the ICIG also reached out to the DOJ, referencing a possible violation of the campaign finance criminal statute
- After that: The Criminal Division then began looking into it, interviewing knowledgeable people at the White House about how the transcript was created, but not about the actual substance of the call
- September 3: OLC issued its memo to the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence
- September 4: Referral from ICIG to FBI — the FBI notified Justice Department about it verbally and also made a written referral
- Last week: Final criminal analysis completed