Washington — Attorney General William Barr said Monday an ongoing internal Justice Department review into the origins of the FBI’s probe into President Trump and his 2016 presidential campaign is not expected to lead to a criminal investigation into former President Barack Obama or Vice President Joe Biden.
Barr made the comments during aon Monday, during which he was asked about Mr. Trump’s recent suggestion that Mr. Obama and his top officials committed crimes in the last few weeks of the previous administration.
Barr provided an update about the ongoing investigation led by U.S. Attorney John Durham of Connecticut, who was selected by the attorney general to review the origins of the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. While some aspects of the matter are being examined as potential crimes, Barr said neither Mr. Obama nor Biden are expected to be prosecuted.
“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,” he said. “Our concern over potential criminality is focused on others.”
Mr. Obama and Biden have come under attack by Mr. Trump and his allies after Biden was among a list of Obama administration officials who requested intelligence reports that “unmasked” former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s identity in 2016 and 2017. All of the officials named were authorized to see the unmasked reports. The list of names was declassified by acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell and made public by two Republican senators last week.
The president accused Obama of committing the “biggest political crime” in U.S. history and called for his predecessor to testify before Congress. He has since dubbed the episode “Obamagate.”
Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday he is going to let Barr to make all decisions regarding potential prosecutions stemming from the investigation into the origins of the Russia probe and has “decided to stay out of it.”
“He’s a very honorable man and he’s going to do a very honorable job,” the president said of Barr. “But I am surprised only in that I have no doubt — personally I have no doubt, but he may have another feeling — I have no doubt that they were involved in it.”
Barr criticized the FBI and the country’s intelligence apparatus for its investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, saying they advanced a “false and utterly baseless Russian collusion narrative against the president.” While Durham’s probe will determine whether any federal laws were broken, Barr vowed it will not be used to target Mr. Trump’s political opponents.
“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.
Barr lamented that there have been growing efforts to weaponize the criminal justice system by ginning up “allegations of criminality by one’s political opponents based on the flimsiness of legal theories.”
“As long as I’m attorney general, the criminal justice system will not be used for partisan political ends,” he said. “This is especially true for the upcoming elections in November.”
Barr said the November contest between Mr. Trump and Biden, who is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, should be “based on a robust debate of policy issues and we cannot allow this process to be hijacked by efforts to drum up criminal investigations of either candidate.”
Any investigation into either Mr. Trump or Biden, Barr added, must receive his stamp of approval.