Barr Asked Foreign Officials To Assist DOJ In Probe Of US Intelligence Agencies
Attorney General William Barr has traveled overseas to personally ask foreign intelligence officials to help the Justice Department investigate U.S. intelligence agencies’ actions during the 2016 election, according to The Washington Post.
Sources familiar with Barr’s activity told The Post that the attorney general has already made contact with officials in the U.K. and Australia, and last week Barr traveled to Italy with John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut who has been tasked with reviewing U.S. intelligence work both during and after the election.
The Post reported that “current and former intelligence and law enforcement officials expressed frustration and alarm Monday that the head of the Justice Department was taking such a direct role in re-examining what they view as conspiracy theories and baseless allegations of misconduct.”
David Laufman, a former Justice Department official involved in the early stages of the Russia investigation, said it would be “fairly unorthodox for the attorney general personally to be flying around the world as a point person to further evidence-gathering for a specific Justice Department investigation.”
“Even if one questions, as a threshold matter, the propriety of conducting a re-investigation of the Justice Department’s own prior investigation of Russia’s interference, the appointment of John Durham — a seasoned, nonpartisan prosecutor — provided some reason to believe that it would be handled in a professional, nonpartisan manner,” Laufman told The Post. “But if the attorney general is essentially running this investigation, that entire premise is out the window.”
That President Donald Trump made mention of Barr’s name during his controversial phone call with Ukraine’s president in July — at which time Trump asked that the country investigate former Vice President Joe Biden as well as the origins of the Russia investigation — makes more sense in light of The Post report.
One source told the newspaper that the purpose of Barr’s engagement with foreign officials has been formal introductions to Durham, and he has also used the meetings to tell “people he wants to make sure that the rules governing U.S. agencies have been followed.”
Some U.S. intelligence officials are concerned that Barr is speaking with foreign officials in an attempt to substantiate right-wing conspiracy theories that have taken shape in defense of Trump.
One of those theories involves Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud, whose conversation with former Trump campaign staffer George Papadopoulos reportedly sparked the Russia investigation.
Mifsud has since gone missing.
In April 2016, the professor “allegedly alerted Papadopoulos that the Russians had ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton, in the form of thousands of emails,” and Papadopoulos later recounted the conversation during drinks with an Australian diplomat.
Australian officials, in turn, passed the information along to authorities in the U.S.
Papadopoulos subsequently pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his interactions with Mifsud during the election.
Former special counsel Robert Mueller suggested in court filings that Mifsud operated under Russia’s interests, The Post noted, but some conservatives and conspiracy theorists believe the professor might have been working with Western intelligence agencies.
One U.S. official told The Post that “Barr expressed a belief that the U.S. investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election stemmed from some corrupt origin.”
But another official told the newspaper that Barr is merely “seeking cooperation for Durham’s work, and not trying to promote a particular theory or accusation against U.S. agents and officers.”