Trump may fire Bill Barr and FBI director for not aiding his campaign by investigating Biden: report

Trump allegedly wants a James Comey-like announcement of an investigation into Biden days ahead of the election

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published October 22, 2020 6:28PM (EDT)

Bill Barr, Christopher Wray and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Bill Barr, Christopher Wray and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump has repeatedly discussed firing FBI Director Christopher Wray after the election — and officials are concerned he may also oust Attorney General Bill Barr, according to The Washington Post.

Trump has been unhappy that Wray and Barr have not publicly announced an investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden, or his associates, aides told the outlet. The president is "increasingly frustrated" that the two officials have "not delivered his campaign the kind of last-minute boost that the FBI provided in 2016," the sources said.

"Trump wants official action similar to the announcement made 11 days before the last presidential election by then-FBI Director James B. Comey" when he informed Congress that the FBI had reopened its investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails, according to the report.

Polls showed that Comey's announcement was a major factor in Clinton's 2016 election loss.

Trump appointed Wray in 2017 after firing Comey. The administration reportedly pressured then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to write a letter citing Comey's handling of the Clinton probe for his dismissal, though draft documents showed that Trump wanted him fired for pursuing the investigation into his campaign's ties to Russia.

Trump called on Barr to "act fast" and "appoint somebody" to investigate the Biden's before the election during a Tuesday interview with Fox News.

Trump's comments came in response to a dubious New York Post story fed by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and former adviser Steve Bannon that raised questions about emails purportedly found on a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden, which he allegedly left at a Delaware repair shop. Numerous intelligence experts have alleged that the story is part of a Russian disinformation plot.

Trump's comments came on Fox News, which itself reportedly refused to publish the story.

"There are many, many red flags in that New York Post investigation," NPR noted this week. "Even if Russia can't be positively connected to this information, the story of how Trump associates Steve Bannon and Rudy Giuliani came into a copy of this computer hard drive has not been verified and seems suspect. And if that story could be verified, the NY Post did no forensic work to convince consumers that the emails and photos that are the basis for their report have not been altered."

The FBI has tried to distance itself from Republican outcry about the report, telling Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, that it had "nothing to add" after Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe dismissed allegations that it was part of a Russian disinformation plot.

Assistant FBI Director Jill Tyson also noted in the letter to Johnson that Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz had been highly critical of Comey's pre-election announcement.

The FBI "can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any ongoing investigation or persons or entities under investigation, including to members of Congress," she wrote. "As the inspector general firmly reminded the Department and the FBI in recent years, this policy is designed to preserve the integrity of all Justice Department investigations and the department's ability to effectively administer justice without political or other undue outside influences."

The president, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, and top Trump aide Dan Scavino have all repeatedly criticized Wray, whom Trump views as "one of his worst personnel picks," according to The Washington Post.

Trump has also grown increasingly critical of Barr after he told Republican lawmakers that the much-hyped investigation by U.S. Attorney John Durham into the origins of the Russia probe would not be completed before the election.

"I'm not happy, with all of the evidence I had, I can tell you that. I am not happy," Trump said in an interview last week when asked if he would keep Barr for a potential second term.

Trump had told allies that he believed Barr and Durham would deliver "scalps." Now, he complains that "they aren't doing sh*t," according to the Post.

Some administration officials have grown concerned that Barr "could become a casualty" of Trump's desire to fire Wray. Others suggested his decision may hinge on the result of the election and whether Republicans keep control of the Senate.

"Trump often complains about members of his Cabinet and contemplates dismissing them, without doing so," The Post added. "And Trump's decision to fire Comey in early 2017 only fueled further problems for the president."

Former U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance noted that Trump's desire for a public announcement of a Biden investigation is what got him impeached last year.

"Maybe if the Senate convicted Trump after he was impeached for withholding aid from Ukraine to get them to announce an investigation into Biden, Trump wouldn't be around to threaten the FBI Director's job for not announcing an investigation into Biden," she tweeted.

"That is corrupt," former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti added. "Period."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

MORE FROM Igor Derysh