The rumors of a rift between Bill Barr and the Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general (IG) were apparently true.
Attorney General Barr publicly disputed the core conclusion of the highly anticipated IG’s report in the wake of its release Monday, announcing his view that the FBI spied on a Trump campaign member based on the “thinnest of suspicions.” Barr’s position places him at odds with IG Michael Horowitz, who found that the FBI’s spying was justified despite “significant” omissions in its applications to spy on Carter Page, an ex-Trump campaign member.
“The inspector general’s report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken,” Barr said.
Barr disputes IG finding
Rumors of a divide between Barr and Horowitz had been brewing in the lead-up to the reports’ release, as early leaks suggested that Horowitz would dispute longstanding Republican claims of a “Deep State” conspiracy to take down Donald Trump. The substance of the report confirms those predictions, although Horowitz’s report was actually more damning than James Comey and others Trump foes made it out to be.
Horowitz concluded that the FBI’s 2016 investigation of the Trump campaign was justified, despite discovering that the FBI and DOJ made numerous “significant” omissions in its applications to obtain warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for Page. In particular, Horowitz found that the infamous Christopher Steele dossier played a “central and essential role” in the applications, but that it was not reliably sourced — a fact that the FBI kept hidden across 17 “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in its four applications, Fox News reported.
“[T]he Crossfire Hurricane team failed to inform department officials of significant information that was available to the team at the time that the FISA applications were drafted and filed. Much of that information was inconsistent with, or undercut, the assertions contained in the FISA applications that were used to support probable cause and, in some instances, resulted in inaccurate information being included in the applications,” the report read.
Barr slammed the FBI for misleading the FISA court by pursuing Page despite a “consistently exculpatory” pattern of evidence that was “suppressed” by certain FBI officials, whom he distinguished from the “thousands of dedicated line agents who work tirelessly to protect our country.” He went on:
It is also clear that, from its inception, the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory. Nevertheless, the investigation and surveillance was pushed forward for the duration of the campaign and deep into President Trump’s administration. In the rush to obtain and maintain FISA surveillance of Trump campaign associates, FBI officials misled the FISA court, omitted critical exculpatory facts from their filings, and suppressed or ignored information negating the reliability of their principal source.
Comey claims vindication
Despite the rather damning finding that the FBI surveilled an American citizen with little basis, top Trump foes like Comey and mainstream media outlets claimed that Horowitz’s report discredited Republican theories of a “coup” to take down Trump. Comey, who supporters of Trump had hoped would face prosecution stemming from Horowitz’s probe, claimed that the report proved that “no spying” took place and accused Barr of “sliming” the DOJ in an op-ed, the Washington Times reported.
“Well, the wait is over and those who smeared the FBI are due for an accounting,” Comey wrote in The Washington Post. “In particular, Attorney General William P. Barr owes the institution he leads, and the American people, an acknowledgment of the truth.”
Barr has been routinely attacked by Comey, the mainstream media, and other Trump foes for making claims supportive of the president, such as his April statement that the Trump campaign was indeed “spied on.” Horowitz’s report not only confirms that Trump’s campaign was spied on — it also raises significant questions about whether that spying was backed up by evidence.
U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is overseeing a separate, broader criminal probe of the Trump-Russia investigation, issued his own statement politely disagreeing with Horowitz’s finding. The prosecutor said that his investigation is “not limited to developing information from within component parts of the Justice Department” and that, based on his findings so far, he told Horowitz in November that he did not agree with “some of” his conclusions about the predicate for the FBI’s investigation.
While the IG report may be a let down to supporters of the president, it is nevertheless a damning rebuke of the “Deep State” — and it appears that Barr isn’t backing down just yet.