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Trump 'not happy' with Barr, won't commit to keeping AG in potential second term

The Justice Department found no evidence of wrongdoing and declined to release its report publicly or to file any charges in Obama-era "unmasking."
Image: Donald Trump William Barr
President Donald Trump shakes hands with US Attorney General William Barr during the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor presentation ceremony at the White House on May 22, 2019.Jim Watson / AFP via Getty Images file

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he is "not happy" with Attorney General William Barr after the Justice Department's investigation of the Obama administration found no wrongdoing and quietly concluded with no criminal charges.

Trump made the comments to Newsmax TV. He also declined to say whether he would keep Barr on as attorney general for a potential second term.

"Can't comment on that. It's too early. I'm not happy, with all of the evidence I had, I can tell you that. I am not happy," Trump said in the interview.

Trump has praised and criticized Barr in previous interviews, and he has used the Justice Department as a cudgel to go after perceived political enemies.

Recently, news emerged that the Justice Department had concluded an investigation commissioned by Barr into the Obama-era "unmasking" of people named in national security documents related to the Russia investigation — a practice that Trump and conservatives pundits claimed was a political conspiracy.

However, the Justice Department found no evidence of wrongdoing and declined to release its report publicly or to file any charges. The Washington Post was first to report the news.

A federal prosecutor appointed by Barr concluded his review without finding evidence of wrongdoing, according to a source with direct knowledge of the inquiry, and without interviewing former CIA Director John Brennan, NBC News has reported.

Brennan told NBC News that he was not interviewed by the prosecutor, U.S. Attorney John Bash of the Western District of Texas, or anyone else related to the investigation. Another key figure in the unmasking controversy, who declined to be named, said there was no interview by Justice Department officials.

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Barr appointed Bash to head the "unmasking" investigation in May. It began as a spinoff of an investigation by John Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, into the origins of what became special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

So-called unmasking means requesting to lift redactions of classified material to better understand a document. In this case, Americans' names appeared in intelligence reports that were generated from electronic eavesdropping on foreign nationals.

Bash's team was assigned to examine whether Obama officials, such as Brennan, FBI Director James Comey or Vice President Joe Biden, acted inappropriately when they requested the identity of a person unnamed in intelligence reports, who turned out to be Trump's incoming national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

It is not clear how many, if any, of the Obama administration officials were interviewed by Bash's team, but it is possible that Bash's team had enough material from other sources, such as documents, said a source with knowledge of how similar investigations are handled.

The end of Bash's inquiry means it is unlikely that Trump will be able to point to politically motivated and wrongfully initiated investigations into his 2016 campaign ahead of Election Day.

Bash announced his resignation from the Justice Department last week, citing his desire to go into private practice. Durham has indicated that he will not deliver a report before the Nov. 3 election.