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Exclusive: Bill Barr rips Russiagate as 'seditious', explains origins of Durham probe
William B. Plowman/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Exclusive: Bill Barr rips Russiagate as 'seditious', explains origins of Durham probe

Bill Barr, former U.S. attorney general and author of the new book, "One Damn Thing After Another: Memoirs of an Attorney General," says that the Russian collusion allegations leveled against former President Donald Trump by Democrats were a "seditious" attempt to undermine his presidency and a "grave injustice."

Barr made those comments on an upcoming episode of BlazeTV host Glenn Beck's podcast, where he explained why he joined the Trump administration and eventually appointed special prosecutor John Durham to investigate the origins of the FBI's Trump-Russia probe.

"I thought we were heading into a constitutional crisis. I think whatever you think of Trump, the fact is that the whole Russiagate thing was a grave injustice. It appears to be a dirty political trick that was used first to hobble him and then potentially to drive him from office," Barr told Beck.

"I believe it is seditious," he added, clarifying that whether that could be proved in court as a crime is another issue.

"It was a gross injustice, and it hurt the United States in many ways, including what we're seeing in Ukraine these days. It distorted our foreign policy, and so forth," Barr said.

An FBI investigation into Trump's campaign over alleged ties to the Russian government during the 2016 election, known as Crossfire Hurricane, was the source of unceasing controversy for Trump throughout his presidency. Leaks from the investigation were used by the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign to accuse Trump of colluding with the Russians to interfere in the election, spawning conspiracy theories that his victory was illegitimate. After Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017, congressional Democrats accused him of attempting to obstruct the Russia probe, demanding the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Trump's actions.

After a two-year, $32 million investigation, Robert Mueller released a report in March 2019 that showed evidence of Russian interference in the election, but said the "investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities." By this time, questions were raised about the origins of Crossfire Hurricane and whether the FBI had inappropriately sought a FISA court warrant to surveil members of Trump's 2016 campaign using opposition research from the Clinton campaign.

Revelations that the FBI had in fact used material from a political opposition research report paid for by the Clinton campaign that made false allegations against Trump — the infamous "Steele dossier" — spurred Attorney General Barr in 2019 to appoint U.S. Attorney John Durham to investigate the origins of the FBI's Russia probe. In December 2020, Barr disclosed that he had made Durham special counsel in October, ensuring that the investigation would continue after President Joe Biden assumed office.

Barr explained to Beck that he acted in secret to give Durham protection from the incoming administration.

"I was highly confident he would remain in office and they wouldn't touch him," he said.

"[The Biden] administration had no real interest in protecting either Hillary Clinton or Comey. And at the end of the day, for them to lose the capital and appear to be covering something up that would then never get resolved, I didn't think was in their interest. And I think institutionally that would've destroyed the new AG if he had tried that," he continued.

The former attorney general also took time to address complaints from the right that Durham was unable to wrap up his investigation before the Trump administration departed after the 2020 election.

Barr said that when Durham was first brought on board, inspector general Michael Horowitz had not yet finished his investigation of the FBI's use of FISA court warrants against the Trump campaign, and Durham wanted the IG report before diving in to his own investigation. When the IG finally released his report in December 2019, Durham had access to it for just three months before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, shutting down grand juries and delaying Durham's investigation through most of 2020, Barr said.

"If you don't have the threat of a grand jury, no one will come in and talk to you. You'll say, the usual thing is, 'Please come in for a voluntary interview.' And people come in because they know if they don't, they're subpoenaed. But if there is no grand jury, they say, 'No, I'm not coming in,' and there's nothing you can do. And people don't understand that that state of affairs lasted until the month before the election," Barr said. "So his hands were very much tied as to how far he could push things and how much pressure he could bring on people through most of 2020."

Now that the pandemic has wound down, Durham's probe brought an indictment against former Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann, who is accused of lying to the FBI in a meeting where he presented information connecting the Trump campaign to Alfa Bank, a financial institution with ties to Russia, but did not tell agents he was working for the Clinton campaign.

Clinton's 2016 campaign manager, Robby Mook, testified as a witness in Sussmann's trial last week, when he told jurors that Clinton had personally authorized her campaign to share information with a reporter — later discovered to be disinformation — that purportedly linked Trump to Russia.

Mook also acknowledged that the Clinton campaign had not verified the accuracy of the data before it went to the press.

The full episode of "The Glenn Beck Podcast" featuring Attorney General Barr will be released Saturday, May 28.

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