The Justice Department has appointed U.S. attorneys in New York and Pennsylvania to coordinate federal investigations into Ukraine-related matters, including new information collected by President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
In a letter sent Tuesday to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and obtained by The Associated Press, the department said that Richard Donoghue, U.S. Attorney for Eastern District of New York, has been assigned to coordinate any investigations and other Ukraine related-matters. Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote that Scott Brady, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, will assist in the “receipt, processing and preliminary analysis of new information provided by the public that may be relevant to matters relating to Ukraine.”
Attorney General William Barr said last week that the department is taking in information that Giuliani is gathering in Ukraine about the president’s Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son. Barr’s comments came a day after Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a close ally of Trump, said Barr told him the department had “created a process that Rudy could give information and they would see if it’s verified.”
Democrats sharply criticized the process, saying it raised serious concerns because Biden is one of Trump’s political rivals. The Democratic-controlled House voted to impeach Trump in December for pressing Ukraine to investigate the Bidens while putting a hold on military aid to the country. The GOP-led Senate acquitted Trump of the two charges, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, this month.
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The letter to Nadler included a memo to all U.S. attorneys and federal law enforcement heads informing them that Donoghue had been assigned to “coordinate existing matters and to assess, investigate and address any other matters relating to Ukraine, including the opening of any new investigations or the expansion of existing ones.” It directed those officials to notify and consult with Donoghue and said all new matters related to Ukraine would be directed exclusively to the Eastern District of New York.
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President Donald Trump faces a formal impeachment inquiry led in the Democratic-controlled House after he asked the newly elected Ukrainian president to investigate one of his chief political rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Credit: Noreen O'Donnell, Nelson Hsu, Nina Lin/NBC
Boyd said the appointment of Donoghue and Brady does not circumvent the department’s established channels, and that “such information will be carefully evaluated and vetted by the department before investigatory steps, if any, are taken.”
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Barr cautioned last week that federal officials have to be cautious with information coming from Ukraine.
“The DOJ has the obligation to have an open door to anybody who wishes to provide us information that they think is relevant,” he said. “But as I did say to Senator Graham, we have to be very careful with respect to any information coming from the Ukraine. There are a lot of agendas in the Ukraine, a lot of cross currents. And we can't take anything we received from Ukraine at face value.”
Giuliani himself is also under investigation. Federal prosecutors in New York are investigating Giuliani’s business dealings, including whether he failed to register as a foreign agent, according to people familiar with the matter. They were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The former New York City mayor was a main character in impeachment, which centered on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine’s president and whether he abused his office by seeking the investigation into the Bidens. Giuliani pressured officials to do the investigations and has been pushing unsubstantiated corruption allegations against Joe Biden and his son.
Hunter Biden served on the board of a gas company in Ukraine while his father managed the U.S. government’s Ukraine portfolio under President Barack Obama.