Former Attorney General Bill Barr says Jan. 6 grand jury activity suggests prosecutors “taking a hard look at the group at the top, including the president”

Former Attorney General Bill Barr called the most recent federal grand jury subpoenas to investigate the Jan. 6, 2020 Capitol riot “a major event,” suggesting government prosecutors are investigating senior officials and allies. from the Trump administration, and even former President Donald. trump

“That suggests to me that they’re taking a look at the group at the top, including the president and the people immediately around him who were involved in this,” Barr told CBS News’ Catherine Herridge in an interview Friday .

The grand jury met weekly; at the end of July, Mark Shortformer Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, stated, and according to The Washington Post, Greg JacobPence’s chief attorney, was also interviewed by the grand jury.

The Justice Department’s criminal investigation into Jan. 6 now includes questions for witnesses about the communications from people close to Trump and his re-election campaign, although it is not clear from CBS News reports that Trump himself is a target of the investigation, only that prosecutors have been asking questions related to him and his aides.

Barr also surmises that it appears that prosecutors “will try to get a ruling on the issue of executive privilege,” given that reports by ABC News and other media that former White House counsel Pat Cipollone has been subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury. The former attorney general noted that Cipollone, as then-lawyer in the Office of the President, “has the strongest claim to executive privilege.”

“That’s kind of the biggest mountain to climb, and the fact that they’re starting with that to me suggests that they want a definitive resolution, not just in Cipollone, but you know, that would affect. [former White House chief of staff Mark] Meadows and some of the other people as well,” he said.

While Barr thinks Trump could block some witnesses with an executive privilege argument, he said, “I don’t think he would block all witnesses.” He ticked off a list of ways in which a privilege argument “is inapplicable here.”

“One argument,” he said, “is that Biden waived that and it’s going to have to be litigated, whether Biden can do it or Trump can do it.”

The former president’s demands to shield documents or witnesses with arguments of privilege have so far been rejected by the courts, on the grounds that the requests have been valid and the privilege was Mr. Biden’s to resign.

Barr also noted that executive privilege does not apply in criminal cases.

“Another argument they have is that the criminal justice process, unlike Congress, the criminal justice process, executive privilege has to yield, you can’t hide behind that when there’s a criminal grand jury,” he Barr said.

“And then they would have other arguments, like the crime-fraud exception,” Barr told Herridge. “If it’s part of the crime itself, it’s not covered.” That is, the attorney-client privilege, the sworn secrecy between a lawyer, in this case Cipollone, and his client, the president, would not apply to any communication involving the obtaining of advice on the commission of a crime.

“And another argument they would have is that some of the particular things weren’t really executive privilege,” Barr said. “The president was acting in his capacity as a candidate, not the president.”

However, Barr suggested that if the case against Trump turns out to be essentially what the committee revealed on Jan. 6, it probably isn’t enough to convict the former president.

While he believes the evidence has been piling up, after the latest hearings on Jan. 6, “if that’s what’s there, as attorney general, I still don’t see that as a sufficient basis to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that a crime was committed by the President.” Barr said he believes the Justice Department is still “getting deeper and deeper into this,” and if Attorney General Merrick Garland finds wrongdoing, he will prosecute.

The former president has strongly suggested he would like to run for president again in 2024. His 2016 campaign manager and former White House adviser Kellyanne Conway told Herridge last week that Trump is eager to announce he’s running again and, in fact, wishes he was in the race “already.”

Barr is optimistic about the future of the GOP. “I think the future is bright for the Republican Party,” he said, suggesting the GOP might even hold the presidency for the next 12 years.

“I see 2024 creating another 1980, when Reagan won two terms and then Bush won a third,” he said. It’s what he believes is necessary “to make America great again, you know, a decisive victory in reaction to the excesses of progressive Democrats.”

But it’s not Trump who would do that, Barr says. “I don’t think he should be the nominee,” he said of Trump. “I think he would be very bad for the party, and I don’t support him as a candidate.”

As the former attorney general put it, if Trump were to win, he would be a “78-year-old lame duck who is obviously out for revenge more than anything else.”

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