US Attorney General William Barr has no doubt that President Trump’s 2016 election campaign was spied upon.
In a lengthy interview with MSNBC, Barr reacted to the release of the much-anticipated report from the Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz, and unloaded on the key players in what he sees as a “bogus narrative” pushed to remove the president from office.
(Videos source: MSNBC)
Despite noting errors, violations and false statements, Horowitz concluded that the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign was justified and was not politically motivated. Reacting to the report’s findings, Barr doubled down on his belief, as expressed to Congress earlier this year, that “spying did occur” on Trump.
“These irregularities, these misstatements, these omissions were not satisfactorily explained. And I think this leaves open the possibility to infer bad faith,” Barr told Pete Williams on “Andrea Mitchell Reports” Tuesday.
“I think there could have been a lot of motivations involved. And different motivations. And there could be motivations in the FBI and motivations outside the FBI by other players on this,” he said. “This thing focuses on the FBI. There was a lot going on around this that is not the subject matter of Horowitz’s report but I think has a direct bearing perhaps what was going on in the FBI.”
“Based on what you know so far is it still — do you still stand by your statement that the campaign was spied upon?” Williams asked the attorney general.
“Oh, it was clearly spied upon. I mean, that’s what electronic surveillance is. I think wiring people up to go in and talk to people and make recordings of their conversations is spying. I think going through people’s emails which they did as a result of the FISA warrant,” he added.
Barr doubled down on the baseless FBI investigation, saying it was initially launched on “very flimsy” evidence.
“I think the heart of the IG’s report really focused on how the investigation was conducted once it got going. And that is especially the very serious abuses of FISA that occurred, much of which has been in my view not accurately reported by the press over the last day,” he told Williams.
“But in one area I do disagree with the IG, and that was whether there was sufficient predication to open a full-blown counterintelligence investigation, specifically, using the techniques that they did to collect intelligence about the Trump campaign,” Barr said.
“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,” he explained. “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.”
“And I think when you step back here and say, what was this all based on? It’s not sufficient. Remember, 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,” Barr added.
He also called out the press for its “irresponsible” coverage.
“I think 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 said.
The attorney general explained the IG report and its scope while detailing how the ongoing investigation by US Attorney from Connecticut John Durham, who refuted Horowitz’s report Monday, differs.
“All he said is people gave me an explanation and I didn’t find anything to contradict it. So I don’t have a basis for saying that there was improper motive. But he hasn’t decided the issue of improper motive,” he said.
“Had you?” Williams asked.
“No. I think we have to wait until the investigation — the full investigation is done, and that’s the fundamental description between what Durham was doing and what the I.G. Is doing,” Barr replied.
“Durham is not limited to the FBI. He can talk to other agencies. He can compel people to testify,” he added. “Someone like Durham can compel testimony, he can talk to a whole range of people, private parties, foreign governments and so forth. And I think that is the point at which a decision has to be made about motivations. And I think right now, it would be premature to make any judgment, one way or the other.”
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