May 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Barr: Review of Russia probe unlikely to lead to prosecution of Obama or Biden

Attorney General William Barr said at a press conference Monday that he does not expect the Justice Department's review of the origins of the Russia probe to lead to the criminal prosecution of former President Barack Obama or former Vice President Joe Biden.

Why it matters: President Trump has tweeted hundreds of times over the past week about "Obamagate" — an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that the Russia investigation was a political hit job ordered by Obama. He has called it the "biggest political crime in American history, by far!"

  • Barr's comments come a week after two Republican senators released a declassified list naming the Obama administration officials who requested to "unmask" the identity of Michael Flynn when he was under government surveillance.
  • The "unmasking" list and the Justice Department's decision to drop its prosecution of Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, has amplified efforts by the president's conservative allies to discredit the Russia investigation.

What he's saying: Barr said that “some aspects" of the review led by his handpicked prosecutor John Durham are being investigated as "potential crimes," but that any potential criminality is "focused on others."

  • “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,” Barr said.
  • Barr added that “not every abuse of power, no matter how outrageous, is necessarily a federal crime.”

While his dismissal of the #Obamagate claims is likely to anger Trump, Barr did not hold back in his criticism of the Russia investigation, which he called an attempt to use the criminal justice system as a "political weapon."

  • "The law enforcement and intelligence apparatus of this country were involved in advancing a false and utterly baseless Russian collusion narrative against the president," Barr said.
  • "But this cannot be and will not be a tit-for-tat exercise. We are not going to lower the standards just to achieve a result."

Worth noting: Trump last week called on Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to bring Obama in to testify about the Russia investigation. Graham responded by saying he would hold hearings in June "regarding all things related" to the Russia investigation, but warned that he is "greatly concerned by the precedent that would be set by calling a former president for oversight."

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