Attorney General William Barr sent a message last week to those in the orbit of former President Barack Obama as U.S. Attorney John Durham continues digging into the FBI investigation of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Discussing the scope of Durham’s probe, Barr said he does not anticipate either Obama or former Vice President Joe Biden to face any direct criminal charges — but the Department of Justice is zeroing in on “others” involved.
Durham and his team have reportedly been working to uncover possible wrongdoing by the Obama-era Justice Department even as President Donald Trump pushes a related conspiracy he has dubbed “Obamagate.”
“Focused on others”
Recent revelations about the case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn have added a new wrinkle to the controversy, fueling speculation that there was a conspiracy to coerce him to lie in an interview with the FBI.
Flynn went on to plead guilty, but Trump’s Justice Department moved earlier this month to drop the case against him.
During a press conference on May 18, Barr poured cold water on the notion that either Obama or Biden would face allegations directly, instead confirming that Durham is looking into “others” in that administration.
“I have a general idea of how Mr. Durham’s investigation is going,” he said, noting that even wrongdoing on the part of top officials might not warrant prosecution.
“There’s a difference between an abuse of power and a federal crime,” Barr explained. “Not every abuse of power, no matter how outrageous, is necessarily a federal crime. Now, 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. Our concern over potential criminality is focused on others.”
“By the book”
He did not elaborate on which individuals might be under investigation, but the Washington Examiner reported that Durham is believed to be looking into John Brennan, who served as the head of the CIA, over his alleged role in promoting a dossier by former British spy Christopher Steele.
Former FBI Director James Comey has also attracted unwanted attention based on a memo penned by Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice. According to the document, Comey appears to have floated the idea that Obama withhold information about Russia from Flynn as the latter moved into his post in the Trump administration.
Obama, however, made it clear that he wanted to handle the situation “by the book,” Rice wrote.
Whatever comes of Durham’s investigation, Barr said he believes Trump was subjected to “abhorrent” treatment during the 2016 election and the first two years of his presidency. Plenty of the president’s supporters agree — and want to see those responsible brought to justice.