Security experts warn AG Barr is trying to use foreign governments to 'undermine' FBI's Russia investigation: ‘This is a gross abuse of power’
When Attorney General William Barr was confirmed by the U.S. Senate earlier this year, his supporters noted he had previously held that position under President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s and insisted that he would conduct himself like a traditional Republican rather than a Trump loyalist. But Barr has turned out to be very much a Trump loyalist, and an October 17 article by security experts James Lamond and Talia Dessel for Just Security outlines the ways in which Barr, with the help of U.S. Attorney John Durham, has been trying to use foreign governments to “undermine the FBI’s decision to open an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.”
“This effort is an abuse of power, purely designed to help President Donald Trump politically,” Lamond and Dessel warn. “The fact is, it would have been malpractice if the FBI had not opened its investigation in the summer of 2016.”
In his final report for the Russian investigation, former special counsel Robert Mueller made it clear that the Russian government aggressively interfered in 2016’s presidential election — and Mueller has warned that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin and his supporters plan to do the same thing again in 2020. But Lamond and Dessel (both known for their expertise on intelligence and Russia-related matters) stress that Barr and Durham aren’t trying to “contest the findings of the Mueller investigation” but rather, are trying to “prove that the trigger for the FBI launching its original inquiry into Russian interference was, in fact, a set-up.”
“Barr and Durham’s quixotic journey has resulted in the chief law enforcement officer of the United States traveling to Italy to review deposition tapes, pressing the United Kingdom for cooperation, and Trump himself pressuring the Australian prime minister for assistance in the matter,” Lamond and Dessel explain.
According to Lamond and Dessel, the “conspiracy theory” that “Barr appears to be chasing down…. advances the idea that Trump isn’t the beneficiary of foreign interference — he’s a victim of it.” But they stress that “in reality, there were so many suspicious links between the Trump campaign and Russia, and so many strong indications of Russian interference in the 2016 election, it would have been truly irresponsible of the FBI not to have initiated an investigation.”
Lamond and Dessel recall that in 2016, “there were multiple, separate warnings from allied intelligence agencies to U.S. officials about Russia’s relationship with the Trump campaign.” And, they add, “an alarming number of figures known to U.S. law enforcement to have Russian links joined the Trump campaign in rapid succession” — including Carter Page, Michael Flynn (who went on to briefly serve as the Trump Administration’s national security adviser) and Paul Manafort (former Trump’s campaign chairman who is now serving a long sentence in federal prison for multiple financial crimes).
Barr, Lamond and Dessel stress, is obviously trying to “provide fodder for Trump’s conspiracy theories about the origins and legitimacy of the Russia investigation. The goal of these investigations is to create the appearance of impropriety and to support the false claims that the Mueller probe and its findings were an illegitimate, partisan endeavor advanced by the ‘deep state.’”
The more Barr reaches out to foreign governments, according to Lamond and Dessel, the more obvious it is that he is trying to discredit the Russia investigation.
“The president of the United States and his attorney general are both working to leverage America’s relationships with its allies to advance conspiracy theories as part of an ongoing political campaign,” Lamond and Dessel assert. “This is a gross abuse of power. Both should go.”