Former Attorney General Eric Holder told Fox News on Tuesday that current Attorney General Bill Barr "is paying a price" and sacrificing his credibility by spearheading U.S. Attorney John Durham's ongoing probe into possible misconduct by the intelligence community at the outset of the Russia investigation.
Holder also remarked separately that it was a "reality" that Republicans will "cheat" in the 2020 elections by trying to "move polling places" and "a whole variety of things" -- prompting Republicans to dismiss his "outlandish and baseless accusations."
Holder's comments came a day after The New York Times reported that President Trump had privately pressed Australia's leader to help Barr in that probe. However, a letter obtained by Fox News showed that Australia had proactively reached out to Trump in May to offer assistance after Trump publicly told reporters he would direct Barr to contact a variety of countries as part of the probe.
"The whole thing that the attorney general is involved in is highly unusual," Holder said. "Ordering an investigation of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies when there was already an investigation underway by the inspector general."
Holder, who has previously described himself as President Obama's "wingman," continued: "And then to see how the president is now involved to help the attorney general in that effort gives me pause. I think the attorney general needs to be a little more sensitive to the appearance that that gives. You have to not only be substantively neutral -- you have to appear to be neutral when you are the attorney general of the United States. And I fear that he has crossed a political line."
A DOJ official stressed to Fox News on Monday that this has been a routine procedure in diplomacy and that Barr would not usually reach out to his direct counterpart in another country unilaterally. Instead, there would be an introduction of sort, made at the head-of-state level.
"Mr. Durham is gathering information from numerous sources, including a number of foreign countries. At Attorney General Barr's request, the President has contacted other countries to ask them to introduce the Attorney General and Mr. Durham to appropriate officials," DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement.
And a senior Australian diplomat told Fox News: "After the president said what he said --- we initiated the contact. There was no pressure -- we acted in order to help."
A Trump administration source echoed those comments. "The countries have been helpful," the source said. "There was no pressing required."
Holder acknowledged that it's not unprecedented for presidents to introduce their attorneys general to other countries' law enforcement agencies.
"I wouldn't say it was standard but I wouldn't say it was unprecedented," Holder said. "But involving the president in a Justice Department investigation is something that would be reserved for the most important investigations that the Justice Department would do -- usually those that would have a direct impact on the national security. More often than not, the contact with other governments goes from attorney general to the attorney general's counterpart in the other country. You don't involve heads of state in these matters unless the consequences are really significant."
Pressed on whether Durham's investigation -- which began back in May into alleged misconduct and improper surveillance of the Trump campaign in 2016, as well as whether Democrats were the ones who'd improperly colluded with foreign actors -- rose to that level of significance, Holder said the probe was simply unnecessary.
"Again, the question I have for this new investigation is what does it do that the inspector general wasn't already doing?" Holder asked. "It seems to be this is duplicative in a lot of ways. And I think kind of unnecessary. But, the attorney general has made that determination and I think is paying a price for it -- both in terms of questioning whether he's acting as the president's lawyer as opposed to the attorney general, and then it has a negative impact on the Justice Department as well."
Holder added: "I think when people of this country look at the Justice Department and think it is in some ways politicized, that has a negative long-term impact on the department. FBI agents have to testify in trials all around this country, and to the extent a person looks at an FBI agent and thinks that person serves in a politicized agency, that could make a person -- a juror for instance -- think the FBI agent is not telling the truth, in a way we traditionally have."
Holder was also pressed on why former Vice President Joe Biden's actions in Ukraine didn't come under scrutiny during the Obama administration. Biden has acknowledged on camera that in spring 2016, when he was vice president and spearheading the Obama administration's Ukraine policy, he successfully pressured Ukraine to fire top prosecutor Viktor Shokin.
The vice president threatened to withhold $1 billion in critical U.S. aid if Shokin, who has widely been accused of corruption, was not fired.
"Well, son of a b---h, he got fired," Biden joked at a panel two years after leaving office.
A photo obtained by Fox News' "Tucker Carlson Tonight" shows former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter golfing in the Hamptons with Devon Archer, who served on the board of the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings with Hunter. Earlier this month, Joe Biden told Fox News in Iowa that he never discussed his son’s foreign business dealings with him.
"The question is: Is there a predicate?" Holder asked. "That's how you do investigations. Is there a basis to think there was something that went wrong -- some basis for us to order the investigative resources of the United States to be involved. ... On the basis of what I know, it seems there is not that predicate."
Asked if an ongoing impeachment inquiry against Trump would help or hurt Democrats, Holder demurred.
"I'm not sure that anyone can really gauge that," Holder said. " I'm not sure if this is going to help Democrats or hurt Democrats. But I think it's the right thing to do."
In a separate interview on Monday, though, Holder suggested Democrats might have a tough election year -- for a head-turning reason.
"It's going to be hard because the reality is that Republicans are going to cheat. They're going to try to keep people away from the polls, they're going to move polling places, they're going to do a whole variety of things," Holder told "The Breakfast Club" radio show.
Holder went on to argue that Republicans were able to suppress voting because of the Supreme Court's decision to strike down part of the Voting Rights Act in 2013.
“Sad, but not surprising, to see that disgraced former Attorney General Eric Holder has taken a break from threatening to 'kick' Republicans to leveling outlandish and baseless accusations against Republicans,” Republican National Committee spokesman Steve Guest told Fox News.
Fox News' Garrett Tenney and Sam Dorman contributed to this report.