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Law & the Courts

Barr Says IG ‘Hasn’t Decided the Issue of Improper Motive’ in Report on FBI Russia Probe

U.S. Attorney General William Barr in Washington, U.S., December 10, 2019. (Al Drago/Reuters)

Attorney General William Barr pushed back Tuesday on the narrative that Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report cleared the FBI of political motivation in its investigation of possible collusion between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

“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 of Horowitz’s investigation during an exclusive interview with NBC News. “I think we have to wait until the full investigation is done.”

Following the release of the report on Monday, U.S. Attorney John Durham, who was tapped by Barr to lead a wide-ranging probe in the origins of the 2016 investigation, said he did “not agree with” Horowitz’s assertion that the investigation was properly predicated.

“Our investigation has included developing information from other persons and entities, both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S.  Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened,” Durham’s statement reads.

Barr emphasized Durham’s claim in the Tuesday interview and said the report’s conclusions have “not been accurately reported by the press over the last day.”

“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.

The attorney general added that according to his knowledge, this was “the first time in history” that a presidential campaign was surveilled by the government. Barr added that the evidence did not warrant the investigation in the first place.

“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.”

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