Speed Reads

Whimper not bang

Barr's Obama-era 'unmasking' investigation reportedly ends without charges, public report

It appears there really was no there there.

The Justice Department said in May that Attorney General William Barr had appointed the U.S. attorney in San Antonio, John Bash, to investigate whether officials in the Obama administration had improperly "unmasked" people whose names were redacted in intelligence reports. The investigation was announced soon after Senate Republicans released a list of officials who had asked for the name of an individual who turned out to be President Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

Bash left the Justice Department last week after concluding his review and finding no substantive wrongdoing, The Washington Post reported Tuesday night, citing people familiar with the matter. "The findings ultimately turned over to Barr fell short of what Trump and others might have hoped, and the attorney general's office elected not to release them publicly."

Barr and his predecessor Jeff Sessions "repeatedly turned to U.S. attorneys across the country to investigate matters of Republican concern, distressing current and former Justice Department officials, who fear that department leaders are repeatedly caving to Trump's pressure to benefit his allies and target those he perceives as political enemies," the Post reports. A review by U.S. Attorney John Huber similarly petered out with no public report in January. A third meta-investigation conducted by U.S. Attorney John Durham is apparently ongoing, but Barr has told GOP senators that no findings will be released before the election, angering Trump.

Unmasking is fairly common, and the odds were always long that Bash would uncover anything, but even if his investigation "produced no results of consequence, legal analysts said, it allowed Trump and other conservatives to say Obama-era officials were under scrutiny, as long as the case stayed active," the Post reports. Bash's resignation right before an election surprised colleagues, but he said he had accepted a job in the private sector.