Attorney General William Barr laughed off the Democrats and their “political circus” while he vowed he would “find out exactly what happened” with the Russia investigation.
Barr dismissed the attempt by Democrats under House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler to hold him in contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena for the unredacted report from Robert Mueller’s investigation while telling Fox News’ Bill Hemmer he found Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claim that he lied to Congress “laughable.”
“I think it’s a laughable charge and I think it’s largely being made to try to discredit me, partly because they may be concerned about the outcome of a review of what happened during the election,” Barr told Hemmer in El Salvador in his first interview as attorney general, which was aired on “America’s Newsroom” Friday.
“They may be trying to undermine my credibility, but obviously you can look at the face of my testimony and see on its face that there was nothing inaccurate about it,” he said, laughing as Hemmer questioned him about his recent encounter with Pelosi when he jokingly asked her if she brought handcuffs to arrest him.
“That’s part of the usual … political circus that’s being played out. It doesn’t surprise me,” the nation’s top law enforcement official added as he discussed his investigation into the foundation of the investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Barr revealed that he has been “trying to get answers” but many have so far been “inadequate,” stressing that the American people have a right to know if government officials “put their thumb on the scale” in the beginning stages of the Russia probe.
“The first step is to find out exactly what happened, and we’re trying to get our arms around that, getting all the relevant information from the various agencies and starting to talk to some of the people that have information,” Barr said.
“I think there’s a misconception out there that we know a lot about what happened,” he said. “The fact of the matter is Bob Mueller did not look at the government’s activities. He was looking at whether or not the Trump campaign had conspired with the Russians. But he was not going back and looking at the counterintelligence program. And we have a number of investigations underway that touch upon it — the main one being the office of inspector general that’s looking at the FISA warrants.”
He also noted that “some very strange developments” occurred in the time period between Election Day and Inauguration Day, noting the “leaking of information subsequent to that meeting” in January 2017 when intelligence officials briefed the president at Trump Tower.
“That’s one of the things … we need to look at,” Barr said of that meeting in which Trump was told about Russian meddling in the election and then-FBI director James Comey informed him about the allegations against him in the unverified Steele dossier.
Barr has reportedly appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham to essentially investigate the investigators and reports surfaced this week that, in fact, Durham has been on the case “for weeks” and is reportedly focusing on the time period before the 2016 election, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants that were allegedly issued improperly.
“I’ve been trying to get answers to questions and I found that a lot of the answers have been inadequate. And I’ve also found that some of the explanations I’ve gotten don’t hang together,” Barr told Hemmer.
“So in a sense, I have more questions today than I did when I first started. Some of what things don’t hang together, some of the explanations of what occurred,” he added.
Barr told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee last month that he believed “spying did occur” on the Trump campaign, informing lawmakers that he would be looking into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation.
“People have to find out what the government was doing during that period. If we’re worried about foreign influence, for the very same reason shouldn’t we be worried about whether government officials abused their power and put their thumb on the scale?” Barr asked Hemmer.
“I’m not saying that happened, but I’m saying that we have to look at that,” he added.
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