Barr defends Durham probe of Trump-Russia investigation

Former US Atty. General William P. Barr Wednesday maintained his appointment of prosecutor John H. Durham in 2019 to probe the origins of the probe into the 2016 Trump presidential campaign’s ties to Russia and defended his close interactions with Durham during the probe.

Barr’s comments marked the first time he spoke to the media since the New York Times reported last week that he pressured Durham to find flaws in Special Counsel Robert S .Mueller III. Barr spoke to a Times reporter after speaking at the California News Publishers Assn. Meeting in Sacramento.

“The idea that there was a thin base for it is not tenable,” Barr said of his decision to appoint Durham. “Because it wasn’t started as a criminal investigation. One of the Attorney General’s duties is to guard against abuses of criminal and intelligence powers so they are not abused to interfere with political activity, so I felt it was my duty to find out what happened there.”

Barr appointed US Atty. Durham in 2019, just weeks after Mueller’s report was released, and commissioned him to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe, including whether the intelligence agencies were involved in raising questions about what the Trump Campaign knew about Russian attempts to interfere in the election. The nearly four-year investigation was concluded after two people charged by Durham were acquitted.

Durham is believed to be working on his final report. atty General Merrick Garland will decide how much of the report will be made public.

“I find [Durham]will, as far as he is allowed to express it, explain the whole genesis of [the Russia interference claims] and how it all happened,” Barr said. “So what’s wrong with that? When you verify something, you get the facts. Yes, we wanted to hold people accountable if something came up that suggested crime, or you could prove crime. But it wasn’t a criminal investigation, it was a review to learn the story. And he got the story.”

The New York Times article said Durham’s investigation relied on Russian intelligence memos to investigate financier George Soros, a major Democratic donor, and Hillary Clinton. The article also noted that, contrary to the independence that special counsels typically take, Barr and Durham often met weekly to discuss the progress of the investigation, sometimes over dinner and Scotch.

Barr said he did not break any departmental regulations by meeting with Durham frequently.

The New York Times’ reporting also revealed that Barr and Durham never disclosed that the investigation had been expanded in 2019, based on a tip from Italian officials, to include a criminal investigation into suspicious Trump-related financial dealings. Several news outlets, including the New York Times, reported at the time that the probe included a criminal probe, which seemed to indicate Durham had instead found evidence supporting Trump’s allegations of federal law enforcement misconduct.

The details of the tip are unclear and Durham did not press charges. Barr said on Wednesday that the tip “didn’t relate directly to Trump” and that it was appropriate to fit into Durham’s investigation because “it had a connection to the Russiagate stuff.” It wasn’t completely separate from it. And it turned out not to be a problem.”

Barr criticized the New York Times article, which he did not contribute to, for omitting “obvious reasons” for Durham’s investigation.

“They ignored some basic facts about why some of the information Durham was seeking was very important information,” he said.

A spokesman for the New York Times said the newspaper “stands behind this story and the reporting in it.”

Barr’s criticism of the article was consistent with the subject of his speech to the editors, which focused on complaints about what he sees as partisan national media in Washington, DC, treating Republicans unfairly.

Wire reported from Washington, DC and Rosenhall reported from Sacramento. Barr defends Durham probe of Trump-Russia investigation

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