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If William Barr won’t answer Kamala Harris’ questions, maybe the Inspector General will

Barr was unable to answer her questions during a hearing Wednesday. Now she's pressing for a response.

CREDIT: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
CREDIT: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is calling on the Justice Department to investigate whether President Donald Trump has ever asked Attorney General William Barr to open an investigation into his political opponents. Barr this week was unable to answer Harris’ direct questions on the matter, and her request comes as the Trump camp is floating a new attack on presidential candidate Joe Biden (D).

During Barr’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, Harris asked Barr whether Trump or “anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone.” Barr couldn’t offer a “yes” or “no.” He acknowledged there have been “discussions,” but he wasn’t sure if he would go so far as to use the word “suggest.” When Harris offered the synonyms “hinted” and “inferred,” he ultimately settled on the answer, “I don’t know.”

In a letter to the Inspector General Friday, Harris called Barr’s inability to answer her question “an alarming response that strikes at the very heart of the rule of law and threatens to undermine the longstanding independence of the Justice Department.” She requested that he investigate whether Barr ever received or acted upon “such improper requests.”

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She notes in the letter that such requests are documented throughout the redacted Mueller report. Trump asked then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate Hillary Clinton on at least three separate occasions, according to the report. “There must be no doubt that the Department of Justice and its leadership stand apart from partisan politics, and resist improper attempts to use the power of federal law enforcement to settle personal scores,” Harris wrote.

Harris’ request comes just as Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani is trying to spread speculation about Biden, one of Trump’s possible 2020 opponents. Giuliani has called for an investigation into Biden for pressuring Ukraine to dismiss its top prosecutor while he was vice president, based on reports that Biden’s son, Hunter, served on the board of an energy company the prosecutor was investigating. Biden has insisted that his son had no impact on his involvement, adding that he only learned of his son’s role with the company through news reports.

But the focus on Biden is only the latest in new calls from the Trump camp to investigate his opponents. In the wake of the redacted Mueller report’s release, Trump has also demanded to “INVESTIGATE THE INVESTIGATORS.”

In particular, Trump has alleged that the FBI “spied” on his campaign as part of its investigation into George Papadopoulos’s links with Russia. Barr himself elevated this unsubstantiated claim of spying by the FBI. Trump believes the spying story — and not anything the Mueller report documented, including Russian election interference — is “bigger than Watergate, as far as I’m concerned.”

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has expressed willingness to take up Trump’s suggestion and somehow turn the tables by investigating whether Obama-era Justice Department officials somehow tried to create support for Clinton in the 2016 election. After leading his fellow Republican Senators in questioning on that matter during Barr’s hearing, he confirmed that he plans to proceed with such investigations. He even wants Barr to appoint a new special counsel to investigate “all things Clinton.”