Trump, Barr at odds over slow pace of Durham investigation
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump increasingly disagrees with Attorney General William Barr over the status of the Justice Department's investigation into the origin of the Russia investigation, with the president becoming increasingly critical of a lack of arrests and Barr frustrated by Trump's public remarks about the case according to information from people familiar with the matter.
Trump and his allies had high hopes for the investigation, which was led by Connecticut's U.S. attorney John Durham. Trump has also sought to attract prominent Obama administration officials to these efforts as part of his campaign against Joe Biden, who was serving as Vice President at the time.
But a year and a half into the investigation and less than a month to election day, there was only one criminal case: a former FBI attorney pleading guilty to altering a government email about a former Trump campaign advisor calling a The aim was the secret FBI surveillance.
With time running out for the primary in this case, Trump is increasingly expressing his dissatisfaction with tweets and television appearances. Barr, meanwhile, has privately expressed his frustration with the public comments, according to a person familiar with his thinking. It's not unlike a situation earlier this year when Trump publicly complained that he believed ally Roger Stone would get a raw deal in his prosecution, even though Barr had already tried to change a prosecutor's position on the case.
Despite Trump's misfortune, there is no evidence that Barr's job was in jeopardy in the last few weeks of the campaign. However, tensions between Trump and the Attorney General over the fate of the investigation underscore the extent to which the president is aggressively trying to use all the levers of his power to gain ground in an election that has moved away from him.
This report is based on interviews with six people who are directly informed about the relationship between Trump and Barr. You were not allowed to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Trump is also alleged to blame Barr for comments made by FBI Director Chris Wray on election fraud and postal voting that inconsistently with the president's alarmist rhetoric. Wray has said there has been no mass voter fraud in the past, whether by mail or otherwise. Message that contradicts Trump and Barr's repeated efforts to raise the alarm about a lawsuit they claim is particularly vulnerable to abuse.
However, much of the tension between Trump and Barr has to do with how the Department of Justice has dealt with the Durham probe. A senior administration official said Trump felt he had given Barr ample leeway to move the investigation forward, including releasing documents related to Russia. In the absence of blockbuster findings, Trump is now trying to publish documents himself with his new incumbent secret service chief.
On Thursday morning, Trump did not hide his displeasure in an interview with Fox News Business.
"Unless Bill Barr charges these people for crimes - the greatest political crime in our country's history - we will be little satisfied if I win," he said. "Because I won't forget it. But these people should be charged. These are people who spied on my campaign. And we have it all. And I say, Bill, we have enough, you don't need it anymore. We have so much . "
The comment followed an earlier spate of social media posts from the president, including one in which Trump retweeted a doctoral picture of Barr, superimposed on late Saturday Night Live actor Chris Farley as a motivational speaker, yelling at him. The headline: "For the love of God ARREST SOMEONE."
The Justice Department declined to comment on the matter. The White House did not respond immediately.
Since Durham's appointment, he has cast a wide web in interviews with former government officials, including ex-CIA director John Brennan. It is unclear when Durham will deliver his report or how damaging his final conclusions could be.
Even the outline of the case with FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith, who pleaded guilty in the Durham investigation, was known before he was charged. And the case against him did not claim a broader FBI conspiracy to prosecute Trump.
Barr has privately expressed his frustration over the President's public statements regarding the Durham Inquiry. While Barr broadly agrees with Trump that the origins of the Russia investigation need to be investigated, he often laments Trump's lack of understanding of the intricacies of the legal system and the steps that must be taken to complete an investigation.
A friend of Barr said there had been apparent "tension" between the president and the attorney general, and while Barr himself firmly believes in the importance of the Durham investigation and the president's authority to exercise control over federal agencies, he will not meddle tolerate in specific investigations.
The friend said Justice Department officials were eager to complete Durham's work while Trump was still in office, fearing the investigation could be suspended in a possible Biden administration.
Trump's aides had relied on the Durham investigation to be completed ahead of the 2020 election to give credibility to Trump's claims that his own investigative agencies were working against him. A December report from the Inspector General of the Ministry of Justice put down several lines of attack against the Russia investigation, stating that it opened properly and that law enforcement leaders were not motivated by political bias. But Barr has said he and Durham disagreed with the Inspector General on whether the FBI has enough intelligence to launch a full investigation and, in particular, to monitor a former Trump election worker.
Although Trump and Barr are close allies on a number of issues, tensions between Trump and Barr have escalated elsewhere, including earlier this year when Trump tweeted about Stone's case. Barr later overturned a prosecutor's recommendation to sentence Stone to 7 to 9 years in prison, and critics argued that he was doing Trump's bid.
Barr said in an interview with ABC News that the president's tweets made it "impossible" to get his job done and told those close to him he was considering resigning. The two eventually fixed things.
Associate press writers Colleen Long and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.
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