Attorney General Bill Barr met with U.S. Attorney John Durham three days after then-special counsel Robert Mueller submitted his final report on Russian Federation interference in the 2016 U.S. general election and nearly a month before that report was finally released to the public, according to Department of Justice (DOJ) records.
Durham met with Barr in the “AG’s Office” on March 25, 2019 for 30 minutes along with several staff members of the DOJ’s Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the Justice Management Division (JMD), according to one of those responsive documents.
The Mueller report was submitted to Barr on March 22, 2019 and released publicly by the DOJ on April 18, 2019. Barr tasked Durham with investigating the origins of the Russia probe in May 2019.
American Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group committed to government transparency and accountability, obtained those documents through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
Additional documents show that Barr and Durham met at least five additional times between April and June 2019.
The attorney general and Connecticut’s U.S. attorney met twice in the two weeks immediately following the Mueller report’s publication; once in the “AG’s Office” for an hour and once in the “AG’s Conference Room” for 30 minutes, according to those documents.
Durham was appointed to lead the investigation into the genesis of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation during this time period. The U.S. Attorney’s appointment as leader of that investigation was first reported on May 13, 2019.
The very next day, Barr and Durham met again in the “AG’s Office” with some of the same familiar staff from their prior meetings–as well as with a person whose name has been redacted because DOJ believes releasing their identity “would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
Attending each subsequent meeting was OAG’s Theresa Watson, Brian Rabbitt, and Seth DuCharme. OAG’s John Moran attended the first subsequent meeting on April 25, 2019.
Recall: DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz was also conducting an investigation into the FBI’s compliance, or lack thereof, with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) during their initial counterintelligence investigation. On April 12, DuCharme, who at the time worked as Barr’s counselor, emailed Horowitz about a meeting.
That email reads, in full:
Michael, thank you for your time this afternoon and the opportunity for me to explain what John [Durham] and [redacted] and I are working on.
I understand that Monday or perhaps Tuesday would be the most convenient days for you to meet with us.
If you would like to suggest some times, or permit us to, we will make every effort to adjust to your schedule.
Several phone calls and at least eight additional meetings between Durham and Barr are also noted in those FOIA records.
“From June through October of that year, Barr, Rabbitt, DuCharme and other officials met or had calls with Durham 13 additional times in the documents we obtained, showing a high level of coordination between Barr’s office and Durham’s investigation,” the watchdog group notes in an article detailing each document. “One meeting, on June 26, included Timothy Shea, now the embattled U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.”
American Executive Director Austin Evers said the documents are highly suggestive evidence that the 77th and 85th attorney is using the DOJ as little more than a political protection apparatus for yet another Republican president enmeshed in scandal.
“The public record is already full of evidence suggesting that Barr has taken his role as the president’s chief defense counsel very seriously,” Evers told Law&Crime. “Ever since before he joined the DOJ, he made it very clear he was highly skeptical of the Russia investigation and one of his initial tasks was to turn the DOJ on itself.”
“Barr has a history of advising presidents and using the DOJ to protect political risks or exposures,” he continued. “For example, back in the 90s he advised then-president Bush to issue pardons on the Iran-Contra affair to ensure that Bush and other allies didn’t face accountability. And we’re seeing something similar now.”
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“There was an impending trial in the Iran-Contra investigation and Bush issued pardons that are widely viewed to be some of the most self-serving pardons in political history and effectively neutered that investigation,” Evers said. “Based on what we’re seeing in these documents and other actions from Barr’s DOJ, the attorney general is working for a similar result here.”
[image via BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images]
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