Attorney General Bill Barr announced in an exclusive interview with Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo that Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation of the Russia probe’s origins will likely yield “developments” before summer is over, despite delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
In the wide-ranging interview that aired on “Sunday Morning Futures,” Barr said that he was surprised by the overall lack of public interest in Durham’s investigation, which follows a Justice Department Inspector General report that revealed inaccuracies and omissions in applications for warrants to conduct surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
“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,” Barr said. “You know, he’s pressing ahead as hard as he can. And I expect that, you know, we will have some developments hopefully before the end of the summer.”
Barr admitted that the ongoing pandemic resulted in a delay, but that Durham has been able to continue doing some work on his investigation. He also made it clear that Durham will continue after November’s election, although he noted that “what happens after the election may depend on who wins the election.”
Barr would not get into many details of Durham’s probe, but he did recognize that investigators are looking into the transition period following Trump’s victory in 2016, including the unmasking of Michael Flynn, who had been in contact with a Russian ambassador. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying about those contacts, but has since fought back against the case, alleging FBI misconduct.
“I would say it’s unusual for an outgoing administration, high level officials, to be unmasking very, you know, very much in the days they’re preparing to leave office,” Barr said. “Makes you wonder what they were doing.”
The DOJ moved to dismiss Flynn’s case after evidence was unsealed, including FBI notes indicating that there was a question as to whether the bureau was trying to get the truth from Flynn when they interviewed him or hoping to get him to lie so he would face pressure from prosecution or termination.
Judge Emmet Sullivan has so far not granted the motion to dismiss, and instead called on third parties to argue against the DOJ’s position. Barr said Sullivan has failed to be impartial in the case and should play a more neutral role in abiding by the prosecution’s decision when it comes to whether or not to continue pursuing a case.
“Well, as I’ve said, you know, we disagree with what he’s doing. We think the law is clear that it is within the discretion of the executive, the executive branch’s function and the attorney general’s function to make charging decisions and determine whether to continue on a case,” Barr said. “And the judge is supposed to be a neutral judge on the case, not the pros… Not exercise the prosecutor’s function. So we’re hopeful that the case will be dismissed. We think that’s what the law requires.”
Barr also came out against media outlets who have not given Russia-related developments the attention he believes they deserve.
“It’s been stunning that all we’ve 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,” he said. “And it’s like not even a whoops. They are just onto the next false scandal.”
The attorney general also discussed law enforcement in the context of racism and accountability in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks. Floyd’s death sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice. Barr recognized that racism is a problem, but pushed back on the idea that it is a “systemic” problem in American law enforcement.
“Well, I do think there’s racism in the country … I think there may be individuals and there are individuals who may have bias, and sometimes that may emerge and be manifested in some act,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s systemic.”
At the same time, Barr admitted that black and white Americans are not always treated the same by the judicial system in some parts of the country, specifically addressing whether diversion programs that keep people from getting criminal records are equally available for blacks and whites.
“In some jurisdictions, yes. In some probably not as much as we should,” Barr said. “As I said, this is a process of reforming our institutions, looking for inequities and making sure that we address them.”
Among the police reforms frequently being discussed as the public continues to protest and lawmakers craft legislation is the stripping away of “qualified immunity,” which protects officers from legal consequences in certain situations regarding acts taken in the course of their duties.
Barr said officers should have qualified immunity, and that if they did not, it could severely impact departments’ ability to recruit officers.
“Without qualified immunity, I think most people would not take the job as a police officer,” he said. “So we would essentially be doing away with our police departments.”
Barr also tackled the issue of mail-in voting, which has been a hot-button issue during an election season taking place in the midst of a global pandemic.
Democrats have pushed for an increase in mail-in ballots, arguing that they are necessary for people to exercise their rights without risking their health by going out to the polls. Republicans warn that this would expose elections to fraud because ballots could be intercepted and tampered with.
“Well it absolutely opens the floodgates to fraud,” Barr said. “Those things are delivered into mailboxes. They can be taken out. There’s questions about whether or not it even denies a secret ballot because a lot of the states have you signing the outside of the envelope.”
Barr also noted that mail-in voting could invite foreign interference, as countries “could print up tens of thousands of counterfeit ballots” that would be difficult to detect.
“So I think it can upset and undercut the confidence in the integrity of our elections,” he said. “If anything, we should tighten them up right now.”