WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump accused Attorney General William Barr on Monday of following a "double standard" by not following through with a criminal investigation into former President Barack Obama or Vice President Joe Biden.
"I have no doubt that they [Obama and Biden] were involved in this hoax," Trump said during a White House event with restaurant industry executives. Earlier Monday, Barr said he didn't expect that Obama or Biden would face charges stemming from a probe into the origins of the Russia investigation.
"I think it's just a continuation of a double standard. I'm surprised by it," Trump said, referring to Barr's remarks. He did, however, stress that he entered the event with restaurant owners around the time Barr was making the statement, and he praised the attorney general as "honorable."
Trump, without evidence, has accused the Obama administration of framing top officials in order to derail his presidency. He has called for the prosecution of those involved in the "biggest political crime and scandal" in U.S. history. Trump often uses the term "Obamagate" to reference the matter.
A Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately comment when asked about Trump's remark.
Trump's comments came hours after Barr said he would not let U.S. Attorney John Durham's review of the Russian probe, be used as a weapon to "drum up" illegitimate investigations.
"The legal tactic has been to gin up allegations of criminality by one's political opponents, based on the flimsiest of legal theories," Barr told reporters Monday during a news conference focused on the 2019 shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.
"I have a general idea of how Mr. Durham's investigation is going, and as I have indicated some aspects of the matter are being examined as potential crimes," Barr explained. "Now, as to President Obama and Vice President Biden, whatever their level of involvement, based on the information I have today, I don't expect Mr. Durham's work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man," he said.
Barr emphasized that the Department of Justice would not be "used for partisan political ends" as the nation heads into the November presidential election.
"We live in a very divided country right now, and I think that it is critical that we have an election where the American people are allowed to make a decision, a choice between President Trump and Vice President Biden, based on a robust debate of policy issues and we cannot allow this process to be hijacked by efforts to drum up criminal investigations of either candidate," Barr said.
"This election will be conducted without this kind of interference. Any effort to pursue an investigation of either candidate has to be approved by me."
The latest revelation comes on the heels of the Department of Justice's move to dismiss its case against Michael Flynn. In its decision, the Justice Department cited a slew of missteps with the FBI's interview of Flynn, Trump's former national security advisor.
The bombshell advancement came more than two years after Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about his discussions with a Russian diplomat in the weeks before Trump took office.