US attorney-general William (Bill) Barr. Picture: REUTERS/JOSHUA ROBERTS
US attorney-general William (Bill) Barr. Picture: REUTERS/JOSHUA ROBERTS

Washington — US President Donald Trump lashed out at two of his most loyal cabinet members — attorney-general Bill Barr and secretary of state Mike Pompeo — and threatened to personally intervene in federal investigations into Democrats over controversies stemming from the 2016 election.

“To be honest, Bill Barr is going to go down as either the greatest attorney-general in the history of the country or he’s going to go down as a very sad situation,” Trump said Thursday in a Fox Business Network interview, after he was asked about the US justice department’s investigation into the origins of the FBI’s Russia probe. “He’s got all the information he needs,” Trump said. “You don’t need any more.”

He added: “I said I’m not going to get involved but I’m going to have to get involved.”

Trump’s intervention in the probe, led by the US attorney in Connecticut, John Durham, would amount to a historic breach of the traditional firewall between the White House and the justice department, intended to prevent the sort of politically motivated prosecutions the president openly says he wants.

Trump now trails Democratic nominee Joe Biden substantially in polls, and the angry rebukes of top officials within his own administration underscore the extent to which the president desires a narrative-shifting development to excite his base after months on the defence over his administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

But the president’s comments, made during a nearly hour-long interview, were also notable because Barr and Pompeo have been among the few members of Trump’s inner circle to remain in the president’s good favour. Trump’s White House has seen unprecedented turnover, and scores of former officials have criticised the president’s temperament and judgment.

The justice department has, so far, announced just one charge from the Durham probe, which is exploring whether FBI and intelligence officials committed any crimes or other wrongdoing when they investigated whether anyone associated with Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.

The government said a low-level former FBI official admitted to falsifying an e-mail in seeking to renew a secret warrant to conduct surveillance on a former campaign adviser, Carter Page, after Trump was elected.

‘Greatest political crime’

Trump expressed disappointment that the department had not already indicted members of the Obama administration over the Russia investigation, which the president has denounced as politically motivated and illegal. “These people should be indicted. This was the greatest political crime in the history of our country, and that includes Obama, poland it includes Biden,” Trump said. “These are people that spied on my campaign and we have everything.”

Investigations of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election turned up numerous contacts between people associated with Trump’s campaign and Moscow. In one of the more notable examples, Trump’s campaign chair, Paul Manafort, shared internal campaign information with a Russian intelligence agent, according to a bipartisan Senate intelligence committee report released in August.

There has been no public evidence that Obama or Biden directed federal agents to conduct surveillance of Trump’s campaign, and both men have denied doing so.

Trump also showed in the interview that he remains fixated on former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server, saying his administration should find and release deleted correspondence from her tenure in government.

He said he’s not very happy with Pompeo over Clinton’s e-mails, which he claimed are “in the state department. FBI has been slowly getting stuff out, you’re seeing it.”

“Why isn’t Hillary Clinton being indicted for terminating 33,000 e-mails that she got from Congress?” Trump complained.

The FBI declined in 2016 to prosecute Clinton for sending a small number of classified e-mails through a private server housed at her New York home. The issue haunted the Democrat throughout her race against Trump and is credited with helping put him in the White House.

Bloomberg

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