William Barr has confronted a senior White House official over fears that President Donald Trump wants to “blow up” Special Counsel John Durham’s criminal probe into the Russia probe after the 2020 election, a writes the former attorney general in his new book.
As Barr would say in One goddamn thing after another, the day it was revealed in December that he had elevated Durham, who was then the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, to special counsel status with added protections, Barr had a startling realization. It came after White House chief of staff Mark Meadows informed Barr that Trump was upset the attorney general said the Associated press that the Justice Department found no evidence to support the president’s claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
“Then it hit me,” Barr wrote. “The president did not want to wait until Durham’s findings were known after January 20. I thought his goal might be to sideline Durham and then have his own legal team – a grotesque collection akin to his election team, I guess – sift through Durham’s papers and immediately release any documents that helped Trump. It was unclear to me if he wanted to release this information to support his efforts to stay in power, or if he just didn’t believe it would come out after he left office.
Barr said he asked Meadows why Trump “would want to blow up the Durham investigation,” according to the Washington Post. In Barr’s recollection, Meadows replied, “Sorry, Bill. I don’t know what the president is going to do, but he might decide not to wait any longer.”
“Well,” Barr wrote, recalling his response, “under department regulations he can only be fired by me. And I won’t.” Barr claimed Trump wanted him to “deliver scalps in time for the election.”
Barr resigned from his post just before Christmas. This ended his second term as Attorney General. The first was under the administration of President George HW Bush. Trump has since called him a ” disappointment in every sense of the wordwhile citing the Russian investigation.
The memoir is due for release March 8, but it’s already making headlines, especially for Barr’s reported assessment that Trump is running for president again is “appalling” and implores the Republican Party to “wait with impatience” the other candidates.
Barr, who joined the Trump administration in February 2019 and oversaw the release of Robert Mueller’s special counsel report on the Russia probe, wrote that his relationship with Trump had “frayed” at the time. late summer 2020, largely due to the president’s impatience with the pace of Durham’s review of what the president has long called Russia’s “witch hunt.”
Barr wrote that he told Trump that Durham’s review of the CIA’s role in the case, which extended through 2019, was “inconclusive”, according to the report. Washington Post. “Are you buying those *** bulls, Bill?” Trump retorted.
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The former lawyer wrote that he ‘lost it’ and replied sarcastically: ‘Well, if you know what happened Mr President, I’m all ears. Maybe we’re losing some time to investigate. Maybe all the wheelchair quarterbacks telling you they have all the evidence can come and enlighten us.
More than a year into the Biden administration, Durham’s investigation remains ongoing, with two active prosecutions playing out in the public sphere.
Michael Sussmann, a Democratic cybersecurity attorney, was indicted last year for allegedly concealing his clients, including Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, from the FBI in September 2016 when he shared debunked allegations of a secret channel between the Trump Organization and the Russian bank Alfa. Igor Danchenko, a US-based and Russian-born researcher, has been charged by Durham with five counts of making false statements to the FBI regarding information he provided to ex-British spy Christopher Steele for his discredited case. Both defendants have pleaded not guilty.
Durham also secured a guilty plea from former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith, who admitted fraudulently tampering with an email about a Trump campaign aide under government surveillance.
A Justice Department official said in July that the agency “agreed” with Barr’s October 2020 special counsel order, which stated that “in addition to the confidential report” that Durham should submit to the Department of Justice, “the special advocate, to the maximum extent possible and consistent with the laws, policies and practices of the Department of Justice, shall submit to the Attorney General a final report and any interim reports that it deems appropriate, in a form that permits their public dissemination.
Barr also wrote that Trump was angry when the Justice Department refused to prosecute fired FBI Director James Comey after there were “a few words” of classified information in his so-called Comey Memos. “I’m shocked, Bill. I am disgusted. I’m not happy about that, Bill,” Trump said, according to the book. Trump “never lets me forget how unhappy he was,” Barr wrote.
Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department’s Inspector General, released a report in August 2019 on Comey’s poor management of his memos and showed that the former FBI director’s one-on-one briefing with Trump was treated as a chance to gather information for the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation. The first of seven Comey Memos was written that day. Horowitz criticized Comey for leaking his memos to the press, saying Comey orchestrated their release to advance his own interests and trigger the appointment of a special counsel. Trump fired Comey on May 9, 2017, and Mueller was named special counsel to take over the Russia investigation a week later.
Additionally, Barr wrote that Trump told him that the investigation into Clinton’s unauthorized use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state “should be dropped,” noting that “even if she was guilty … for the winner of the election to seek prosecution against him”. the loser would make the country look like a banana republic.
Clinton’s email practices were investigated by the FBI. Comey announced in the summer of 2016 that Clinton was “grossly negligent” in handling classified emails, but did not recommend any criminal charges. The Clinton email investigation was reopened when a new batch of emails was discovered in late October 2016, but was closed again, with no new findings, days before the election.
A State Department review of the email practices of dozens of former agency officials and Clinton aides found “some instances” of classified information “inappropriately fed into an unclassified system.” But investigators found “no compelling evidence of systematic and deliberate mishandling of classified information”.
In their book Peril, Watergate detective Bob Woodward and fellow reporter Robert Costa wrote about how Barr prepared for the unprecedented fury displayed by Trump when he was told Durham was unlikely to complete the criminal investigation into the investigation into Russia before some time during the new Biden administration. “The investigation into the investigators” had become another hot topic for Trump due to the lack of public developments ahead of the November contest.
During a meeting at the White House in early December, Barr told Trump he didn’t know when Durham might wrap up, as the investigation was proceeding at its own pace based on the evidence. Still, he postulated, “I would imagine that would be in the first part of the Biden administration, hopefully maybe in the first six months.”
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This prompted Trump to shout. “Part One of the Biden Administration!” he roared.
“‘Oh shit,’ Barr thought,” according to the book. “Trump was smoking. Barr had never seen Trump in such a rage. If a human being can have flames coming out of his ears, that was it. Barr imagined the flames. He had never seen Trump crazier. But Trump was obviously trying to control himself, settling down and then igniting.
Earlier this month, Trump lamented that he wished Durham’s investigation had gone “sooner”. He argued that “it would have been nice to have been done before the election” because “what they did was so criminal, and it would have been nice if the voters had known about it”. Still, Trump said he doesn’t think the lack of reporting was a “big watershed moment” for the 2020 contest in which he lost to President Joe Biden. Trump also predicted there were likely “very big things to come” from Durham.