Former Attorney General Bill Barr calls the latest federal grand jury subpoena into the Jan. 6, 202 Capitol riot a “significant event,” suggesting that government prosecutors are investigating senior Trump administration officials and allies, even the former president Donald Trump.
“It shows to me that they’re taking a hard look at the high-level groups, including the president and the people around him who are involved in this,” Barr said in an interview with CBS News’ Catherine Herridge on Friday.
The grand jury meets weekly; late July, Greg JacobsPence’s general counsel was also interviewed by the grand jury.Former Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff testified, according to the Washington Post,
The Justice Department’s criminal investigation of January 6 now includesAnd his reelection campaign, though it’s not obvious from the CBS News report that Trump himself is the target of an investigation — just that prosecutors have been asking questions about him and his aides.
Barr also speculated that, given that prosecutors appear to “will attempt to rule on executive privilege issues.” Report Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone has been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury, ABC News and other news outlets said. The former attorney general noted that Cipollone, an adviser to the president’s office at the time, “has the strongest claim to executive privilege.”
“That’s the biggest mountain they’re going to climb, and the fact that they came up to me with that mountain shows that they want a clear solution — not just on Cipollone — but you know, this will affect [former White House chief of staff Mark] So did Meadows and a few others,” he said.
While Barr thinks Trump may be able to block some testimony with the executive privilege argument, he said, “I don’t think it will block all testimony.” He ticked off a list of ways that the privilege argument “doesn’t apply here.”
“One argument,” he said, “is that Biden gave up and has to sue — whether Biden can do it or Trump can do it.”
So far, the former president’s lawsuit to block documents or testimony on the basis of privilege arguments has been dismissed by the courts on the grounds that the requests are valid and that Mr. Biden has the right to waive the privilege.
Barr also noted that executive privilege does not apply to criminal cases.
“Their other argument is that the criminal justice process, not Congress — the criminal justice process — executive privilege has to give way — and when a criminal grand jury is involved, you can’t hide behind it,” Barr said.
“Then they’ll have other arguments, like the criminal fraud exception,” Barr told Herridge. “If it’s part of the crime itself, it’s not included.”
“Another argument they’ll make is that there are certain things that aren’t really executive privilege,” Barr said. “The president acts as a candidate, not the president.”
Still, Barr suggested that if the case against Trump was essentially what the committee revealed on Jan. 6, it might not be enough to convict the former president.
Although he believes the evidence has been accumulating, after the final hearing on Jan. 6, “if that’s the truth, as attorney general, I still don’t think it’s a sufficient basis to prove a crime. As promised by the president.” Barr He said he believed the Justice Department was still “investigating this matter more and more deeply” and that Attorney General Merrick Garland would prosecute if he found a crime.
The former president has been strongly suggesting he wants to run for president again in 2024.His 2016 campaign manager and former White House adviserTrump told Herridge last week that Trump was eager to announce his re-election, in fact he hoped to “already” run the race.
Barr is optimistic about the future of the Republican Party. “I think the future of the Republican Party is bright,” he said, suggesting that the Republican Party could even hold the presidency for the next 12 years.
“I think 2024 is another 1980, when Reagan won two terms and then Bush won a third,” he said. He sees it as necessary “to make America great again, you know — a decisive victory over the excesses of progressive Democrats.”
But Barr said it wasn’t Trump who would do that. “I don’t think he should be the nominee,” he said of Trump. “I think it’s really bad for the party and I don’t support him as the nominee.”
As the former attorney general put it, if Trump wins, he will be “a 78-year-old lame duck clearly bent on revenge.”