In the run-up to former U.S. Attorney for the District Columbia Jessie Liu’s resignation from the Trump administration earlier this month, she was under intense political pressure, according to new reports.
Now, Liu is beginning to look like another casualty in President Donald Trump’s war on supposedly “disloyal” officials. Multiple reports paint a picture of a prosecutor stuck between politics and the law. Liu was even reportedly been targeted by an effort spearheaded by Ginni Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to root out members of the “deep state.”
Central to the pressures facing Liu’s office was the President’s years-long grudge against the fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. The McCabe case was only recently closed without an indictment, to Trump’s great rage.
Liu left her U.S. attorney post earlier than planned this month, reportedly at Attorney General Bill Barr’s urging. And though she was at first offered a new job — a Senate-confirmed, high-profile post at the Treasury Department — a conservative Senate staffer reportedly used the McCabe case to argue against Liu’s nomination.
After reportedly reading a memo by the staffer, Trump withdrew Liu’s nomination to the post.
According to a New York Times report Sunday, Liu’s relationship with Barr grew strained in September, after two teams of prosecutors failed to deliver an indictment against McCabe, who was found in an internal DOJ leak investigation to have lacked “candor.”
After an initial team from Liu’s office found it couldn’t win a conviction against McCabe, the Times said, Liu put another team on the case. In September, those line prosecutors impaneled a grand jury, but no indictment was ever approved.
The pressure on Liu from Barr, and the public pressure to go after McCabe from a President who tweeted frequently about the defendant, were extremely unusual.
Liu ultimately left the U.S. Attorney’s office at Barr’s urging. She’d planned to wait until she was confirmed by the Senate for her new post as Treasury Department undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes before leaving her job as the top federal prosecutor in D.C.
But Barr asked her to leave early, expressing concern about a drawn-out nomination, the Times reported. And when she acquiesced, he replaced her with his adviser Timothy Shea on an interim basis.
The fallout from the non-indictment against McCabe would follow Liu through the Treasury Department nomination process.
According to an Axios report Sunday, an influential Republican Senate staffer used the McCabe case as an argument against placing Liu in the Treasury post.
The staffer, Barbara Ledeen, was involved in the search for the emails Hillary Clinton stored on her private email server, an effort that put her in touch with former Trump adviser Michael Flynn. Earlier this month, Ledeen successfully lobbied the President to ditch Liu via a memo that cited the McCabe case and that Liu’s office initially recommended jail time for former national security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Also, according to Axios, Ledeen’s memo objected to the lack of criminal charges from Liu’s office against some of then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers.
The Washington Post initially reported Ledeen’s lobbying, which she denied.
According to Axios, Ledeen is among those in a Thomas-led network of conservatives, known as “Groundswell,” advocating against administration officials seen as disloyal to Trump. CNN reported that Thomas and Ledeen have worked to make lists of such administration officials.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in D.C. declined TPM’s request for comment. Neither McCabe’s legal team nor the Justice Department responded to a request for comment, nor did the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Ledeen works as a majority staffer.
Even without an indictment against McCabe — and even with Liu gone — the Trump administration’s efforts continued. Several reports indicated earlier this month that Barr had assigned another U.S. Attorney, Jeff Jensen of St. Louis, to look into the beginning of the FBI’s probe into Flynn; McCabe arranged the meeting in which Flynn allegedly lied to the Bureau.