Attorney General Bill Barr signaled that an ongoing investigation into the origins of the probe into Russian electoral interference and possible ties with members of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign could bear fruit as late as the eve of the 2020 presidential election.
Speaking with conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday, Barr was asked a series of questions about the Russiagate genesis probe currently being led by Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham, infamous in the legal community for leading two separate investigations that whitewashed the Central Intelligence Agency’s use and coverup of torture during the second Bush administration.
“The investigation of U.S. Attorney John Durham into the circumstances surrounding the surveillance of President Trump’s campaign, transition and early administration, does that investigation remain on track, undisturbed by the virus?” Hewitt asked.
“Yes,” Barr replied.
“There are guidelines concerning the announcement of indictments or closing of investigations prior to the election,” Hewitt continued–getting to the heart of the matter. “When is that deadline for U.S. Attorney Durham and do you think he will make it? Either to disclose indictments or to disclose that the investigation is over?”
“As far as I’m aware, none of the key people that–whose actions are being reviewed at this point are running for president,” Barr said.
“But would not the announcement of indictments after a time certain have an impact on the election of the sort that the U.S. Attorney’s Manual recommends against?” Hewitt pressed.
“Well, what is the sort that the manual recommends against?” Barr asked.
“As I recall, this came up with director Comey making his announcement and the concerns in 2016 that he had acted improvidently during the run-up to the election. I don’t recall what the exact timing is,” Hewitt explained.
“Yeah, but that was directly as to a candidate,” Barr noted.
“Oh, so it would not matter in your view if there is an investigation and the day before the election someone is indicted?” Hewitt asked.
To which Barr replied [emphasis added]:
Well, there–you know–I think, you know, in its core, the idea is: you don’t go after candidates. You don’t indict candidates–or perhaps someone that’s sufficiently close to a candidate that is essentially the same, you know, within a certain number of days before an election. But, you know, as I say, I don’t think any of the people whose actions are under review by Durham fall into that category.
“That’s big news to me,” Hewitt exclaimed. “I had assumed that they would be in the category of people that could not be indicted given the obvious connection to President Trump.”
In early 2019, Barr authorized Durham to began the by-now-nearly-complete inquiry into the origins of the election interference and obstruction of justice probe led by former special counsel Robert Mueller. In the fall of 2019, Durham’s probe officially became criminal in nature.
Legal experts have long been wary of the Durham investigation–due both to Durham’s pedigree of protecting CIA lawbreakers and for the circumstances leading up to Barr’s initiation of the probe probing the probe.
“With all due respect to people who say otherwise, there is no reason to trust John Durham who buried Bush Admin[istration] torture crimes [and] has signed on to this obviously corrupt endeavor,” former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega said at the time.
Durham’s own behavior since the probe began also hasn’t done much to inspire confidence in the eventual outcome of his investigation.
In late 2019, Durham elicited concern and outrage after he criticized DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz.
“What the heck is a U.S. Attorney doing commenting on what he believes or doesn’t believe should or shouldn’t be in an inspector general report,” Law&Crime founder Dan Abrams said at the time. “It should be the other way around. Inspectors general should be commenting on how FBI agents, U.S. Attorneys and others they do their jobs. It is just astonishing.”
[image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]