U.S. Attorney General William Barr says he is “very concerned” by reports showing that former special counsel Robert Mueller “ignored” evidence of disinformation in the evidence used to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“I think that’s one of the most troubling aspects of this whole thing,” Barr said in an interview with CBS News this week.
He specifically cited the possibility that the Kremlin deliberately gave false information to former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, whose dossier was heavily referenced by Mueller’s team of investigators.
“A vector for the Russians”
Barr said he was “very concerned” by the thought of Steele and his dossier being “used as a vector for the Russians to inject disinformation into the political campaign.”
A 2019 report from the Justice Department’s inspector general determined that the FBI possibly received disinformation planted in the dossier by Russian operatives, but federal agents nonetheless used that document in their effort to obtain a surveillance warrant for then-Trump campaign officer Carter Page.
A footnote in Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report shows the FBI was specifically warned that parts of the dossier might have been part of a “Russian disinformation campaign to denigrate U.S. foreign relations.”
The Mueller investigation ultimately found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and the Steele dossier has been largely debunked since it was leaked to the press in 2017.
Russian intelligence officers were reportedly aware in July 2016 that Steele was investigating Trump, who was campaigning to be president at the time. According to Barr, the special counsel should have been more thorough in vetting the resulting documents.
“Too wedded to a particular outcome”
“I think that is something that Robert Mueller was responsible for looking at under his charter, which is the potential of Russian influence,” the attorney general said. “But I think it was ignored and there was mounting indications that this could very well have been happening and no one really stopped to look at it.”
Barr went on to speculate that investigators might have been pursuing a partisan agenda by conveniently neglecting to sufficiently investigate the dossier’s claims.
“Well, I think one of the things you have to guard against, both as a prosecutor and, I think, as an investigator, is that, if you get too wedded to a particular outcome and you’re pursuing a particular agenda, you close your eyes to anything that sort of doesn’t fit with your preconception,” he added.
Based on recent revelations, it appears that either Mueller or his investigators dropped the ball when it came to the basic concept of verifying claims and sources.
Further evidence has shown a clear anti-Trump bias by at least some members of Mueller’s team, which seems to reinforce Barr’s suggestion that the Steele dossier fiasco might not have been just a simple oversight.