Barr urged investigators to complete leak probes
Barr has requested briefings from national security prosecutors and urged them to act quickly to complete investigations, according to people with knowledge of the matter. In some cases, he has sought to bring in outside prosecutors to help re-energize investigations that he said were not moving quickly enough.
The investigation into whether lawmakers briefed on classified information leaked information to reporters was among several that were launched at the start of the era of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw matters relating to Russia, since that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was recused.
His existence was closely watched given the sensitivity, although former President Donald Trump and some of his Republican allies regularly pushed the Department of Justice to investigate Representative Adam Schiff of California and other Democrats they criticized for fueling media coverage of the former president’s ties to Russia.
Like most leak investigations, this was a difficult case to bring forward and some officials believed it would likely end without charge, a person briefed on the matter said.
As part of his efforts to crack down on the leaks, Barr brought in a prominent New Jersey prosecutor, Osmar Benvenuto, in early 2020 to help oversee the leak investigations, which raised eyebrows among Washington-based prosecutors. because the line prosecutor had not had extensive experience in counterintelligence or investigating the leaks. Like Trump, Barr had suspicions about the leaks and believed the department’s credibility was at stake if it couldn’t show he was fully investigating them, people briefed on the matter said.
He also found a set of aggressive career prosecutors leading this and other leaked cases who were prepared to take extraordinary steps to try and complete the investigations.
The person said the cases the attorney general weighed in were recommended by career officials in the Criminal Division and elsewhere in the department. The former attorney general did not notify Trump of any of the leak probes, although the president would raise the leaks and the need to investigate with the attorney general, the person said.
The inspector general of the Ministry of Justice announced on Friday that he would investigate the ministry’s handling of the leakage investigation. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin are asking Barr and Sessions to testify on the matter.
But a Senate aide explained that Democrats would need the support of at least one Republican on the equally divided Judiciary Committee to approve any subpoena.
So far, very few Republicans have spoken about the news of Trump’s Justice Department investigation of House Democrats and whether they will support any effort to get the two former attorneys general to testify before the Senate.
House Democrats, however, can issue subpoenas without GOP consent.
This story has been updated with further developments.