Updated Apr 9, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Barr calls Trump "the weakest" of GOP 2024 candidates

Former Attorney General William Barr speaking at a Federalist Society meeting in September in Washington, D.C. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former Attorney General Bill Barr told ABC's "This Week" Sunday investigations surrounding former President Trump could risk turning the Republican 2024 presidential primary process into a "circus."

Driving the news: Barr criticized the Manhattan probe that led to the former president facing criminal charges related to a 2016 illegal hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, but told ABC's Jonathan Karl there's "very good evidence" in the investigation into classified documents found at Trump's Mar-a-Lago home.

The big picture: Trump is facing multiple criminal probes while running for president in 2024, including the Manhattan indictment that makes him the first-ever U.S. president — sitting or former — to face criminal charges.

Flashback: Trump lashed out at Barr in September after his former attorney general and ally said there was "no legitimate reason" for classified documents to be at Mar-a-Lago.

What he's saying: "He had no claim to those documents, especially the classified documents. They belonged to the government," Barr told Karl of evidence that Trump may have obstructed justice as the government attempted to retrieve top-secret records from Mar-a-Lago.

  • "I think he was jerking the government around. And they subpoenaed it. And they tried to jawbone him into delivering documents," the Trump administration attorney general added.
  • "But the government is investigating the extent to which games were played and there was obstruction in keeping documents from them. And I think that’s a serious potential case. I think they probably have some very good evidence there."

Of note: The New York probe was a "clear example" of "politicizing the criminal justice system" that "the left is always talking about the ills of," Barr said to Karl.

  • "What's been put out very opaque," Barr said. "I think if he has a good case, he would specify exactly what his case is. But he’s trying to hide the bull," he added.
  • "Ultimately, the savvy Democratic strategists know this is going to help Trump, and they want him to be the nominee because he is the weakest of the Republican candidates, the most likely to lose again to Biden."

The other side: The former president "is dominating in poll after poll — both nationally and statewide — crushing the primary and general fields," said Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung in an emailed statement Sunday evening.

  • Cheung pointed to several recent polls, including a Reuters/Ipsos one conducted after Trump's indictment, which showed he's the clear frontrunner in the 2024 National Republican Primary race.
  • "We get stronger everyday while others are flailing desperately searching for relevance and attention," he added.

Go deeper: GOP's stormy 2024 outlook

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung.

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