President Donald Trump responded to his own attorney general, William Barr, in an interview late Monday, expressing concern that Barr does not anticipate a Department of Justice investigation into the origins of the “Russiagate” conspiracy theory will result in any criminal charges against former President Barack Obama or former Vice President Joe Biden.
Barr told reporters Monday that, although evidence recently surfaced loosely tying Obama and Biden to efforts to “unmask” former national security advisor Michael Flynn, he does not expect a probe, led by U.S. Attorney John Durham, to turn up much evidence proving that either committed a criminal act “beyond a reasonable doubt” — enough to force a criminal investigation and, perhaps, subsequent criminal charges.
“Under the longstanding standards of the department, criminal charges are appropriate only when we have enough evidence to prove each element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. That is the standard we’re applying,” Barr said.
“There’s a difference between an abuse of power and a federal crime. Not every abuse of power — no matter how outrageous — is necessarily a federal crime,” Barr continued. “Now, as to President Obama and Vice President Biden, whatever their level of involvement, based on the information I have today, I don’t expect Mr. Durham’s work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man. Our concern over potential criminality is focused on others.”
Barr’s comments are far from exonerating, for either Obama or Biden, but they are also far from what President Trump might like to see form the Justice Department.
Trump, who has recently called Obama’s and Biden’s behavior criminal, even going so far as to suggest that both men face criminal charges for unmasking Flynn and, potentially, leaking information about Flynn’s discussions with a Russian ambassador to the media, was asked Monday night whether he was “disappointed” in Barr’s comments.
“I think Obama and Biden knew about it. They were participants, but, so I’m a little surprised by that statement,” the president told ABC News, referring to Barr’s commentary.
“I don’t know about being disappointed or not,” Trump added. “But I have no doubt that they were involved in this hoax. One of the worst things ever to befall this country, in terms of political scandal. I have absolutely no doubt that Obama and Biden were involved and, as to whether or not it was criminal, I would think it would be very serious. Very, very serious. It was a takedown of a president, regardless of me — It happened to be me. And in my opinion, it was an illegal takedown.”
Trump went on to suggest that, perhaps, Barr was being too fair, and that earlier attorneys general might have approached the case differently, particularly if the target was a Democrat president.
“If it was me, I guarantee that they’d be going after me. In his case, they’re not so — I think it’s just a continuation of a double standard. I’m surprised by it,” Trump said.
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