President-elect Joe Biden needed this like he needs another headache. Come to think of it, that’s pretty much what Bill Barr has given him.
The Attorney General revealed Tuesday that he appointed federal prosecutor John Durham as a special counsel to allow him to continue investigating how the Obama-Biden administration weaponized the FBI and Justice Department to spy on the Trump campaign during and after the 2016 election.
The appointment, made in secret on October 19, two weeks before the election, does not absolutely protect the investigation once Biden moves into the White House. But it means the probe cannot be swept under the rug because ending it would require the new administration to publicly remove Durham, which would smack of a coverup and cause a uproar in public and in congress.
The prospect that justice might be done for the dirtiest trick ever played in American politics helps restore a modicum of confidence in Washington. Thank you, Bill Barr.
The move is also a reminder that turnabout is fair play, for it presents Biden with a cloud similar to the one that he, Obama, Jim Comey and others created for Trump at the start of his administration.
The only difference is that the probe of Trump was concocted out of whole cloth for purely partisan purposes. This one is more than warranted.
As Trump often said, what happened to him should never again happen to any president. What we know so far shows that Comey’s FBI was at least as corrupt as anything J. Edgar Hoover ever did.
Hoover collected dirt on public officials, including presidents, as an insurance policy so he wouldn’t be fired. Comey and his crew of dirty cops decided they, and not voters, would decide who should be president.
Barr, who took office in 2019, soon expressed concerns about the origins of the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign, telling CBS in May of that year that “the use of foreign intelligence capabilities and counterintelligence capabilities against an American political campaign to me is unprecedented and it’s a serious red line that’s been crossed.”
Then and elsewhere he frequently used the word “spying” to describe what happened, causing anti-Trump heads to explode throughout Washington and in biased newsrooms. Far from backing down, he took action.
Reports from the Justice Department Inspector General revealed serious errors and misconduct in the 2016 probe, and led to the firing of Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page and others. Barr directed Durham, the US attorney in Connecticut, to do an additional “review,” which soon morphed into a criminal probe.
But with just one person charged criminally, former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who pled guilty to altering an email that helped get a surveillance warrant on Carter Page, fears grew in the White House and among Trump supporters that others would escape scot-free and that the full truth of what happened would never be known.
The grumbling grew louder when Barr said the pandemic had slowed the probe and when the election came and went without further developments, the hope for a full accounting appeared to be lost.
Until Tuesday. It is also to Barr’s credit that he kept the appointment secret until after the election, which was the right thing to do.
In a letter to Congress, Barr said he decided to make Durham a Special Counsel “to provide him and his team with the assurance that they could complete their work, without regard to the outcome of the election.”
Fox News obtained the letter outlining the probe’s scope, which allows Durham “to investigate whether any federal official, employee, or any other person or entity violated the law in connection with the intelligence, counter-intelligence, or law-enforcement activities directed at the 2016 presidential campaigns, individuals associated with those campaigns, and individuals associated with the administration of President Donald J. Trump, including but not limited to Crossfire Hurricane and the investigation of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III.”
The inclusion of the Mueller investigation into Trump as part of the scope is especially curious, suggesting the possibility there was wrongdoing by members of Mueller’s team that probed whether Trump colluded with Russia.
In the past, Barr has disputed parts of the team’s report, saying it did not follow certain Justice Department guidelines, but has not raised the possibility of criminal conduct.
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However, there has been much criticism that Mueller, himself a special counsel appointed by former deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, had been ruthless in charging Trump associates with unrelated crimes in a fruitless attempt to gain incriminating information against the president. There is also a lingering issue about when Mueller decided there was not enough evidence to charge Trump with collusion, and why he waited until after the 2018 midterms to release its report.
The inclusion also raises the possibility that the obvious bias against Trump will be scrutinized to determine if it shaped the team’s official actions. That bias was apparent in the final report, which excessively cited media reports in its footnotes, as if they were the basis of the prosecutors’ decisions, and seemed to be written to gin up criticism of Trump by Democrats in congress.
In addition, subsequent comments by pugnacious lead prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who wrote a book revealing internal deliberations and disputes and criticizing his colleagues, also smack of a desire to get Trump at any cost.
Thankfully, that dark chapter is in the past and it is progress that we can now dare hope that the bill for all the disgraceful abuse of government power is coming due.
Now, Mr. Attorney General, how about those Hunter Biden schemes to profit off of his father’s public office? A special counsel is also warranted there.