Attorney General William Barr said there “could be” more charges in the criminal inquiry into the Russia investigation.
U.S. Attorney John Durham has secured one guilty plea so far, and pressure is building on the Justice Department not to break with policy and take any action that would disrupt the presidential contest with less than two months to go until Election Day.
Barr told NBC News’s Pete Williams on Wednesday that he’s “not gonna characterize exactly where” Durham is in his investigation, according to a transcript cited by CBS News senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge. When pressed on whether there will be further criminal charges, Barr replied, “I wouldn’t say that at all, no,” adding, “there could be.”
On the question of whether the public will hear anything about the Durham report before the election, Barr shot back, “I’m not gonna get into that either.”
This was Barr buttoned up like he rarely has been over the past few months, during which he has repeatedly shared his thoughts and teased developments related to the so-called “investigation into the investigators.”
The attorney general has said the two main goals of Durham’s investigation are sussing out the truth and exploring possible criminal charges. Only one person, Kevin Clinesmith, has been indicted in Durham’s inquiry so far. The former FBI lawyer, who played a role in both the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s improper private email server and into the Trump-Russia saga, pleaded guilty to a false statements charge for fraudulently altering a CIA email to state that former Trump campaign associate Carter Page was “not a source,” when he had, in fact, been an operational contact for the agency.
Last week, Barr denied that he is being pressured by President Trump in his handling of Durham’s inquiry and claimed that any actions taken won’t affect the 2020 election. During an interview on The Situation Room on CNN, Barr stressed that the Durham review will abide by Justice Department guidelines and reiterated that despite urging from Trump, former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden, who is now the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, are not under criminal investigation.
In what has been dubbed the “Obamagate” controversy, Trump’s supporters believe top officials in the Obama administration sought to sabotage Trump’s candidacy in 2016 and later his presidency, and many of them have called for indictments. Democrats have raised concerns about the public release of Durham’s findings or indictments during an election and have warned of a possible politicized “October surprise.”
Former CIA Director John Brennan was interviewed by Durham for eight hours in late August, according to a longtime aide of his, while fired FBI special agent Peter Strzok says he has not been approached by the federal prosecutor. Former FBI Director James Comey said last month he had no contact with Durham and “can’t imagine” being a target of the inquiry.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded in December that the investigation had “sufficient factual predication.” But Barr and Durham stated that they disagreed with Horowitz while conducting their own inquiries into the Russia investigation’s origins.
“Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the inspector general that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened,” Durham said in December statement.
Barr agreed, saying, “The FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken.”
The attorney general has made it clear that Durham is investigating how the FBI’s inquiry, code-named Crossfire Hurricane, was opened. The FBI’s investigation was wrapped into special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which, after roughly two years, concluded in April 2019 that Russia interfered in 2016 in a “sweeping and systematic fashion” but “did not establish” any criminal conspiracy between Russia and Trump’s campaign.
Horowitz’s report criticized the Justice Department and the FBI for at least 17 “significant errors and omissions” related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against Page and for the bureau’s reliance on the Democratic-funded discredited dossier compiled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele.