Attorney General Bill Barr does not agree with Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael Horowitz about whether the FBI’s spying on the 2016 Trump campaign team was justified, The Washington Post reported this week.
The long-awaited report by Horowitz on alleged abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) will finally land in Monday, but already, Republican allies of President Donald Trump are warning of a spin effort by the mainstream media to blunt its impact. It’s unclear if rumors of the Barr–Horowitz rift are part of such an effort, or if the two men are really at loggerheads — but until the public learns from Barr himself, the DOJ is warning people to wait for the report.
“[Horowitz’s] excellent work has uncovered significant information that the American people will soon be able to read for themselves,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement. “Rather than speculating, people should read the report for themselves next week, watch the Inspector General’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and draw their own conclusions about these important matters.”
Barr goes rogue
When Horowitz’s report is released Monday, the country will be preoccupied with an impeachment hearing led by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY). But that doesn’t diminish the significance of the report, which promises to become a kind of political inkblot test after months of hype.
For Republicans eager to see Trump’s foes held accountable, the Horowitz report has been built up to a searing indictment of a top-down effort by former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, and other rogue officials in the U.S. intelligence community who Republicans allege plotted to undermine Donald Trump.
But Democrats have responded to early leaks of the report with cries of vindication, saying that it proves that the “nonpartisan” Horowitz will have discredited the “coup” theory once and for all.
Barr is said by the Post to disagree with Horowitz’s critical conclusion: that the FBI’s spying on the Trump campaign was justified. Leaks based on the report supposedly show that Horowitz did not think that FISA applications to spy on Trump campaign member Carter Page were compromised, despite instances of misconduct and political prejudice by FBI officials.
Horowitz is said to have found evidence of “significant” omissions in some FISA applications concerning the infamous Christopher Steele dossier, and an FBI lawyer who altered documents pertaining to the FISA warrants is said to be under criminal investigation.
Spinning the truth
For their part, Republicans have long alleged that spying on Page was predicated heavily on the Steele dossier — produced in coordination by the former British spy, the Democrats, and opposition research firm Fusion GPS — and that the FBI was not forthright about its unverified nature or Democratic backing.
Barr has given credence to those suspicions, repeatedly saying that he has questions about the FBI’s spying on the Trump campaign in 2016. The attorney general is overseeing a separate criminal investigation of corruption in the Trump–Russia probe led by U.S. Attorney John Durham.
In another article from the Post, the liberal newspaper claims that Horowitz reached out to Durham to learn more about Joseph Mifsud — a mysterious Maltese professor who played an important but unclear role in sparking the Trump–Russia probe. Republicans have alleged that Mifsud was a spy sent to entrap a Trump campaign member and justify launching Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of Trump — but Durham reportedly told Horowitz he found no evidence to support the story.
Rumors of Horowitz’s conclusion have shocked supporters of the president, who have long hoped and expected that it would produce evidence of a massive conspiracy to undermine Donald Trump. But Republican supporters of Trump, like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), are warning of a campaign by the mainstream media to downplay the report’s conclusions.
“I can tell you without any hesitation Attorney General Barr has every confidence in the world in Mr. Horowitz,” Graham told Fox, according to the Washington Examiner. “He believes that he has done a good job, a professional job, and he appreciates the work and the effort he has put into disclosing abuse at the Department of Justice.”
If Barr does indeed disagree with Horowitz, he can be expected to face more of the leftist backlash he has consistently provoked for supporting the president.