Attorney General William Barr left the door open for his Department of Justice to unveil a pre-election “October Surprise” that could affect the outcome of the presidential election.
During congressional testimony on July 29, Barr said he would not delay the findings of a department oversight investigation of the Trump-Russia investigation until after November 3.
The investigation by U.S. Attorney John Durham has been highly touted by Fox News and Republican members of Congress as a possible avenue to validate claims that the investigation of Trump was politically motivated. Ever since the FBI began documenting the ties between Trump and Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Republicans have attempted to say the probe was political retribution from the Obama team. There is no evidence of this, and previously released records showed Obama sought to keep the investigation out of the political realm.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) asked Barr if he would commit to releasing Durham’s findings after the election. “No,” Barr replied.
The denial echoes the 2016 election, where then-FBI Director James Comey’s comments on Hillary Clinton’s emails were shown to have an effect on the race.
“Whatever conclusions Durham actually reaches, Barr’s history indicates that he’ll make them sound better for Trump and worse for the counterintelligence work of America’s public servants,” Joshua A. Geltzer and Ryan Goodman note in the Washington Post. Geltzer is a former Justice Department and National Security Council lawyer and Goodman is former special counsel at the Department of Defense.
“It’s essential that Congress, the media and the public refuse to accept what Barr says at face value,” they write.
Barr has a track record of using the Department of Justice to aid Donald Trump.
In advance of the Mueller Report, Barr released a statement that claimed the report found no collusion between Trump and Russia. The claim was uncritically reported on the front pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post, as well as in other mainstream media outlets. But what Barr said about the report turned out to be untrue. The statement misled in favor of the Trump administration and was used by Trump and his allies to deflect from many of the damning findings of the Mueller report.
Barr has frequently used his position to assist Trump’s political fortunes, including his justifications for deploying armed forces to Portland to attack protesters. Trump has lied and said that cities led by Democratic leaders are in chaos, as a way to attack Vice President Joe Biden.
Trump is trailing Joe Biden in both national polling and in polls in most of the key swing states vital to the election. A disinformation campaign from the Department of Justice is the type of event that could help him to get past the headwinds facing his campaign.