Attorney General William Barr said Monday that the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) review of the 2016 Russia investigation is unlikely to yield a criminal investigation of former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden.
“Whatever their level of involvement based on the level of information I have today, I don’t expect Mr. Durham’s work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man,” Barr said in a press conference Monday, referring to U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is leading the inquiry into the origins of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the previous election. “Our concern over potential criminality is focused on others.”
Later in his remarks, Barr criticized the general use of criminal investigations as “a political weapon.”
“This is not good for our political life and it’s not good for the criminal justice system,” said the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. “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.”
Barr’s comments follow the release of the declassified list of Obama officials who had requested names to be “unmasked” between November 8, 2016, and Jan. 31, 2017. Top Obama officials who made such requests include former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samatha Power, former White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, and former Vice President Joe Biden.
The list became public days after the DOJ dropped its criminal case against former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in 2017 to making false statements to the FBI over his communications with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak during President Donald Trump’s transition period.
Last week, Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) signaled that he will request the officials, including Biden, the presumptive Democrat nominee, to testify regarding their unmasking activities.
“Right now we’re in the information-gathering phase of this and this obviously, from my standpoint, raises a lot more questions than it actually answers,” Johnson said, according to The Hill. “We will start requesting interviews with those individuals.”
“I want to find out what you were looking at, why you unmasked an American’s identity and how you used that,” the Wisconsin Republican added, before stating that he will seek interviews with Brennan, Clapper, McDonough, and “possibly” Biden.