While Barr publicly scolds Trump, his DOJ is quietly investigating those in the CIA who probed 2016 Russian interference
- Attorney General William Barr, in an interview that aired Thursday, publicly rebuked President Donald Trump, saying that his tweets "make it impossible for me to do my job."
- Barr also maintained his impartiality and stressed that Trump has "never" asked him "to do anything in a criminal case."
- On the same day as the interview, The New York Times published an article about the Justice Department's probe into intelligence agencies over the probe into Russia's 2016 election interference.
- The report claims that US District Attorney John Durham, who was appointed by Barr to look into the origins of the Russia probe, appeared to be pursuing a theory that the CIA was hiding information from other intelligence agencies.
- Former CIA Director John Brennan appeared on MSNBC's "Hardball" on Thursday and dismissed Durham's investigation as "kind of silly," but said it adds fuel to criticism that Trump is using the department to go after his perceived political opponents.
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"I think it's time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases," Barr said, because they "make it impossible for me to do my job."
"I'm not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody ... whether it's Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president," Barr added. "I'm going to do what I think is right. And you know … I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me."
In his interview, Barr maintained his impartiality and stressed that Trump has "never" asked him "to do anything in a criminal case."
On the same day, The New York Times published a report about the DOJ's investigation into the origins of the Russia probe. Barr appointed US District Attorney John Durham to lead the probe. According to The Times, Durham has been investigating the CIA over its assessment that Russia wanted to help Trump win the 2016 election.
Sources told The Times the investigation looked into whether members of the CIA were trying to prevent other agencies from seeing highly-sensitive secrets about their investigation. According to The Times, national security officials have told Durham that the intelligence community is typically reserved about sharing classified information, even with other agencies.
Brennan on Thursday appeared on MSNBC's "Hardball" and dismissed the DOJ investigation as "kind of silly," but said it adds fuel to criticism that Trump is using the department to go after his perceived political opponents.
"Is there a criminal investigation now on analytic judgments and the activities of CIA in terms of trying to protect our national security?" he said. "It clearly, I think, is another indication that Donald Trump is using the Department of Justice to go after his enemies any way he can."
The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment; the department "declined to talk about Mr. Durham's work in meaningful detail," The Times wrote.
Trump's perceived influence on the DOJ was under a microscope this week after federal prosecutors recommended a seven to nine-year sentence for longtime Trump ally Roger Stone.
Trump derided the sentencing on Twitter as "a horrible and very unfair situation." Barr and senior leadership overruled the prosecutors' sentencing recommendation in the case, which triggered a mass withdrawal of the assistant US attorneys assigned to the prosecution.
Trump later slammed the US district judge presiding over Stone's case on Twitter, and called Stone's sentencing "A phony Mueller Witch Hunt disgrace."
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