Law & the Courts

AG Barr Requires FBI to Obtain His Approval Before Investigating 2020 Candidates

Attorney General William Barr and FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich announce the findings of the criminal investigation into the shootings at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida, January 13, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuter)

Attorney General William Barr has issued a memo requiring the FBI to obtain approval from Barr himself before conducting any investigation into any 2020 presidential election candidate.

“In certain cases, the existence of a federal criminal or counterintelligence investigation, if it becomes known to the public, may have unintended effects on our elections,” Barr wrote in the memo, which was obtained by the New York Times. The attorney general went on to emphasize that “we also must be sensitive to safeguarding the department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality and nonpartisanship.”

The memo establishes certain requirements for the FBI and other agencies under the purview of the Justice Department to meet before opening a “politically sensitive” criminal or counterintelligence investigation against candidates or donors. Barr must personally give approval for investigations into presidential and vice presidential candidates, as well as their respective senior staffs.

The move follows Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on the FBI’s obtainment of a FISA warrant against former Trump-campaign adviser Carter Page as part of the agency’s investigation into suspected collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents. The report detailed various errors and material omissions in the FBI’s initial application for a FISA warrant and subsequent renewals.

“We identified multiple instances in which factual assertions relied upon in the first FISA application were inaccurate, incomplete, or unsupported by appropriate documentation, based upon information the FBI had in its possession at the time the application was filed,” the report read.

The FBI in 2016 carried out investigations pertaining to both presidential candidates. While the Trump campaign was investigated for possible connections to Russia, a claim that the Mueller Report subsequently found to be based on insufficient evidence, the bureau in October 2016 also reopened its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for classified messages.

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.


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