Speaking exclusively to Townhall on a recent flight from Cleveland to Washington, D.C., Attorney General Bill Barr discussed the timing of U.S. Attorney John Durham's investigation into the FBI's Russia probe and efforts by the Department of Justice to ensure it remains non-political on the matter.
"I've said that there are sort of two missions, I see it. One is to get to the bottom of what happened and get the facts out about that and we are going to do that and you know, try to be careful about that, that we don't do anything that would unduly interfere with the election," Barr said. "And then there's the issue of whether someone crossed the line. In the course of these, in my view, unjustified and horrible abuse of power, actually cross the line and committed a federal offense and I can't really say anything about the status of that investigation except that it's continuing and we'll be careful about not bringing indictments in a way that can be viewed as interfering with the election."
In August, FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith became the first individual under investigation by Durham to plead guilty to charges of illegally doctoring information on a FISA warrant application for Trump campaign advisor Carter Page in 2016. Barr has been careful about setting expectations for additional indictments or guilty pleas.
"You need strong evidence of intent, it seems to me, before you can charge that kind of crime so developing that evidence is a time consuming process. Most of the people who are mouthing off about 'well why aren't these people already indicted,' they don't understand the criminal justice process. People get lawyers, sometimes they won't talk to you. Even if they talk to you they'll say they'll take the fifth and you have to get documents and frequently fight over documents and fight over things in court so the investigation is a cumbersome process. It's not something that can be done quickly," he continued.
Issues of cooperation can delay any investigation, but the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic also temporarily halted the ability for Durham to convene grand juries earlier this year. In addition, previous and lengthy investigations from DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz and Special Counsel Robert Mueller presented investigative conflicts, pushing back the Durham timeline.
"The other thing that people sometimes forget is that, you know, they may have in their own mind some thing that they think can be indicted but there are a lot of different allegations that have been made. A lot of people have sort of picked apart this and have come up with various theories. Part of what Durham has to do is sort of chase all of those down. That takes time. He didn't really get going until May or so . And then hired up people and started getting going. People forget that he didn't get access to the Horowitz stuff until December," Barr said. "When I hear people on TV saying, 'well we've had four years why nothing?' We haven't had four years. The first two years of the administration nothing was done at all. It was all investigating Trump and then Mueller went half of the way into the next year."
"In terms of investigations it's actually moving along but I know people are impatient," he continued.