Attorney General William Barr has held private meetings overseas with foreign intelligence officials seeking help in a Justice Department inquiry that President Donald Trump hopes will discredit U.S. intelligence agencies’ examination of possible connections between Russia and members of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, the Washington Post reports. Barr’s personal involvement is likely to prompt criticism from Democrats pursuing impeachment that he is helping the Trump administration use executive branch powers to augment investigations aimed at the president’s adversaries. The high-level Justice Department focus on intelligence operatives’ conduct is likely to cheer Trump and other conservatives for whom “investigate the investigators” has become a rallying cry.
The direct involvement of the nation’s top law enforcement official shows the priority Barr places on the investigation being conducted by John Durham, the U.S. Attorney in Connecticut, who has been assigned the sensitive task of reviewing U.S. intelligence work surrounding the 2016 election and its aftermath. Barr’s active role underscores the degree to which a nearly three-year-old election still consumes significant resources and attention inside the federal government. 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 reexamining what they view as conspiracy theories and baseless allegations of misconduct. Barr has made overtures to British intelligence officials, and last week he traveled to Italy, where he and Durham met senior Italian government officials and Barr asked the Italians to assist Durham.