(WASHINGTON) — Donald Trump’s former Attorney General William Barr warned Sunday that, in his view, Trump faces more legal peril from the federal probe into his possession of classified documents after leaving office than from the case in New York City over hush money paid to Stormy Daniels.
“I don’t think it has any merit. I think it is transparently an abuse of prosecutorial power to accomplish a political end,” Barr told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl, referring to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat.
However, Barr added, “I’d be most concerned about the documents at Mar-a-Lago.”
“I think that’s a serious potential case. I think they probably have some very good evidence,” he said.
He pointed to the prolonged back-and-forth between Trump and the government when, according to court records, Trump resisted returning the classified materials — leading to an FBI search of his home last year.
“I think he was jerking the government around and they subpoenaed it, and they tried to jawbone him into delivering the documents. But the government is investigating the extent to which games were played and there was obstruction and keeping the documents from them,” Barr said.
His remarks come after Trump was arraigned last week on 34 felony charges of falsifying business records related to paying Daniels, a porn actress, over her long-denied claims that they had an affair. Trump pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on Tuesday.
Bragg, the district attorney, has alleged the money was part of a “scheme” in violation of state election laws to ensure Daniels’ allegations didn’t surface during the 2016 presidential campaign and harm Trump politically.
Barr said on “This Week” that, conversely, Trump being charged could help his current presidential bid.
“It … may accomplish his purpose, which is to get into the middle of the Republican primary process and turn it into a circus,” Barr said. “And I think, ultimately, the savvy Democratic strategists know this is going to help Trump, and they want him to be the nominee because he is the weakest of the Republican candidates and the most likely to lose again to [President Joe] Biden.”
However, Trump is currently mired in at least three other criminal investigations, including into his possession of classified documents after leaving office, his conduct related to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol Hill riot and his efforts to overturn his election loss in Georgia in 2020.
Trump denies wrongdoing in each case and has insisted he is being persecuted.
Barr singled out the investigation into Trump’s possession of classified material, even though President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence were both also found to have retained classified documents while out of office.
Barr noted the difference in the cases is that Biden and Pence appear to have immediately informed the government of the documents once they were discovered, while Trump sought to keep them.
“My read was, before they found the documents in Biden’s house and Vice President Pence’s house, my read was that they were going to indict [Trump] and I still think there’s a very good chance of that,” Barr said. “I think it depends on how sensitive the documents were, but also what evidence they have of obstruction and games playing for the president and whether he directed people to lie or gave them information that was deceitful to pass on to the government.”
Barr also suggested his former boss could hurt his own standing with attacks on Bragg and the judge overseeing his case in New York.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate or wise. The president notoriously lacks self-control, and he frequently gets himself into trouble with these midnight tweets and other things,” he said of Trump’s criticism, including calling Bragg, who is Black, a racist. “These are gratuitous comments and aren’t particularly helpful.”
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