William Barr Is Trump's 'Tool' and 'Weaponizing the Justice Department to Go After the President's Enemies,' Schiff Says

Congressman Adam Schiff warned on Sunday that Attorney General William Barr is being used as a "tool" by President Donald Trump to weaponize the Justice Department against the White House's "enemies."

Schiff's comments came during an interview with ABC News This Week, during which he was asked about the Justice Department's reported decision to shift its review of the origins of the 2016 Russia investigation into Trump to be a "criminal" probe. The Democratic representative from California, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, argued that the entire investigation was purely political in nature.

"If these reports are correct and Bill Barr's Justice Department is doing a criminal investigation of people who properly looked into Russian interference in our election, in the FBI or the intelligence agencies, it means that Bill Barr, on the president's behalf, is weaponizing the Justice Department to go after the president's enemies," Schiff said.

Rep. Adam Schiff: If DOJ "is doing a criminal investigation of people who properly looked into Russian interference...it means that Bill Barr, on the president's behalf, is weaponizing the Justice Department to go after the president's enemies." https://t.co/0YcfDlWTDd pic.twitter.com/0ooI7Ie9L8

— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) October 27, 2019

The congressman argued that Barr is "demonstrating once again that he is merely a tool of the president – the president's hand – not the representative of the American people."

When fill-in anchor Martha Raddatz asserted that Barr has appointed "very well respected" attorney John Durham to oversee the investigation, Schiff argued that even good people could be appointed for nefarious purposes. "You can assign good people to do an illegitimate investigation," the representative said. "You can assign good people to investigate the president's rivals. That doesn't mean that the investigation is any less tainted."

The New York Times and NBC News reported on Thursday that the review launched by the Justice Department at Trump's behest into the origins of the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election had now been classified as a criminal investigation. Speaking to reporters on Friday, the president said: "It looks like it's becoming very serious from what I'm hearing. Investigate the investigators."

The FBI first began investigating Russian interference and its connection to the Trump campaign in July 2016, ahead of the election. However, the investigation was not revealed publicly until after Trump was elected. Following Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to investigate the allegations against Trump and Russian interference.

Mueller and his team concluded that Russia had interfered in the election in a way that favored Trump and disparaged his political rival, Demcoratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. However, his probe did not establish that Trump or his campaign conspired with Russia in that effort. Trump and his supporters have repeatedly insisted that Mueller's findings were "a full exoneration" of the president, but that assessment goes against the special counsel's report, which said the document "does not exonerate him."

William Barr and Donald Trump
Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump leave after delivering remarks on citizenship and the census at the White House in Washington, D.C. on July 11 BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty

James Clapper, who served as director of national intelligence under President Barack Obama when the Russia investigation was first launched, questioned the timing of the news that the origins probe was now reportedly being pursued as a criminal investigation during a Thursday interview with CNN. "I found the timing interesting, given the increasing heat around the impeachment inquiry. And so the timing is interesting. I'll just let it go at that," he said.

Clapper served in prominent intelligence posts under Republican and Democratic presidents, including George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

"What is it that any of us did that would rise to the level of a criminal infraction? I just don't know," he said.