Attorney General William Barr issued some of the most scathing comments to date on the investigation of the Trump campaign, telling reporters in a press conference on May 18 that the nation’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies “were involved in advancing a false and utterly baseless Russian collusion narrative” against President Donald Trump.
“Now what happened to the president, and I’ve said this many times, what happened to the president in the 2016 election and throughout the first two years of his administration was abhorrent. It was a grave injustice and it was unprecedented in American history,” Barr said. “The proper investigative and prosecution standards of the Department of Justice were abused, in my view, in order to reach a particular result.”
Barr made the remarks in response to a reporter’s question on whether the Department of Justice would conduct a criminal investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama in light of recent comments from Trump. Barr noted that based on current information, he doesn’t expect U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation to lead to criminal investigations of either Biden or Obama.
Barr assigned Durham to investigate the origins of the government’s investigation of the Trump campaign as well as the conduct of the intelligence agencies and the Department of Justice (DOJ) before and after Trump assumed office. The FBI opened an investigation into the Trump campaign in 2016 based on allegations of collusion with Russia. Former special counsel Robert Mueller took over the investigation in mid-2017 and, after a 22-month inquiry, found no evidence of collusion.
Barr has previously said that the Trump campaign was spied on, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant the FBI obtained to monitor Trump campaign associate Carter Page. The bureau’s decision to obtain the warrant was significantly influenced by the infamous Steele dossier of unverified opposition research on Trump. The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic Nation Committee paid for the dossier.
Key FBI officials involved in the investigation of Trump expressed intense animus against him, spoke of stopping him from becoming president, and discussed an insurance policy in the unlikely case he won the election. Some of the same officials were involved in the investigation of Clinton’s use of an unauthorized private server to conduct government work during her tenure as the secretary of state. Then-FBI Director James Comey usurped the DOJ in late 2016 to exonerate Clinton in an unprecedented public statement.
“We saw two different standards of justice emerge. One that applied to President Trump and his associates, and the other that applied to everybody else. We can’t allow this ever to happen again,” Barr said.
“The Durham investigation is trying to get to the bottom of what happened. And it will determine whether there were any federal laws broken, and if there were, those who broke the laws will be held to account.”
Barr made his latest comments about Durham’s investigation on the heels of new revelations in the government’s case against Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser. The DOJ moved to dismiss the charges against Flynn after discovering evidence that the FBI had no basis to seek the interview with Flynn that eventually led to the charges against him. Shortly after a bureau agent had cleared Flynn of suspicion in the Russia matter, senior bureau executives, including the special agent who expressed bias against Trump, stepped in to keep the case open.
Trump has long criticized the small group of senior officials involved in the Russia probe. After recent revelations about the potential involvement of the Obama White House, the president has repeatedly used the term “Obamagate” to describe the operation against him. Trump has said that Obama must have known about what was going on and may have been involved.