Durbin: Barr 'must recuse himself' from all Mueller-related investigations

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSupreme Court poised to hear first major gun case in a decade Protecting the future of student data privacy: The time to act is now Overnight Health Care: Crunch time for Congress on surprise medical bills | CDC confirms 47 vaping-related deaths | Massachusetts passes flavored tobacco, vaping products ban MORE (D-Ill.) argued in a Friday Washington Post op-ed that Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrReport: Barr attorney can't provide evidence Trump was set up by DOJ Budowsky: Chief Justice Roberts can rescue democracy 14 states ask Supreme Court to let Trump resume federal executions MORE should recuse himself from matters related to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts House impeachment hearings: The witch hunt continues Speier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump MORE's investigation. 

Durbin argued that Barr's statements and actions since Mueller submitted a final report have put his credibility and independence "in doubt."

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"For that reason, he must recuse himself from any ongoing investigations involving evidence referred by the special counsel’s office," the No. 2 Senate Democrat wrote. 

Barr is facing building criticism following this week's release of a letter from Mueller showing the special counsel was dissatisfied with the attorney general's handling of his report on Russian election interference and whether President TrumpDonald John TrumpStates slashed 4,400 environmental agency jobs in past decade: study Biden hammers Trump over video of world leaders mocking him Iran building hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq: report MORE obstructed justice. Mueller accused Barr of creating "public confusion about critical aspects of the results."

Barr angered Democrats further when he refused to appear before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday, prompting calls for him to be held in contempt or even impeached.

Durbin said Barr's four-page summary of Mueller report and press conference ahead of its redacted release were "over the line" political moves in support of President Trump.

"I don’t know what role Barr thought he was playing on March 24 when he released his four-page summary of Mueller’s report on Russian election interference and when he gave his infamous news conference on April 18," he wrote. "But it is hard to view his actions as anything other than spinning the Mueller report to put Trump in the most politically advantageous light."

"Barr has stepped over the line by politicizing this critical law enforcement investigation to serve the president’s interests," he added. 

Durbin also expressed concern about 14 instances of evidence of potential criminal activity that were outside the special counsel's scope, which were then referred to other parts of the Justice Department, per the report. 

"Barr has repeatedly proved he should have no hand in any of them," he wrote. "For the sake of the rule of law and to make sure these investigations are carried out independent of political considerations, he must recuse."

The Hill has reached out to the Justice Department for comment. 

Barr was asked when he testified before Congress Wednesday if he would recuse himself from any further cases related to the Mueller investigation, and he said he would not.

Durbin's opinion piece follows calls from several lawmakers for the the Justice Department's inspector general to look into Barr's handling of Mueller's report. A chorus of Democrats have also called for his resignation

Barr's predecessor Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRosenstein, Sessions discussed firing Comey in late 2016 or early 2017: FBI notes Justice Dept releases another round of summaries from Mueller probe Iowa GOP lawmaker calls flying of trans flag above Capitol an act of the 'Rainbow Jihad' MORE recused himself from the Russia investigation, which became a serious point of contention between him and Trump, particularly after the appointment of the special counsel.