The Democratic chairpersons of four key House committees on Friday asked the Justice Department’s internal watchdog to investigate whether U.S. Attorney John Durham’s probe into the Russian collusion investigation is being used for partisan gain ahead of the November election.
In a letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the four chairs called for an “emergency” probe into whether Attorney General William P. Barr, who appointed Mr. Durham, could use the controversial investigation to “improperly influence the upcoming presidential election.”
The chairs are also calling for a review of Mr. Durham’s legal authority and whether he was the power “to issue a public report about a subject who has not yet been charged in federal court.”
“Attorney General Barr has signaled repeatedly that he is likely to allow DOJ to take prosecutorial actions, make public disclosures, even issue reports before the presidential election in November,” the Democrats wrote. “Such actions clearly appear intended to benefit President Trump politically.”
Democrats are worried the Durham investigation could become an “October surprise” for the Trump campaign, shining a light on alleged wrongdoing by the Obama-era Justice Department.
Under Justice Department policy, the department cannot bring politically-charged prosecutions within 60 days of an election. But Mr. Barr can skirt that rule by having Mr. Durham issue a report or not file charges against anyone who would be directly involved in the 2020 campaigns.
In 2018, Mr. Barr authored a report saying politically charged law enforcement or prosecutorial activities must be avoided within 60 or 90 days of an election.
But Mr. Barr appeared to reverse his stance on this policy in an interview earlier this year with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
“You don’t indict candidates or perhaps someone that’s sufficiently close to a candidate, that it’s essentially the same, you know, within a certain number of days before an election. But you know, as I say, I don’t think any of the people whose actions are under review by Durham fall into that category,” Mr. Barr said in the April interview.
Democrats say that was a public hint that the Durham probe could result in charges before Election Day.
“A series of high ranking former Department officials have also confirmed that prosecutors should not take overt investigative and prosecutorial actions or disclosures in the run-up to an election if there is a possibility the action could impact the election,” the Democrats wrote.
Both the Justice Department and the Inspector General’s Office declined to comment.
The House letter comes one day after Senate Democrats issued their own demand that Mr. Horowitz probe Mr. Durham’s actions.
It also comes after reports that Mr. Durham’s top deputy resigned due to concerns that he is being pressured by Attorney General William P. Barr to produce a report before the 2020 presidential election.
The letter was signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney of New York, and House Administration Committee Chairperson Zoe Lofgren of California.