Attorney General Bill Barr said there is no time limit on when he would make public any indictments, such as near the 2020 election, as none of the targets of the investigation are running for president. Barr told radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday this would be different than former FBI Director James Comey announcing the decision not to charge Hillary Clinton in 2016 because she was the Democratic nominee for president.
"The idea is you don’t go after candidates," Barr said. "You don’t indict candidates or perhaps someone that’s sufficiently close to a candidate, that it’s essentially the same, you know, within a certain number of days before an election. But you know, as I say, I don’t think any of the people whose actions are under review by Durham fall into that category."
"Are you shocked by what you have found to date or have been briefed by U.S. Attorney Durham to date about?" Hewitt asked.
"I wouldn’t use the word shocked, right? You know, I’m very troubled by it, but you know, I think the reason that we have this investigation is because there are a lot of things that are unexplained. And I think we’re getting deeply into the situation, and we’ll be able to sort out exactly what happened," Barr responded.
From Hugh Hewitt's show:
HUGH HEWITT, HOST: Now Mr. Attorney General, I want to close with a couple of specific issues. The investigation of U.S. Attorney John Durham into the circumstances surrounding the surveillance of President Trump’s campaign, transition, and early administration, does that investigation remain on track undisturbed by the virus?
ATTORNEY GENERAL BILL BARR: Yes.
HEWITT: There are guidelines concerning the announcement of indictments or the closing of the investigations prior to the election. When is that deadline for U.S. Attorney Durham? And do you think he will make it either to disclose indictments or to disclose that the investigation is over?
BARR: As far as I’m aware, none of the key people that, whose actions are being reviewed at this point by Durham, are running for president.
HEWITT: But would not the announcement of indictments after a time certain have an impact on an election of the sort that the U.S. Attorney’s manual recommends against?
BARR: Well, what is the sort that the attorney manual recommends against?
HEWITT: As I recall, this came up with Director Comey making his announcement, and the concerns in 2016 that he had acted improvidently during the run up to the election. I don’t recall what the exact timing is.
BARR: Yeah, well, that was directly as to a candidate.
HEWITT: And so it would not matter, in your view, if there is an investigation, and the day before the election, someone is indicted?
BARR: Well, you know, I think in its core, the idea is you don’t go after candidates. You don’t indict candidates or perhaps someone that’s sufficiently close to a candidate, that it’s essentially the same, you know, within a certain number of days before an election. But you know, as I say, I don’t think any of the people whose actions are under review by Durham fall into that category.
HEWITT: That’s big news to me. I had assumed that they would be in the category of people that could not be indicted given the obvious connection to President Trump, but I’ll take the news and I’ll put it away. Let me ask you about Senator Grassley. A couple of weeks ago, he tweeted, and this is a direct quote, “We are learning FBI flubs on Carter Page spying case are just tip of iceberg. IG audited 29 other spying applications on Americans and found problems with every one of them, in caps. Constitutional rights are at stake when FBI fails to justify use of spying tools. Reforms needed to protect civil liberties.” Is Senator Grassley correct, Mr. Attorney General?
BARR: Yes, well, I think as I have said, I think that the failure to follow the guidelines and the requirements in preparing FISA applications, you know, is very disturbing, especially coming as recently as it has. And you know, we shouldn’t proceed with FISA unless we have safeguards and ensure that the law is being scrupulously followed by the FBI.
HEWITT: Are you shocked by what you have found to date or have been briefed by U.S. Attorney Durham to date about?
BARR: I wouldn’t use the word shocked, right? You know, I’m very troubled by it, but you know, I think the reason that we have this investigation is because there are a lot of things that are unexplained. And I think we’re getting deeply into the situation, and we’ll be able to sort out exactly what happened.
HEWITT: I’m not going to ask you, because you wouldn’t answer whether there will be indictments or not. But when do you expect that the public will know a definitive assessment of where the U.S. Attorney Durham is going?
BARR: As soon as we feel we have something that we are confident in to tell the people about.
HEWITT: Is that imminent?
BARR: No, it’s not imminent. But I’m not sure what imminent means. I’m not sure what imminent means, but it’s not imminent.
HEWITT: Okay. In light of the virus, in light of the circumstances under which the country finds itself, is it ever wise to set aside investigations of this kind that might have extraordinary partisan ramifications in light of exigent circumstances?
BARR: Is it ever wise? I mean, I mean, I’m not sure how I could possibly answer that question.
HEWITT: Would it be wise in these circumstances?
BARR: I think generally, I think generally, you know, you cite the Attorney General’s guidelines as if they are, you know, written in stone. They are prudential guidelines that you know, call for judgement in each individual case. And I think every case is, in this respect, is sui generis and has to be looked at carefully taking into the concerns that under-gird the provision.