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Trump Pressures Barr to Probe Bidens   10/21 06:17

   

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump on Tuesday called on Attorney 
General William Barr to immediately launch an investigation into unverified 
claims about Democrat Joe Biden and his son Hunter, effectively demanding that 
the Justice Department muddy his political opponent and abandon its historic 
resistance to getting involved in elections.

   With just two weeks to go before Election Day, Trump for the first time 
explicitly called on Barr to investigate the Bidens and even pointed to the 
nearing Nov. 3 election as reason that Barr should not delay taking action. 
Trump has been leveling accusations of corruption against Biden without 
verified evidence for months, but is stepping up the pressure in the final days 
of the campaign.

   "We've got to get the attorney general to act," Trump said in an interview 
on "Fox & Friends." "He's got to act, and he's got to act fast. He's got to 
appoint somebody. This is major corruption, and this has to be known about 
before the election."

   Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian at Princeton University, suggested 
that Trump's pressure campaign on Barr has moved into uncharted territory for 
presidential politics.

   "The question is, Does Barr erode the guidelines and reforms from the 
post-Watergate era and move forward with this?" Zelizer said. "We are seeing a 
total politicization of the justice system in the final stages of an election."

   Trump's pressuring of Barr comes as national and battleground polls show him 
facing an increasingly narrow path to reelection. The president has repeatedly 
cited Hunter Biden's past ---often with unsubstantiated claims --- as a reason 
that voters can't trust Biden in the White House.

   The president has been promoting an unconfirmed New York Post report 
published last week that cites an email in which an official from Ukrainian gas 
company Burisma thanked Hunter Biden, who served on the company's board, for 
arranging for him to meet Joe Biden during a 2015 visit to Washington. The 
Biden campaign has rejected Trump's assertion of wrongdoing and noted that 
Biden's schedule did not show a meeting with the Burisma official.

   Trump has yet to specify what crime he believes the Bidens have committed, 
but that has not stopped him from going as far as suggesting to voters that 
Biden belongs in jail.

   The Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment on the 
president's call for an investigation.

   The president's attempts to darken Biden's reputation in the final lap of 
the election echo his "lock her up" attacks in 2016 on Democratic nominee 
Hillary Clinton, who faced FBI scrutiny in the final months of the campaign 
over her use of a private email server while conducting State Department 
business.

   Trump is trying to use all levers of power at his disposal as he struggles 
to gain ground on Biden. He has also expressed increasing anger over the 
resistance of the Justice Department to some of his appeals.

   In addition to his call for a Biden probe, the president has become 
frustrated with Barr over the pace of the Justice Department's investigation 
into the origin of the Russia probe, which will not be completed by Election 
Day.

   Trump and his allies had high hopes for the probe, led by Connecticut U.S. 
Attorney John Durham, betting it would expose what they believe is wrongdoing 
when the FBI opened a case into whether the Trump campaign was coordinating 
with Russia to sway the 2016 election.

   But a year and a half in, there's been only one criminal case: a former FBI 
lawyer who pleaded guilty to altering a government email about a former Trump 
campaign adviser who was a target of secret FBI surveillance.

   Trump's hasn't hidden his frustration. He recently retweeted a photo of Barr 
with the caption "for the love of GOD ARREST SOMEBODY." During a rally in 
Arizona on Monday, he suggested Biden would be in prison if Barr wasn't such "a 
very nice man."

   "I know people that would have had him locked up five weeks ago," Trump 
said. "Bill Barr is a very nice man and a very fair man. And in many ways, it 
doesn't make some of us happy."

   Barr has privately expressed frustration over the president's public 
pronouncements. Although Barr is broadly in agreement with Trump on the need to 
investigate the origins of the Russia probe, he's often bemoaned Trump's lack 
of understanding about the intricacies of the legal system and the steps that 
need to be taken to complete an investigation.

   As the election nears, Barr has kept a lower profile, limiting his time in 
front of the cameras to avoid facing direct questions from the media about 
Trump's demands for greater Justice Department involvement in the election.

   The department on Tuesday announced a landmark antitrust case in Washington 
against tech giant Google, but Barr was in Florida speaking at a law 
enforcement conference. Barr also has remained relatively quiet after U.S. 
attorneys announced charges against a group of men accused of plotting to 
kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democratic ally of Biden's.

   "He's toned it down, but it's hard to know what else might be going on 
behind the scenes," Carl Tobias, a constitutional law expert at the University 
of Richmond, said of Barr.

   While Barr has kept a lower profile in recent week, he has publicly sided 
with Trump on election matters. He said foreign nations could print counterfeit 
ballots, something intelligence officials say there's no evidence of and would 
be nearly impossible. After Trump encouraged North Carolina voters to vote 
twice to try to test the system, which is illegal, Barr declined to 
definitively say it was illegal, instead saying he wasn't familiar with the 
laws in every state.

   Trump's call for a Justice Department investigation of the Bidens came just 
one day after 11 GOP House members sent a letter to Barr calling for a special 
prosecutor to probe whether Biden received foreign money during his tenure in 
the Obama administration and if he allowed Hunter Biden "to peddle access to 
his father with foreign business entities."

   R. Michael Cassidy, a legal ethics expert at Boston College's law school, 
said the push might be at odds with the department's historical resistance to 
getting involved in shaping elections, but he added that Barr --- much like the 
president who appointed him --- has demonstrated a willingness to bend norms.

   "Remember, this is the same attorney general who said that stay-at-home 
orders imposed at the state levels were the greatest intrusion on civil 
liberties since slavery," Cassidy said. "He is a norm breaker. He's not a 
traditional attorney general."

 
 
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