Trump: Justice Dept. had 'plenty of time' for Durham probe
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump on Friday increased criticism of the state of Justice Department investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation after it was reported that Attorney General William Barr said not to expect any conclusions before election day.
Trump and Barr are increasingly at odds over the investigation as the president increasingly insists that criminal charges be brought, and Barr is becoming more frustrated by Trump's public remarks on the case.
Trump and his allies had high hopes for the investigation, led by US attorney John Durham from Connecticut. They bet this would expose what they see as wrongdoing when the FBI opened a case investigating whether the Trump campaign was coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 elections. 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.
On Friday, Trump told conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh that Justice Department investigators “had plenty of time to do this. You've been looking at it for two years. The facts are on the table. "
Barr recently advised Republican lawmakers that the report is highly unlikely to be completed by election day, according to people familiar with the matter. After Limbaugh read an Axios story to Trump on the subject, Trump said he would be disappointed if Barr relayed that message to lawmakers.
“If Bill Barr actually made that statement, I would be very disappointed in him. I don't know he made that statement, "said Trump.
Trump is increasingly showing his dissatisfaction with tweets and television appearances. Barr, meanwhile, has privately expressed his frustration over the public comments.
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.
He also said if he doesn't win the investigation will go away. "If we don't win, the whole thing will be rejected," he said.
This report is based on interviews with six people who are directly informed about the relationship between Trump and Barr. You were not authorized 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 didn't 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.
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 and 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.
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.
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 Eric Tucker, Kevin Freking and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.
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