On Thursday evening, several media reports detailed how the United States Department of Justice was shifting an administrative review to a criminal investigation over how the Russia investigation began, including why investigators sought to understand what role President Donald Trump and his 2016 campaign played in the matter.
Although Trump was not found to have committed any acts that warranted action with regard to coordination with the Russian government, the final outcome of the investigation, led by former special counsel Robert Mueller, determined that the president had possibly engaged in at least 10 instances of obstruction of justice during the investigation. The inquiry also yielded dozens of indictments, including several individuals who were close in the president’s inner circle during or after the campaign in 2016.
At the conclusion of the investigation — which Trump consistently labeled a “witch hunt” — the president made it very clear, according to reporting from CNN, that he wanted the origins of the investigation looked into, and soon after, an administrative review was announced by the Justice Department.
On Thursday evening of this week, the New York Times reported that the DOJ had indeed opened a criminal investigation relating to that review. The details of the investigation, which is being managed by prosecutor John Durham, are not known at this time. Attorney General William Barr is said to be overseeing the investigation as well.
It’s unclear as of right now what type of crime Durham might be looking into. The change in designation allows Durham to subpoena individuals, whereas, under an administrative review, he could only question them if they agreed to do so voluntarily.
While the matter would, under ordinary circumstances, cause alarm, many are doubtful over whether the investigation is a legitimate attempt to find criminal wrongdoing or not. Many view it as a means for Trump to attack an investigation that lingered over most of the first two years of his presidency, and many expressed their skepticism over the investigation on social media.
Trump expressed in May that he believed those who opened the investigation had committed treasonous actions. “We can never allow these treasonous acts to happen to another president,” he said to Fox News personality Sean Hannity in May.
A number of pundits, political observers, and legal experts weighed in on the situation on Thursday night, after reports of the investigation came about. Many expressed skepticism over the pending investigation, with some making charges that this was an abuse of Barr’s powers, and that it was possibly being opened in order to distract from the impeachment drama that’s been plaguing Trump in recent days.
Things are getting worse, fast now that Trump could be removed -a reminder he will do whatever it takes to stay in power, and apparently Barr and the DOJ will help him. He is acting like a dictator already, making unilateral decisions at home and abroad. This is authoritarianism.
— Amy Siskind 🏳️🌈 (@Amy_Siskind) October 25, 2019
That Barr has launched a criminal investigation of the origins of the Russia investigation but not launched an investigation of the Ukrainian matters smells more than fishy, it smell like whatever scum smells like! Barr sure knows how to look like an evil doer…
— John Dean (@JohnWDean) October 25, 2019
Amazing timing how the day after further evidence emerges of Trump extorting a foreign country to investigate his enemies, Barr pops up with a criminal investigation of Trump’s enemies.
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) October 25, 2019
Special Counsel investigation resulted in:
-8 convictions/guilty pleas
-A finding that Russia interfered in US elections in a sweeping & systematic manner
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) October 25, 2019
This looks like yet another abuse of power by Trump and Barr. No coincidence that it was unveiled right after the devastating Taylor testimony on Ukrainegate. Seems like a politically driven stratagem to distract attention from the impeachment inquiry. https://t.co/dlw2zsWhkz
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) October 25, 2019
Barr takes DOJ even deeper down a very ugly path. The Department must know every move here will be scrutinized for years. And we haven't seen anything yet that looks even close to a criminal predicate. https://t.co/bwYxRFG7TG
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) October 25, 2019
It was bad enough Trump and Barr were wasting resources on this. But now they are fully weaponizing DOJ for political purposes.
Attorneys General *can* be impeached. https://t.co/Pm2sJaXjRw
— Elie Honig (@eliehonig) October 25, 2019