Lawmakers Want Justice Department to Investigate More Trump Supporters

February 3, 2023 by Tom Ramstack
Lawmakers Want Justice Department to Investigate More Trump Supporters
U.S. Attorney General William Barr gestures as he testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee May 1, 2019, in Washington, D.C. (Win McNamee/Getty Images) **FOR USE WITH THIS STORY ONLY**

WASHINGTON — House Democrats are asking the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate whether Special Counsel John Durham and former Attorney General Bill Barr abused their authority with their review of Congress’ Russia inquiry.

The Democrats say they suspect Durham and Barr might have been helping former President Donald Trump cover up a campaign finance crime.

The letter from Reps. Ted W. Lieu, D-Calif., and Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., implies Trump’s associates were following a best-defense-is-a-good-offense strategy by investigating the investigators.

It represents the second time in days Trump associates are facing a legal backlash for their support of the former president.

The four-page letter says a New York Times story last month revealed “possible prosecutorial misconduct, abuse of power, ethical transgressions and a potential cover up of an allegation of a financial crime committed by the former president.”

It also accuses Durham of “improper politicization of the investigation and questionable charging decisions.”

The latest round of accusations result from the Crossfire Hurricane operation, the FBI’s 2016-2017 investigation into links between Russian government officials and the Trump presidential campaign. The FBI investigated whether the Russian government was trying to influence the 2016 presidential election.

The investigation led to the Mueller Report, which concluded that there was Russian interference in a “sweeping and systematic fashion” with substantial links to the Trump campaign. It fell short of finding the Trump campaign “conspired or coordinated” with the Russian government.

Trump fired back by calling Crossfire Hurricane a “hoax” and a “witch hunt” instigated by his political enemies.

At Trump’s urging, Barr announced he would review why the FBI did the investigation. Barr assigned Durham to lead the effort. 

After three-and-a-half years, Durham indicted three men, one of whom pleaded guilty to a charge unrelated to the FBI investigation. He was sentenced to probation.

The other two men were tried and acquitted. In both trials, Durham said the defendants lied to the FBI but he did not accuse the FBI of improperly investigating Trump.

One of the accused was Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann. Two prosecutors quit in protest of the Sussmann prosecution, citing “scant evidence.”

The other man who was acquitted was Igor Danchenko, who gave the FBI information about alleged ties between Russia and Trump. He was accused of lying about his sources of information.

Lieu and Goldman said The New York Times’ report indicated Barr and Durham hid their true motives for charging Sussmann and Danchenko. The report quoted a Barr interview on Fox News in which his words could be interpreted to mean he admitted pursuing political goals through the courts.

“Charging individuals with crimes in order to pursue separate political narratives undermines our rule of law and represents a gross abuse of power,” the lawmakers’ letter says.

“The above allegations are alarming and, if true, show Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham misled the American people, abused their prosecutorial powers, and corrupted the Department of Justice to pursue a false political narrative,” they added.

Lieu and Goldman want the Justice Department to determine whether Barr and Durham violated any laws, regulations or legal ethics.

For similar reasons, former Trump attorney John Eastman faces the possibility of disbarment in California for trying to overturn the 2020 presidential victory of Joe Biden.

Last week, the State Bar of California filed disciplinary charges against Eastman that accuse him of ethics violations for advising Trump on how to overturn the 2020 election by alleging election fraud.

Eastman authored a memo with a plan for then-Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to certify several states’ Electoral College votes when Congress met to certify the election on Jan. 6, 2021. Pence declined to comply with the memo’s suggestions and no election fraud was found during later investigations.

Tom can be reached at [email protected] and @TomRamstack

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