Top House Democrats are calling on Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to determine whether Attorney General William Barr and other political appointees are following policies to avoid interfering with the upcoming November election.
In a letter penned by Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), and House Administration Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), they expressed concern over Barr’s involvement with ongoing investigations.
“We are concerned by indications that Attorney General Barr might depart from longstanding DOJ principles to take public action related to U.S. Attorney Durham’s investigation that could impact the presidential election,” they wrote.
They noted Barr and Durham had made comments on his probe into the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation that could violate the department’s policies and guidelines.
“Attorney General Barr has signaled repeatedly that he is likely to allow DOJ to take prosecutorial actions, make public disclosures, and even issue reports before the presidential election in November,” they wrote.
The Democrats claimed the actions “appear intended to benefit President Trump politically.”
They stressed the actions are even more concerning after Nora Dannehy, a well-respected former federal prosecutor and a member of Durham’s team, resigned because of pressure from Barr to provide a report ahead of the election.
According to the department’s “Justice Manual,” the “DOJ generally will not confirm the existence of or otherwise comment about ongoing investigations” and “DOJ personnel shall not respond to questions about the existence of an ongoing investigation or comment on its nature or progress before charges are publicly filed.”
They argued Barr has “strongly supported a strict interpretation” of department policy to “to avoid overt law enforcement and prosecutorial activities close to an election.”
The letter goes on to cite comments Barr made during an interview, “Attorney General Barr explained that he now interprets election sensitivity policies only to apply to investigative or prosecutorial actions specifically targeting candidates or their close proxies.”
The leading Democrats reiterated it is crucial to open an investigation to ensure a secure election.
“Few actions would prove more damaging to public confidence in the integrity of the DOJ and our democratic process than the perception that federal prosecutorial power can be used to prejudice a pending investigation or influence an upcoming election,” the letter reads.
It continued, “As such, we believe it is imperative that this matter be immediately investigated, that you inform our Committees of your decision to open an investigation, and that you report the results promptly to our Committees.”