Attorney General William Barr on Monday said Barack Obama and Joe Biden are unlikely to be under criminal investigation in a review of the Russia probe that began in 2016 – addressing simmering accusations by President Donald Trump against his predecessor and his 2020 opponent.
Barr said he was attempting to curtail the politicization of Justice Department investigations, yet his comments could fan speculation from right-wing commentators.
“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 Monday at a press conference, referring to the US Attorney John Durham’s ongoing review of the early Russia investigation, which ultimately led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller to examine election interference and coordination with the Trump campaign.
“Our concern over potential criminality is focused on others,” Barr added.
CNN previously reported that Durham’s focus appears to be on decisions made by top officials overseeing the intelligence analysis of Russian election interference efforts in 2016, and particularly the leadership of then-CIA director John Brennan and then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, according to more than a half dozen people familiar with the investigation.
Durham is also investigating the actions of a lower-level FBI attorney who included incorrect information in a surveillance application in 2016. Additionally, the Durham review has also included looking at the information the intelligence community had to back up an FBI court application to wiretap former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Barr on Monday also criticized, broadly, using criminal investigations as “a political weapon.”
“This is not good for our political life and it’s not good for the criminal justice system,” he said. “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 has been slammed by former Justice Department attorneys and others across the legal community in recent months for interfering in cases involving Trump’s former political advisers, Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, and softening prosecutors’ stances toward them for political reasons.
This story has been updated to include additional background information.
CNN’s Evan Perez and David Shortell contributed to this report.