Two Democrat House members have asked the Justice Department's inspector general to investigate whether the probe of former President Donald Trump’s friend and ally Tom Barrack "was inappropriately suppressed" by the Trump administration, CNN reported.
Barrack, a real estate and private equity firm head, was indicted Tuesday for illegal foreign lobbying in connection with what prosecutors described as an effort to influence the 2016 Trump campaign and the first year of his administration.
On Wednesday, CNN reported that prosecutors had enough evidence to charge Barrack last year.
Reps. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., and Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., 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," CNN said.
"We understand prosecutorial discretion," the lawmakers 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."
Federal prosecutors had wanted to move forward on the case and believed they could obtain an indictment, said one CNN source, who added the probe largely was completed well before the time period during which prosecutors are discouraged from advancing politically sensitive matters ahead of an election.
CNN reported that two sources said the then-U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, Richard Donoghue, had reservations about the case.
CNN said it was unclear if Donoghue delayed the case outright or if prosecutors opted not to move forward knowing the U.S. Attorney would not support it.
Then-U.S. Attorney General William Barr was uneasy about foreign lobbying cases, CNN said, particularly because DOJ had struggled with such prosecutions in the past.
Lieu and Rice also asked the inspector general to investigate whether "any other friends of the former President were given special treatment by the Department of Justice during the last Administration."
Barrack, who served as chairman of Trump's inaugural committee, was indicted for illegal foreign lobbying on behalf of the United Arab Emirates. He was arrested along with another man for conspiring to influence Trump’s policy positions regarding the Arab nation, according to the DOJ.
Trump and Barrack have been friends for nearly 40 years but have had a bit of a falling out since 2019, according to a Politico article.
According to Politico, Trump became upset with Barrack over published reports about his role in getting foreign leaders to spend money to gain access to Trump and his inner circle.
"The president was really surprised to read all about the inauguration and who was trying to buy access and how, because the president doesn’t get any of that money," a senior administration official told Politico.
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