In recent days, the president has pressured federal law enforcement to oppose his political opponents and complained that a various prosecutor wiretapped by Bar to investigate the FBI’s investigation into his 2016 campaign would not publish public findings before the election.
Legal analysts fear that Bash’s review is another attempt by Trump’s Justice Department to target political opponents of the president. Even if it does not ultimately lead to consequences, legal analysts said, it allowed Trump and other conservatives to say that Obama-era officials were under surveillance as long as the case remained active.
In a statement to Fox News this month, Merchant told host Sean Hannity that Bar had eavesdropped on Bash, San Antonio̵
Although “unmasking” is common and appropriate because it allows government officials to better understand a document they read, Trump and others have suggested that the list of demands that ultimately revealed Flynn’s name show wrongdoing.
Bash’s team focused not only on unmasking, but also on whether Obama-era officials provided information to reporters, according to people familiar with the investigation, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive investigation. But in the end, the findings passed to Bar failed to hope for Trump and others, and prosecutors chose not to release them publicly, insiders said. The Washington Post failed to review the full results of what Bash found.
Last week, Bash announced that he was leaving the department – surprising many in the Justice Department because it was so close to the election – although he did not mention the unmasking review. In a statement, he said he had informed the chief prosecutor of the decision a month earlier and had “accepted an offer for a position in the private sector”. He gave official letters of resignation to the president and the chief prosecutor on October 5th, and his last day was Friday.
Prior to his nomination as an American attorney, Bash also served as attorney general and as an associate attorney for Trump. Bash thanked Trump and others for the statement, and Barr expressed his “gratitude” for Bash’s service.
“I appreciate his service to our nation and to the Ministry of Justice and I wish him the best,” Bar said.
Asked on Tuesday if Bash had given up on the unmasking, Merchant said: “No, that was not my understanding.” When announcing Bash’s departure, she had said of the unmasking review: “Without commenting on a specific investigation, all the issues John Bash was overseeing will be taken up by Greg Sofer,” who was chosen to replace Bash as an American lawyer. This week, she declined to comment specifically on the status of the investigation’s disclosure.
Bash declined to comment. A spokesman for the US prosecutor’s office in San Antonio said he could not comment immediately.
It was not immediately clear why the department delayed Bash’s findings. Officials generally do not discuss investigations that are closed without criminal charges – although Bash’s case is unusual, as it was made public by a spokesman for the ministry. The policies and traditions of the Ministry of Justice also call on prosecutors not to take public action in near-election cases that could affect results.
Prior to Bash Merchant’s appointment, he had said that various federal prosecutors, John Durham in Connecticut, had also seen the unmasking as part of his broader investigation into the 2016 FBI investigation into whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the election. It was not clear how Durham and Bash’s work intersected.
Barr recently told some Republican lawmakers that a report on Durham’s investigation would not be published before the November election, although unlike Bash’s review, Durham’s work appears to be ongoing. In recent days, Trump has called the delay in the Durham case a “disgrace” and said his 2016 Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, should be imprisoned. He had previously been critical of another prosecutor, who was specifically wiretapped by then-attorneys general to investigate Clinton-related issues, but whose case ended without a public report or allegations of wrongdoing.
Barr had previously said he would not hold back Durham’s findings due to concerns about any impact on the election, as investigators are not focused on political candidates.
From the beginning, some Republican lawmakers in the Trump administration have tried to investigate and underscore Obama-era demands for unmasking, deeming them inappropriate. Efforts were initially spurred by Representative Devin Nunes (R-California), although the House Intelligence Committee, which he chaired at the time, also asked U.S. spy agencies to reveal the names of U.S. individuals or organizations in classified intelligence. for Russia’s intervention. in the 2016 presidential election
In May, Republican sensor Ron Johnson (Wisconsin), Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) and Rand Paul (China) breathed new life into the effort by publishing a list of those who have demanded unmasking. The list included the names of more than three dozen former Obama administration officials. Among them were Biden, former White House chief of staff Dennis McDonough, former FBI Director James B. Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan and former National Intelligence Director James R. Clapper.
Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenel had then declassified and personally handed over the list to the Department of Justice – his arrival, filmed by a pre-positioned camera on Fox News – the same day the Department of Justice dropped criminal charges against Flynn.
At the time, Paul said, “We kind of have a smoking gun because we now have a declassified document with Joe Biden’s name on it.” And Trump renewed his broader attacks on the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and his campaign, proposing to be closed.
“I’m talking about 50 years in prison,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Network.
A buyer soon appeared on Fox News and announced Bash’s inquiry. His work came on top of the work of Durham and U.S. attorney Jeff Jensen in St. Louis, who were wiretapped specifically to investigate the Flynn case and ultimately advised the Department of Justice to discontinue it.
The end of Bash’s case is similar to that of another review conducted by John Huber, the U.S. attorney in Utah, who in September 2017 was asked by Sessions to address concerns raised by Trump and his allies in Congress that the FBI was not fully investigated possible corruption cases at the Clinton Foundation and during Clinton’s time as Secretary of State. The Washington Post reported in January that the investigation had virtually ended without tangible results. In the following months, Trump complained about the state of the investigation on Twitter, claiming that Huber “did absolutely NOTHING.”
“It was a garbage disposal department for important documents and then, tap, tap, tap, just drag it and time runs out,” Trump wrote.