Attorney General Bill Barr has begun telling top Republicans that the Justice Department’s sweeping review into the origins of the Russia investigation will not be released before the election, a senior White House official and a congressional aide briefed on the conversations tell Axios.
Why it matters: Republicans had long hoped the report, led by U.S. Attorney John Durham, would be a bombshell containing revelations about what they allege were serious abuses by the Obama administration and intelligence community probing for connections between President Trump and Russia.
- “This is the nightmare scenario. Essentially, the year and a half of arguably the number one issue for the Republican base is virtually meaningless if this doesn't happen before the election," a GOP congressional aide told Axios.
- Barr has made clear that they should not expect any further indictments or a comprehensive report before Nov. 3, our sources say.
- The Justice Department declined to comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
What we're hearing: Barr is communicating that Durham is taking his investigation extremely seriously and is focused on winning prosecutions.
- According to one of the sources briefed on the conversations Barr said Durham is working in a deliberate and calculated fashion, and they need to be patient.
- The general sense of the talks, the sources say, is that Durham is not preoccupied with completing his probe by a certain deadline for political purposes.
Behind the scenes: Trump has grown increasingly frustrated with Barr and the Justice Department for not moving more quickly on the investigation.
- One administration official said Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo's recent interview with Rep. Devin Nunes on Sunday caught Trump's eye, further fueling his exasperation with the lack of indictments from Durham.
- In recent days, Trump has publicly criticized Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray for not moving fast enough.
- "To be honest, Bill Barr is going to go down as either the greatest attorney general in the history of the country or he’s going to go down as, you know, a very sad situation," Trump said during a phone interview with Fox Business on Thursday.
- "He’s got all the information he needs. They want to get more, more, more. They keep getting more. I said, 'you don’t need any more.'"
- A Thursday report by the AP said Barr is also frustrated by Trump’s public pronouncements about the case.
The backstory: Trump's allies have long asserted that Durham's investigation will result in the arrests of top Obama administration officials. So far, Durham's probe has resulted in one criminal case: a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to altering an email used to help obtain a surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
- A former DOJ official told Axios that Durham "has a reputation for being thorough, but also somewhat slow, in part because of the big tasks he's undertaken."
- The official pointed to Durham's Obama-era investigation into the CIA's use of torture, one that took years for him to complete.
- "It comes with the territory of a sprawling investigation that every stone you turn over needs to be fully scrutinized," the former official said.
What's next: Top Republicans are planning to pressure Barr to get ahead of Durham and temper expectations for the timing of the report's release, as well declassify whatever remaining documents there are connected to the probe.
- "Bill Barr should follow the instructions of the president to declassify and release all the documents the FBI are sitting on. There's no good reason for him to withhold this information," a senior White House official said.
- Earlier this week, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe approved the release of a large binder full of documents to the DOJ to assist their review of the Durham probe.