Attorney General Bill Barr forcefully defended President Trump in the aftermath of the long-awaited IG report on FISA abuse, calling the original Trump–Russia probe a “travesty.”
The comments put a more personal spin on Barr’s statement the day before criticizing the IG report for its conclusion that the FBI’s spying on the Trump campaign was justified. Barr’s remarks make clear that he is backing President Trump as the POTUS slams the attempted “overthrow” he says was laid out in Michael Horowitz’s report.
“I think that there were gross abuses of FISA and inexplicable behavior that was intolerable in the FBI,” Barr said in an interview with NBC News. “And the attorney general’s primary responsibility is to protect against the abuse of the law enforcement and intelligence apparatus.”
Barr calls Russia probe a “travesty”
The mainstream media — and James Comey — spent the day patting themselves on the back Monday after it was confirmed that Horowitz’s highly anticipated report did not discover intentional wrongdoing or political bias towards Trump. As the media (and Comey) told it, the FBI and DOJ had effectively been exonerated of President Trump’s claims of a “coup” led by rogue intelligence agents in the Obama administration.
But Horowitz’s actual verdict wasn’t so black-and-white. Horowitz found that the FBI and DOJ made “significant” omissions in applications for FISA warrants to spy on Trump campaign aide Carter Page, particularly pertaining to the reliability of the infamous Christopher Steele dossier, Fox reported. Horowitz’s report confirmed that the dossier was “essential” to justifying the FISA warrants, but that FBI officials kept hidden information about its reliability that might otherwise have undercut the FISA applications.
Trump responded Monday by attacking the attempted “overthrow” described in the report, and Barr backed the president in an official statement blasting the FBI probe as having been predicated on the “thinnest of suspicions.” Barr also said that the FBI had “misled the FISA court, omitted critical exculpatory facts from their filings, and suppressed or ignored information negating the reliability of their principal source.”
In an interview Tuesday, Barr doubled down in even more forceful language, saying that the Obama administration “used the apparatus of the state, principally the law enforcement agencies and the intelligence agencies, both to spy on political opponents, but also to use them in a way that could affect the outcome of the election.”
Our nation was turned on its head for three years based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by an irresponsible press. When you step back here and say, ‘What was this all based on?’ It’s not sufficient.
Just getting started
Barr’s comments highlight a rift between the attorney general, whom the left has long smeared for sympathizing with president’s view that the Trump-Russia probe was a “witch hunt,” and the Obama-appointed Horowitz. Many in the media quickly claimed vindication from the “nonpartisan” Horowitz’s conclusion and continued assailing Barr as a partisan in the tank for Trump.
It also highlights a split between Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray, who said that the report cleared the FBI and DOJ of intentional wrongdoing, even as he acknowledged “unacceptable” errors. Trump blasted Wray in a tweet Tuesday, saying “I don’t know what report current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was reading, but it sure wasn’t the one given to me. With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken despite having some of the greatest men & women working there!”
With the Horowitz probe concluded, Barr’s comments signal that he will not be satisfied with his inspector general’s rather anodyne assessment of what many Trump supporters consider the greatest scandal of modern political American history. It’s unclear what Barr will do next, but his handpicked prosecutor John Durham, U.S. attorney from Connecticut, is leading a separate, more comprehensive criminal probe of the Russia investigation’s origins.
Durham’s probe has come under withering scrutiny from the media and the likes of Comey, who claimed in a self-congratulatory op-ed Monday (how did he have it ready just in time?) that Barr had “slimed” the DOJ by accusing the department of abusing its power. But this kind of pushback was expected, and it looks like Barr’s war with the “Deep State” is just getting started.
“The core statement in my opinion by the I.G. Is that these irregularities, these misstatements, these omissions were not satisfactory explained and I think that leaves open the possibility for bad faith,” Barr said. “I think it’s premature now to reach a judgment on that, but I think further work has to be done and that’s what Durham is doing.”