Bill Barr unleashed on the media Tuesday for spreading a “bogus narrative” about Donald Trump to justify the Russia witch hunt.
The attorney general has made no secret of his displeasure with the newly released inspector general (IG) report on alleged abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which exonerated the FBI of intentional wrongdoing in spying on Trump’s presidential campaign while acknowledging “significant” problems with the agency’s decision making. Barr said that the report left open the possibility for “bad faith” by the FBI in its investigation of Trump, according to the Washington Examiner.
“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 an irresponsible press,” Barr told Pete Williams of NBC News.
AG slams “bogus narrative”
The report’s release set off a partisan skirmish over Russian collusion that dovetailed with the impeachment madness that is now reaching its climax at the Capitol. The media establishment was quick to claim that the IG report discredited Trump’s accusations of a “coup” and cleared the FBI — and by extension the media — of any nefarious plotting against Trump with regard to the Russia probe.
Days of pre-release media gossip about the report’s contents primed that rosy interpretation of Michael Horowitz’s findings, but the report itself was far more nuanced — and more damning of the FBI’s conduct. Barr has made clear that he is troubled by the uncovering of “significant” omissions — 17 to be exact — in the FBI’s applications for FISA warrants to spy on Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
Horowitz found that the salacious Christopher Steele dossier was an “essential” factor driving the surveillance of Page and that the FBI withheld information about its reliability that would otherwise have undercut the premise behind the spying campaign, according to The Epoch Times. While Horowitz did not find that the FBI acted with a political bias, Barr said that the IG probe was not wide or critical enough to actually reach a judgment on that question and that Horowitz had not ruled out abuses of power carried out with malice towards Trump.
“There were gross abuses of FISA and inexplicable behavior that is intolerable in the FBI,” Barr said. “I think that leaves open the possibility that there was bad faith.”
A historical first
Barr has long faced attacks from the left for expressing skeptical thoughts about the basis of the Trump–Russia probe. The left accused Barr of being in the tank for Trump when he said that Trump’s campaign was “spied on” in the spring, and he has faced continued hostility for leading a criminal investigation of the origins of the Russia investigation, now overseen by his handpicked prosecutor, U.S. Attorney John Durham.
Barr told NBC in no uncertain terms that Trump’s campaign “was clearly spied upon,” pointing in part to the FBI’s use of informants to collect information from Trump campaign members — and contradicting James Comey, who rushed to pat himself on the back with a curiously well-timed op-ed that accused Barr of “sliming” the Justice Department. Barr said it was the first time in American history that a political campaign was targeted with counterintelligence methods.
“From a civil liberties standpoint, 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,” Barr said.
Republicans have balked at Horowitz’s rather anodyne conclusion that the FBI made a mere bureaucratic “mistake” by repeatedly spying on a political campaign member with essentially zero evidence to justify doing so. While the media seems very eager to congratulate itself and move on from pushing a divisive hoax, it’s clear that Barr isn’t done asking questions.
“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,” he said.