Attorney General William Barr said Monday that he does not expect a criminal investigation of former President Obama or former Vice President Joe Biden to result from the probe undertaken by U.S. Attorney John Durham.
“Based on the information I have today, I don’t expect Mr. Durham’s work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man,” Barr told reporters at the Justice Department. “Our concern over potential criminality is focused on others.”
Barr was asked about President Trump’s recent remarks encouraging investigations into Obama and other officials from the previous administration during a press conference on December’s Pensacola Naval Air Station shooting. The president has suggested Obama administration officials were involved in criminal wrongdoing in connection with the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference.
Barr answered that he wouldn’t address Trump’s remarks specifically but denounced “increasing attempts to use the criminal justice system as a political weapon.”
Barr has tapped Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to oversee an investigation into the FBI’s decision-making in the investigation, including potential criminal wrongdoing. The attorney general has been deeply critical of the bureau’s handling of the investigation into contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign, and he renewed that criticism on Monday.
“What happened to the president in the 2016 election and throughout the first two years of his administration was abhorrent,” Barr said. “It was a grave injustice and it was unprecedented in American history.”
“The law enforcement and intelligence apparatus of this country were involved in advancing a false and utterly baseless Russian collusion narrative against the president,” he added.
Barr said Durham was assessing whether criminal laws were broken, but insisted “this cannot be and it will not be a tit-for-tat exercise.”
“We are not going to lower the standards just to achieve a result,” he said, before adding he did not expect criminal investigations into either Obama or Biden.
Barr’s remarks may be met with disapproval by the president and his conservative allies.
Trump has over the past few weeks suggested that Obama was personally involved in a nefarious plot to target his campaign for political purposes using the Russia investigation, promoting the moniker “Obamagate.”
Trump has leveled attacks on Obama on Twitter, suggesting he was involved in “the biggest political crime in American history.”
The president declined to name the crime he believes Obama committed in an exchange with reporters last week, though he insisted that “the crime is very obvious to everybody.”
There is no evidence that Obama or Biden were involved in criminal wrongdoing in connection with the Russia investigation, and Durham has yet to charge anyone in connection with the probe. Still, Trump and his conservative allies have pointed to new details released in connection with the case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn to allege wrongdoing by the previous administration, including by Biden, the presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee.
Last week, the Trump administration declassified a list of Obama-era officials who may have received Flynn’s name after requesting it be “unmasked” in intelligence reports. Biden was among those on the list.
Experts have described the act of unmasking as something that is not uncommon within the intelligence community.
Conservatives, however, have suggested that details of Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. were illegally leaked to the media.
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Trump and his allies have renewed focus on the Russia investigation after the Justice Department moved to drop charges against Flynn more than two years after the former national security adviser pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian diplomat. The department has said it no longer believes it can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Trump has increasingly attacked his predecessor since media reports described Obama warning that the “rule of law” is at risk in a leaked phone call earlier this month.