Abuses of power, no matter how outrageous, are not necessarily a federal crime
Attorney General Barr, Speaking at a Department of Justice (DOJ) press conference with FBI Director Christopher Wray, responded to a question from Pete Williams of NBC News regarding the outcome of DOJ’s investigation by Durham regarding surveillance of the Trump administration. President Trump has stated publicly that he wanted to see the DOJ prosecute members of the former administration for criminal wrongdoing.
AG Barr said he was not going to comment on what the President or Vice-President Biden are saying in connection with their campaigns however he stated he would “address the role of the Department of Justice.” I’ve commented since I have been Attorney General and prior to my confirmation that “over the past few decades there have been increasing attempts to use the criminal justice system as a political weapon.”
“The legal tactic has been to gin up allegations of criminality by one’s political opponents based on the flimsiest of legal theories. This is not a good development, this is not good for our political life and it’s not good for the criminal justice system.”
“As long as I’m attorney general the criminal justice system will not be used for partisan political ends. And this is especially true for the upcoming elections in November. We live in a very divided country right now and I think that it is critical that we have an election where the American people are allowed to make a decision – a choice – between President Trump and Vice-President Biden based on a robust debate of policy issues. “
“And we cannot allow this process to be hijacked by efforts to drum up criminal investigations of either candidate. I’m committed that this election will be conducted without this kind of interference. Any effort to pursue an investigation of either candidate has to be approved by me ”
“And what happened to the President, and I’ve said this many times, what happened to the President in the 2016 election and throughout the first two years of his administration was abhorrent. It was a grave injustice and it was unprecedented in American history. The law enforcement and intelligence apparatus of this country were involved in advancing a false and utterly baseless Russian-collusion narrative against the President. The proper investigative and prosecutive standards of the Department of Justice were abused, in my view, in order to reach a particular result. We saw two different standards of justice emerge. One that applied to President Trump and his associates and the other that applied to everybody else. We can’t allow this to ever happen again.”
“The Durham investigation is trying to get to the bottom of what happened. And it will determine whether there were any federal laws broken and if there were, those who broke the laws will be held to account. But this cannot be and it will not be a tit-for-tat exercise. We’re not going to lower the standards just to achieve a result. The only way to stop this vicious cycle, the only way to break away from a dual system of justice is to make sure that we scrupulously apply a single and proper standard of justice for everybody. Now, under the long-standing standards of the department criminal charges are appropriate only when we have enough evidence to prove each element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. That is the standard we’re applying. Now, I have a general idea of how Mr. Durham’s investigation is going, and as I have indicated some aspects of the matter are being examined as potential crimes.”
Barr then spoke about the recent Supreme Court “BridgeGate” ruling where they found “there’s a difference between an abuse of power and a federal crime.” “Not every abuse of power no matter how outrageous is necessarily a federal crime. Now, as to President Obama and Vice-President Biden, whatever their level of involvement, based on the information I have today, I don’t expect Mr. Durham’s work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man. Our concern over potential criminality is focussed on others.”
Barr later said he would not comment on who might be under criminal investigation.