Horowitz fallout. AG Bill Barr to NBC: '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.' https://t.co/qsAB2inu19
— Byron York (@ByronYork) December 10, 2019
Before it was even released to the public, Attorney General William Barr was quick to issue a statement disagreeing with Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s FISA abuse report on the issue of political bias as a motivator for the Russia collusion investigation into the Trump campaign.
In an exclusive interview with NBC news Tuesday, Barr doubled down on that assertion, saying he believes the evidence to support the investigation was flimsy at best and that the FBI may have acted in ‘bad faith’ when it began its investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.
He also has no patience for the role he believes the press played in promoting the investigation as credible.
“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. “I think there were gross abuses …and inexplicable behavior that is intolerable in the FBI.”
“I think that leaves open the possibility that there was bad faith.”
Barr, who stated unequivocally he believes the campaign was spied on, noted that one issue he had with Horowitz’s conclusions is that the IG may not have been particularly robust in ascertaining the truth or falsity of statements given to him by witnesses while compiling his report.
Barr argued that Horowitz didn’t look very hard, and that the inspector general accepted the FBI’s explanations at face value.
“All he said was, people gave me an explanation and I didn’t find anything to contradict it … he hasn’t decided the issue of improper motive,” Barr said. “I think we have to wait until the full investigation is done.”
Perhaps most stunning, the attorney general said this kind of spying — perpetrated in part by the “incumbent government” — on a presidential campaign is unprecedented in our nation’s history and is a threat to civil liberties and a danger to the freedom codified in the American system.
And that the outcome may have ultimately been to affect the results of the election.
“I think probably from a civil liberties standpoint, the greatest danger to our free system is that the incumbent government used 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 an election,” Barr said. “As far as I’m aware, this is the first time in history that this has been done to a presidential campaign, the use of these counterintelligence techniques against a presidential campaign.”
The attorney general, and the NBC news report points this out, is being criticized as a “hatchet man” for Donald Trump. But Barr believes that the evidence to open an investigation into the Trump campaign — given the lack of collusion revealed in the Mueller report — wasn’t sufficient enough. He also alludes to the idea that contact with “foreign persons” isn’t enough to make the case for an investigation, saying all administrations are in contact with foreign persons and there’s even been evidence of illegal foreign money coming into some campaigns in the past.
“[But] we don’t automatically assume the campaigns are nefarious and traitors and acting in league with foreign powers,” Barr said. “There has to be some basis before we use these very potent powers in our core first amendment activity. And here I felt this was very flimsy.”