Justice Department Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz’s report on alleged abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by the FBI in obtaining warrants to spy on President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign team isn’t the final word on the matter.
At least, that’s what Attorney General William “Bill” Barr said in an interview with NBC News on Tuesday. Speaking with NBC’s Pete Williams, Barr said the FBI “clearly spied” on Trump campaign staffer Carter Page — and though Horowitz reported no evidence of FBI officials acting in “bad faith” when obtaining warrants to do this, the AG says we’ll have to wait for U.S. Attorney John Durham to finish his probe before we know the full story.
A nation turned on its head
Barr appeared on NBC just a day after the release of Horowitz’s report, which, to many conservatives, was nothing short of a disappointment. But according to Barr, that’s partially thanks to the media, which he said failed to “accurately” report on Horowitz’s findings.
“I think our nation was turned on its head for three years based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by a completely irresponsible press,” Barr said. And right on cue, the press was back at it on Monday, asserting, as Horowitz suggested, that the FBI did nothing wrong in launching its investigation into Trump — despite the fact that they relied largely on an unverified and discredited dossier to obtain the initial warrants, and made “significant” omissions when showing these documents to the FISA court, according to the inspector general.
This is in part why Barr disagrees with Horowitz, who said that while the FBI made serious errors in judgment, he didn’t believe officials were politically motivated. The attorney general, on the other hand, said the FBI’s justification for spying on Trump’s campaign was “very flimsy” at best.
“From a civil liberties standpoint, the greatest danger to our free system is that the incumbent government use 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,” Barr said.
To Barr, “the core statement” in the IG’s report is that “these irregularities, these misstatements, these omissions were not satisfactorily explained.”
“I think that leaves open the possibility to infer bad faith,” Barr said.
Gross abuses and inexplicable behavior
While the media has tried to paint a picture of Horowitz’s report offering the final verdict, Barr clarified this week that the IG was limited in how he could address the question of wrongdoing by the FBI. Horowitz’s review was more narrow and administrative in scope, Barr said, but Durham can dig much deeper — and dig, he will.
“[Trump’s campaign] was clearly spied upon,” Barr told Williams on Tuesday, according to RealClearPolitics. “I think that there were gross abuses of FISA and inexplicable behavior that is intolerable in the FBI.”
Now, only one question remains: when will those responsible finally be held accountable?
Take a look at Barr’s full interview with Williams, a portion of which aired on Tuesday evening’s edition of NBC Nightly News: