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Attorney General Barr lunched at Dan Webb’s law firm on secret November trip to Chicago

Webb, a former federal prosecutor, said they “never discussed what Barr’s plans are when he leaves the Department of Justice.”

Attorney General William Barr speaks to reporters about Operation Legend in Chicago in September. 
Attorney General William Barr
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

WASHINGTON — When Attorney General William Barr made a personal visit to Chicago last month, one of his stops included a private lunch at the Winston & Strawn law firm with longtime friend Dan Webb, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

In response to questions from the Chicago Sun-Times, Webb confirmed Thursday that the two “had a private lunch in Chicago.”

The lunch was at the firm’s downtown Chicago offices, which raised the question of whether Barr was in play to join the firm when he leaves the Justice Department.

But Webb said they “never discussed what Barr’s plans are when he leaves the Department of Justice.”

The lunch took place before stories broke that Barr was considering stepping down before President Donald Trump’s term ends Jan. 20.

Webb said he and Barr have been friends for years. The Republicans met when Barr was U.S. attorney general for the first time, serving from 1991 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush and Webb, in private practice, was working on a project for the Justice Department.

Webb joined Winston & Strawn in 1985 after his stint as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. He most recently has been in the news after a Cook County judge appointed Webb and his law firm to probe State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s controversial handling of criminal charges against actor Jussie Smollett.

Barr’s legal home has been in another law firm with Chicago roots. Barr was “of counsel” at Kirkland & Ellis in 2009, then returned to the firm in 2017.

Barr’s Nov. 18 trip to Chicago caught the mayor’s office and Chicago Police Department leadership by surprise and led to the reassignment of a veteran police lieutenant, the Sun-Times has previously reported.

A representative for U.S. Attorney John Lausch’s office also told the Sun-Times Barr did not meet with anyone from the local federal prosecutors’ office.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec told the Sun-Times last month that Barr’s Chicago swing was “a personal trip” and declined to provide any details.

Sources told the Sun-Times Lt. Patrick Quinn was pulled from the Crime Prevention and Information Center in police headquarters and sent to the Rogers Park District on the North Side after Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPD brass learned of Barr’s visit during a conference call Nov. 17 — one day before the nation’s top law enforcement officer was to arrive in Chicago.

Lightfoot was made aware of Barr’s trip during that weekly call with CPD leadership. Near the conclusion of the call, one officer noted some department members were monitoring for potential protests the next day, sources said. It was then that the officer disclosed to Lightfoot and CPD leadership that Barr would be in Chicago.

“That’s when the sparks started flying,” said a high-ranking CPD source familiar with the call.

The Crime Prevention and Information Center, known as CPIC, is in the CPD’s Bronzeville headquarters; it works to coordinate intelligence and law enforcement efforts among local, state and federal agencies.

Quinn has been with CPD for 19 years and is well-respected among colleagues. “His institutional knowledge can’t be touched by anyone in this department. We are actually weaker now because of this,” another police source said.

Barr was also in Chicago in September, touting “Operation Legend,” a federal initiative aimed at curbing violent crime. CPD officials declined to join Barr at his news conference, which Barr said was “just the way things roll here in Chicago.” Lightfoot later told reporters the city would not be used as a “prop” by an administration that has continued to “bad-mouth Chicago, making misleading and outright false statements.”