Attorney General Bill Barr suggested on Tuesday that the inspector general’s investigation of “Russiagate” is incomplete because of a little “problem” involving James Comey.
Barr told NBC that Comey’s refusal to renew his security clearance casts doubt on the IG’s finding that there was no political bias in the FBI’s 2016 investigation of the Trump campaign, the Washington Examiner reported Tuesday. Comey’s decision allowed him to avoid speaking with IG Michael Horowitz about certain classified information, leading Barr to doubt the solidity of Horowitz’s ultimate conclusion that the FBI probe was justified.
Comey’s victory lap comes too soon
For his part, Comey did a victory lap Monday when the long-awaited IG report found that the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign was justified, despite “significant” problems with FISA warrants the FBI sought to spy on a Trump campaign member.
But while the media joined in Comey’s victory dance, Barr gave a much more sober and complicated assessment to NBC. The attorney general slammed the FBI for its “abuse of power” involving the FISA process and suggested that he does not see Horowitz’s report as a complete sounding of possible corruption at the FBI, citing the probe’s limited scope.
Barr pointed to the ongoing, more expansive criminal probe of the Trump–Russia investigation being led by his handpicked prosecutor, John Durham, contrasting Durham’s broader scope and powers with those of Horowitz.
In a telling moment, Barr also suggested that Comey’s security clearance dodge left the Horowitz report incomplete — a problem that Durham could presumably solve.
“One of the problems in the IG’s investigation, I think he would agree, is that Comey refused to sign back up for his security clearance and therefore couldn’t be questioned about classified matters,” Barr said. “So someone like Durham can compel testimony, he can talk to a whole range of people, private parties, foreign governments, and so forth.”
Horowitz declines to exonerate Comey
In his own testimony to Congress Wednesday, Horowitz did not exonerate Comey either. The IG largely reaffirmed his split judgment that the FBI and Justice Department were justified in launching Operation Crossfire Hurricane, but that the FBI made “basic and fundamental errors” that prompted him to advise performance reviews for the “entire chain of command.”
When asked about Comey’s bizarre self-exoneration, Horowitz flatly said that nobody involved in his report was vindicated by what he found, Fox News reports. But he also refused to use the term “spying” to describe the FBI’s illegal surveillance, despite pressure from Republicans, The Hill noted.
Comey has long attacked Barr for suggesting that the Trump campaign was “spied on,” and he reaffirmed his view that there was “no spying” after Horowitz’s report dropped. But it looks like even Horowitz has more complicated views on the subject, and Barr has made no secret of his own.
Comey seems assured that he will escape unscathed, but Barr and Durham aren’t done asking questions yet.