Spygate Investigation Not Over Yet

Dec. 22, 2020 7:31 pm ET Attorney General Bill Barr ...


Attorney General Bill Barr at a Monday news conference in Washington.



Photo:

Pool/Getty Images

FBI officials who abused the rights of Americans participating in the 2016 Trump campaign may be breathing a little easier with Attorney General Bill Barr leaving office this week and President

Donald Trump

approaching the end of his term. But a presidential memorandum released today suggests that special counsel

John Durham

may soon be bringing new information to a grand jury.

Mr. Barr described the 2016 campaign abuses in an interview last week with the Journal’s Kimberley A. Strassel:

“The Department of Justice was being used as a political weapon” by a “willful if small group of people,” who used the claim of collusion with Russia in an attempt to “topple an administration,” he says. “Someone had to make sure that the power of the department stopped being abused and that there was accountability for what had happened.” Mr. Barr largely succeeded, in the process filling a vacuum of political oversight, reimposing norms, and resisting partisan critics on both sides.

Mr. Barr describes an overarching objective of ensuring that there is “one standard of justice.” That, he says, is why he appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham to investigate the FBI’s 2016 Crossfire Hurricane probe. “Of course the Russians did bad things in the election,” he says. “But the idea that this was done with the collusion of the Trump campaign—there was never any evidence. It was entirely made up.” The country deserved to know how the world’s premier law-enforcement agency came to target and spy on a presidential campaign.

To this point, FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith has pleaded guilty to a crime for falsifying a document and is now awaiting sentencing. But most of those involved in the bureau’s abuses have escaped accountability. According to the Strassel report:

Mr. Durham hasn’t finished his work, to the disappointment of many Republicans, including the president, who were hoping for a resolution—perhaps including indictments—before the election. Mr. Barr notes that Mr. Durham had to wait until the end of 2019 for Inspector General Michael Horowitz to complete his own investigation into the FBI’s surveillance. Then came the Covid lockdowns, which suspended federal grand juries for six months. Mr. Durham could no longer threaten to subpoena uncooperative witnesses.

“I understand people’s frustration over the timing, and there are prosecutors who break more china, so to speak,” Mr. Barr says. “But they don’t necessarily get the results.” Mr. Durham will, and is making “significant progress,” says Mr. Barr, who disclosed this month that he had prior to the election designated Mr. Durham a special counsel, to provide assurance that his team would be able to finish its work.

Did Covid-19 simply delay—rather than deny—justice from being brought to those government officials who targeted the Trump campaign? This columnist’s book co-author

Maria Bartiromo

interviewed Mr. Barr in June: Here’s a partial transcript:

BARTIROMO: So am I to believe that, if we don’t get the results of the John Durham investigation before the election, and Donald Trump loses, we won’t hear another word about this?

BARR: Well, first, I agree with you that it’s been stunning that all we have gotten from the mainstream media is sort of bovine silence in the face of the complete collapse of the so-called Russiagate scandal, which they did all they could to sensationalize and drive.

And it’s, like, not even a whoops. They’re just onto the next false scandal. So, that has been surprising to me that people aren’t concerned about civil liberties and the integrity of our governmental process.

In terms of the future of Durham’s investigation, he’s pressing ahead as hard as he can. And I expect that we will have some developments, hopefully before the end of the summer. But, as I have said, his investigation will continue. It’s not going to stop because of the election.

What happens after the election may depend on who wins the election.

BARTIROMO: Has he been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic?

BARR: There has been delay because of the pandemic. Yes, there has.

BARTIROMO: An inability to interview people?

BARR: Yes, not an inability, but a distinct slowing down of that process.

BARTIROMO: Because you can’t gather a grand jury?

BARR: Well, I don’t want to suggest there has been or is a grand jury. But it is a fact that there have not been grand juries in virtually all districts for a long period of time. And, also, people have been reluctant to travel for interviews and things like that. So, it has slowed things down.

Today the White House released a copy of a memorandum dated Dec. 18 from the president to several cabinet officials concerned with national security. Mr. Trump writes in part:

The Attorney General is currently conducting a review of intelligence activities relating to the campaigns in the 2016 Presidential election and certain related matters. On May 13, 2019, the Attorney General directed John Durham to conduct that review, which subsequently developed into a criminal investigation. On October 19, 2020, the Attorney General appointed Mr. Durham to conduct that investigation pursuant to the powers and independence afforded by the Special Counsel regulations of the Department of Justice.

In a memorandum of May 23, 2019, I directed the heads of elements of the intelligence community, as defined in 50 U.S.C. 3003(4), and the heads of each department or agency that includes an element of the intelligence community, to assist the Attorney General in connection with that review, and authorized the Attorney General to declassify, downgrade, or direct the declassification or downgrading of information or intelligence that relates to his review. In addition, the Attorney General is authorized to use classified information as he deems necessary in connection with his review, including in a grand jury or other proceeding.

The special counsel, via the attorney general, appears to have been given an expanded ability to use classified information to prosecute abusers of government power. Justice may finally be done.

***

Mr. Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival.”

***

Follow James Freeman on Twitter and Parler.

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(Lisa Rossi helps compile Best of the Web.)

***

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Newsrust: Spygate Investigation Not Over Yet
Spygate Investigation Not Over Yet
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