The attorney general’s comment contrasts with views pressed by the president.
6 min read
Attorney General William Barr said Monday he does not expect that the review of the Russia probe, being conducted by U.S. Attorney John Durham, will lead to a criminal investigation of either former President Barack Obama or former Vice President Joe Biden.
Barr’s remark at a Justice Department virtual press conference appeared to put him at odds with views pressed by President Donald Trump.
“As to President Obama and Vice President Biden, whatever their level of involvement, based on the information I have today, I don’t expect Mister Durham’s work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man,” Barr said.
Barr said there have been “increasing attempts to use the criminal justice system as a political weapon,” and that what happened to President Trump was “abhorrent” and “grave injustice” as law enforcement was used to advance what he called a “false and utterly baseless” Russia collusion narrative.
“The proper investigative and prosecutorial standards of the Department of Justice were abused, in my view, in order to reach a particular result,” Barr said.
But Barr emphasized that abuses of power were not necessarily criminal offense.
It is unclear how Barr’s position will sit with the president, who has been promoting the idea that President Obama and Vice President Biden committed crimes.
Without presenting any evidence, Trump claimed in a Fox Business News interview, “this was all Obama, this was all Biden. These people were corrupt, the whole thing was corrupt, and we caught them.”
At a May 11 press conference, Trump was asked about tweets that appeared to accuse President Obama of the “greatest political crime in history.” Trump responded by using the term “Obamagate,” saying that it had been going on for a “long time,” but was unable to explain what crime he was alleging had been committed.
Last week’s declassification of the list of Obama administration and career government officials that requested the “unmasking” of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn stoked Republican claims that former Vice President Biden was involved in an “abuse of power.”
Biden’s name appeared on the list as the last of 48 requests by 16 people was the last of 48 requests for the unmasking that would have revealed Flynn’s name to those officials. According to a National Security Agency memo accompanying the declassified list, the unmasking was “authorized” and occurred through the “NSA’s standard process, which includes a review of the justification for the request.”
A leak of Flynn’s unmasked name would potentially be illegal and it’s unclear whether the Justice Department has identified or will charge anyone for such a disclosure.
As Durham continues his review, Barr said that some aspects of the matter are being investigated as “potential crimes.” He was not more specific, but suggested the focus has been on the actions of current and former FBI officials and Barr has been reviewing the involvement of U.S. intelligence agencies in the origins of the Russia probe.
Barr pledged that the “criminal justice system will not be used for partisan political ends.”