After the release of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report into alleged abuse of the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) process, Attorney General Bill Barr said he disagreed with some of its findings. In a recent interview with NBC’s Pete Williams, Barr went into detail about what he thinks Horowitz got wrong in terms of the premise underlying the entire Russia collusion probe.
“Mr. Attorney General, why do you say that the FBI opened the investigation of the Trump campaign on ‘the thinnest of suspicions?'” Williams began.
“Well,” Barr replied, “I’m glad to get into the issue of predication, but let me just start out by saying that I think you have to put this in context.”
He explained that Horowitz’s report was correct to point out “the very serious abuses” that took place during the investigation, conduct that Barr felt had been underreported by the media. “But,” Barr added, “in one area I do disagree with the IG.”
In Barr’s view, insufficient evidence existed to justify opening the investigation in the first place, something that he believes has caused serious harm to the country.
According to Barr, “the greatest danger to our free system is that the incumbent government use the apparatus of the state…both to spy on political opponents but also to use them in a way that could affect the outcome of an election.” That such spying occurred is something of which the attorney general is utterly convinced.
“It was clearly spied upon,” he said of the campaign. “That’s what electronic surveillance is…going through people’s emails, wiring people up.
“I think our nation was turned on its head for three years, I think based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by a completely irresponsible press,” Barr complained. “There was and never has been any evidence of collusion and yet this campaign and the president’s administration has been dominated by this investigation into what turns out to be completely baseless.
“I think that there were gross abuses of FISA,” he went on. “And inexplicable behavior[s] that are intolerable in the FBI. And the attorney general’s primary responsibility is to protect against the abuse of the law enforcement and intelligence apparatus. And make sure that it doesn’t.”
Barr also identified what he perceived to be a major shortcoming in Horowitz’s work and hinted that there is likely more to come on the question of whether political bias was the driving force behind the Russia probe.
“All he said was, people gave me an explanation and I didn’t find anything to contradict it…he hasn’t decided the issue of improper motive,” Barr said. “I think we have to wait until the full investigation is done,” he added, referring to the criminal probe that is being conducted by U.S. Attorney John Durham.
That investigation, which is considerably broader in scope than the one undertaken by Horowitz, remains ongoing.