As Democrats and the media play up the impeachment sideshow, the real story is heating up behind the scenes. While U.S. Attorney John Durham won’t release a report on Russiagate for “quite a few months,” Attorney General Bill Barr said Thursday, the reason should be encouraging to President Donald Trump’s supporters.
Durham’s criminal investigation is “much broader” than the inspector general’s probe that uncovered abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) courts, Barr told Fox News’ Martha MacCallum. The attorney general hinted that Durham was investigating events before and after the 2016 election, as well as “private actors,” according to Politico.
“Just based on my general knowledge of the things that he is looking at or has to look at in the future,” Barr said. “I would not think that he would be in a position for quite a few months.”
Durham’s “broader” probe will take months
Barr has made no secret of the fact that Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz’s report did not answer all of his questions about the Russia probe’s origins. Those implicated in the IG report have latched onto its general conclusion that the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign, Operation Crossfire Hurricane, was justified — despite Horowitz’s findings that the FBI abused the FISA process to spy on Carter Page.
The attorney general has affirmed his view that there might have been “bad faith” by the FBI, and Horowitz has also said that he did not rule out political bias in the FISA abuse, according to Breitbart. Barr reiterated to MacCallum that Durham’s ongoing probe will provide answers, and although Barr said he didn’t give Durham a timeline, he hinted it would likely require several months more based on what Durham is looking at.
“He is looking at other agencies and also private — departments and also private actors. So it is a much broader investigation,” Barr said of Durham’s probe. “And also, he’s not just looking at the FISA aspect of it. He is looking at all the conduct, both before and after the election.”
Barr said that Durham is looking at “various theories” about the Russia probe and cast doubt on the official narrative that it was sparked by Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos’ conversations about “Russian dirt” with an Australian diplomat.
The attorney general said that there was “rampant speculation” at the time about Russian hacking of Hillary Clinton’s emails and that the so-called tip about “Russian dirt” was therefore of “little probative value.”
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Barr pushes back on Comey
The attorney general went on to slam the FBI for continuing its investigation into Trump even after the Christopher Steele dossier “fell apart” and said it was clear there was “no basis” to allegations against Papadopoulos or Page when Trump took office. The IG found that the Steele dossier was “essential” to spying on Page but unreliable, something the FBI kept hidden from the FISA court.
As to the IG probe, Barr suggested that the misconduct Horowitz found cannot be written off as “innocent mistakes” and that there was “unexplained” misconduct that could involve a bad motive. According to Fox, he also dismissed former FBI Director James Comey’s defensive response to the IG report — in which he accused Barr of making “irresponsible” insinuations of bad faith — as “nonsense” given its findings and a rare, scathing rebuke of the FBI this week from the FISA court.
“One of the things that I object to is the tack being taken by Comey, which is to suggest that people who are criticizing or trying to get to the bottom of the misconduct are somehow attacking the FBI. I think that is nonsense,” Barr said. “We’re criticizing and concerned about misconduct by a few actors at the top of the FBI, and they should be criticized if they engaged in serious misconduct.”
Barr said that he would “rely on” Durham’s final conclusion, pointing to his “legendary” and “sterling” reputation.