WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump has lashed out both in public and private at Attorney General William Barr after realizing the Department of Justice investigation into the origins of the Russia probe won't be made public before Election Day, administration officials told USA TODAY.
Trump has ramped up his criticism of Barr in recent days as he seeks to make the origins of the Russia probe a major election issue. The president has long cast the Russia investigation as a political hoax meant to undermine him and has called for the indictment of his political enemies, including former President Barack Obama and former vice president and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
But Barr has said previously that neither Obama nor Biden are under a criminal investigation, despite the president's assertions that his predecessor committed criminal offenses. Administration officials also said Trump is aware that such indictments are unlikely.
Still, while recovering after contracting coronavirus, Trump has publicly pressured his attorney general.
"Unless Bill Barr indicts these people for crimes, the greatest political crime in history of our country, then we're going to get little satisfaction unless I win," Trump told Fox Business News Thursday.
Trump has expressed similar sentiments in private, said two administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
A Justice Department spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for John Durham, the chief federal prosecutor in Connecticut, whom Barr tapped last year to look into the origins of the Russia investigation and the FBI's surveillance activities, declined to comment.
The Russia investigation, which the FBI began in 2016 and special counsel Robert Mueller took over in 2017, cast a dark cloud over much of Trump's presidency and led to the indictment of half a dozen former aides and associates. Mueller's investigation found that Russia interfered in the last presidential race to help Trump win. Members of the Trump campaign were eager beneficiaries of that effort, although Mueller's team did not find evidence of a conspiracy with the Kremlin.
So far, the Durham investigation has led to one indictment.
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Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty last summer to falsifying an email used to support the surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page during the early months of the Russia investigation. Clinesmith, who worked for the FBI for four years, altered an email that investigators relied on to justify an application to wiretap Page, according to court records. The altered email indicated that Page was "not a source" for the Central Intelligence Agency; the original email from the CIA indicated otherwise.
Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have been waiting anxiously for Durham's full findings, and Barr told Fox News last summer that there will be "significant developments" before the Nov. 3 election.
But White House aides said Trump seems aware there will be no report from Durham or more indictments ahead of November, in part because of the informal Justice Department policy against sensitive legal actions too close to Election Day. Aides said Trump and Barr have discussed aspects of the Durham probe, but they don't know details of those discussions.
During the Fox News interview, Trump claimed that Durham has already gathered enough evidence.
"I don't know what happened to Durham, but we're going to find out what happened to Durham, but he's got so much stuff," Trump said.
Speaking on Friday with radio host Rush Limbaugh, Trump was asked about media reports that Barr had told Republicans that there won't be a report from Durham before the election.
"If that's the case, I'm very disappointed. I think it's a terrible thing, and I'll say it to his face," Trump said of Barr.
Advocates who see Trump's pressure campaign and the Durham inquiry as reelection tactics are keeping a close watch on the president.
"Donald Trump has used his administration again and again to prop up his reelection campaign, from propaganda videos to undermining vote-by-mail," said Jordan Libowitz, spokesman for the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "But he's done nothing more egregious than pressure the Department of Justice to investigate and bring charges against his political enemies."
The Justice Department's inspector general concluded that the FBI was justified in launching the investigation into Russian election meddling and possible ties to the Trump campaign, but it found that the surveillance of Page was rife with errors and misstatements.
The GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee, which conducted its own investigation on Russia, has also released voluminous reports that backed Mueller's findings on Russian interference.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Donald Trump frustrated at William Barr over inquiry into Russia probe