During an interview last week, Attorney General William Barr gave an update on the criminal investigation into the origin of the Obama-era FBI counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign, saying that a “willful if small group of people” were involved in an attempt to “topple” the Trump administration.
Barr made the remarks in an interview with Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel in which he noted that he was “in a position in life where I can do the right thing and not really care about the consequences.”
He reminds me why he took the job in the first place: “The Department of Justice was being used as a political weapon” by a “willful if small group of people,” who used the claim of collusion with Russia in an attempt to “topple an administration,” he says. “Someone had to make sure that the power of the department stopped being abused and that there was accountability for what had happened.” Mr. Barr largely succeeded, in the process filling a vacuum of political oversight, reimposing norms, and resisting partisan critics on both sides.
Mr. Barr describes an overarching objective of ensuring that there is “one standard of justice.” That, he says, is why he appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham to investigate the FBI’s 2016 Crossfire Hurricane probe. “Of course the Russians did bad things in the election,” he says. “But the idea that this was done with the collusion of the Trump campaign — there was never any evidence. It was entirely made up.” The country deserved to know how the world’s premier law-enforcement agency came to target and spy on a presidential campaign.
Mr. Barr says Mr. Durham’s appointment should not have been necessary. Mr. Mueller’s investigation should have exposed FBI malfeasance. Instead, “the Mueller team seems to have been ready to blindly accept anything fed to it by the system,” Mr. Barr says, adding that this “is exactly what DOJ should not be.”
Barr acknowledged that he understood why people were upset that results from the investigation were not released before the election, but noted that there were logistical issues that prevented that from happening, ranging from the pandemic delaying federal grand juries for six months to U.S. Attorney John Durham being forced to wait till the end of 2019 for Inspector General Michael Horowitz to complete his investigation into the FBI’s conduct. Barr suggested that those who seek justice should not lose heart just because Durham was not being loud in carrying out his business, saying that prosecutors who “break more china” do not “necessarily get the results.”
The biggest news from Mr. Durham’s probe is what he has ruled out. Mr. Barr was initially suspicious that agents had been spying on the Trump campaign before the official July 2016 start date of Crossfire Hurricane, and that the Central Intelligence Agency or foreign intelligence had played a role. But even prior to naming Mr. Durham special counsel, Mr. Barr had come to the conclusion that he didn’t “see any sign of improper CIA activity” or “foreign government activity before July 2016,” he says. “The CIA stayed in its lane.”
Mr. Barr says Mr. Durham’s probe is now tightly focused on “the conduct of Crossfire Hurricane, the small group at the FBI that was most involved in that,” as well as “the activities of certain private actors.” (Mr. Barr doesn’t elaborate.) Mr. Durham has publicly stated he’s not convinced the FBI team had an adequate “predicate” to launch an investigation. In September, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe declassified a document showing that the FBI was warned in 2016 that the Hillary Clinton campaign might be behind the “collusion” claims.
Barr said that the FBI’s conduct during their counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign was “outrageous.”
Barr weighed in on his decision to not divulge information that Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, is under federal criminal investigation over his taxes and foreign business dealings.
“A lot of Republicans think that’s playing by Robert’s Rules — you are being soft on the other side. And I understand that frustration,” Barr said. “It’s painful that the system is used against Republicans and there is an AG not willing to do the same thing against Democrats. But that is the only way we find our way back.”
“Think about the power it would give the federal bureaucracy,” Barr said. “The standard for investigating someone is low. So just gin up an investigation, make it public, affect every election.”