Attorney General William Barr poured cold water Monday on the idea that former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden will face criminal charges in connection with the surveillance activities against associates of President Donald Trump.
“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 at a press conference.
He added: “Our concern over potential criminality is focused on others.”
Barr was referring to John Durham, a U.S. attorney investigating various aspects of the U.S. government’s investigation of Trump campaign associates.
Trump and some of his allies have suggested in recent weeks that Obama and Biden broke the law during the course of the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign.
Two Republican senators on May 13 released a declassified list of Obama administration officials who requested intelligence reports that identified Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser.
Biden submitted one of the so-called “unmasking” requests on Jan. 12, 2017.
U.S. officials routinely make unmasking requests. But Trump supporters have alleged that the requests are evidence that the Obama administration targeted Flynn. Republicans have focused on the Flynn unmaskings because a senior U.S. government official leaked classified details of Flynn’s call with Russia’s ambassador to The Washington Post on Jan. 12, 2017.
Biden has not said why he made the request for the report that identified Flynn.
Barr did not say whether Durham has investigated the Flynn unmasking requests.
“I have a general idea of how Mr. Durham’s investigation is going. As I have indicated, some aspects of the matter are being examined as potential crimes,” said Barr.
“Not every abuse of power, no matter how outrageous, is necessarily a federal crime.”
“As long as I’m attorney general, the criminal justice system will not be used for partisan political ends. This is especially true for the upcoming elections in November.”
Durham is reportedly looking at the activities of the FBI as well as the CIA. Barr said in an interview in 2019 that Durham is also investigating the activities of unidentified “private actors.”
Durham’s investigation is said to have some overlap with a Justice Department inspector general’s investigation of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane probe.
The IG found that the FBI made 17 “significant” errors and omissions in applications to obtain surveillance warrants against Carter Page, a former Trump aide.