Attorney General William Barr on Monday disputed allegations that the Department of Justice’s now-criminal probe into the origins of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling is politically motivated.
Speaking to reporters from Fox News during a law enforcement event in Chicago, Barr unequivocally rejected critics who have said his decision to appoint Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham to investigate the investigators amounted to “political revenge” against the enemies of President Donald Trump.
“That’s completely wrong and there is no basis for it,” Barr said when asked about claims from Democrats that he’s been behaving like the president’s personal attorney. “I act on behalf of the United States.”
The Justice Department last week transitioned Durham’s administrative review of the probe into a criminal investigation with the power to convene a grand jury and issue subpoenas for witness testimony.
“He is in charge of the investigation, I’m not doing the investigation,” Barr said, describing Durham as a “thorough and fair” independent investigator.
Barr, who is said to be “closely managing” the investigation, recently joined Durham on a trip to Italy where they reportedly sought to uncover evidence that Italian government officials assisted in setting up former Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos. Barr also reportedly contacted officials at the British and Australian governments regarding their roles in sparking Mueller’s investigation, which Barr said could be “helpful” to Durham’s task.
“Well, some of the countries that John Durham thought might have some information that would be helpful to the investigation wanted preliminarily to talk to me about the scope of the investigation, the nature of the investigation, and how I intended to handle confidential information, and so forth,” Barr said. “So I initially discussed these matters with those countries and introduced them to John Durham and established a channel by which Mr. Durham can obtain assistance from those countries.”
Barr also lauded the progress of Durham’s investigation while also taking a shot at the leadership of fired FBI director James Comey.
“I do want to say that one of the reasons Mr. Durham is able to make the kind of progress he’s making is because Director [Christopher] Wray and his team at the FBI have just been outstanding in support and responsiveness given to Mr. Durham,” Barr said. “As you know, I’ve said previously that I felt there was a failure of leadership at the bureau in 2016 and part of 2017, but since Director Wray and his team have taken over there’s been a world of change. I think that he is restoring the steady professionalism that’s been a hallmark of the FBI. I really appreciate his leadership there.”
[image via Ed Zurga/Getty Images]