Attorney General William Barr hammered the Obama administration and the FBI on Tuesday in an interview with NBC News about Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz’s report on the FBI’s misconduct in surveilling the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.
During the interview with NBC News’ Pete Williams, Barr specifically called out Obama administration officials, including Obama, for the way that they approached Russian meddling in the 2016 election and noted that the basis for the FBI opening the investigation into the Trump campaign was “completely baseless.”
Williams asked Barr why he said that the FBI opened the investigation of the Trump campaign on the thinnest of suspicions.
“Well, I’m glad to get into the issue of predication, but let me just start out by saying that I think you have to put this in context. I think the heart of the IG’s report really focused on how the investigation was conducted once it got going,” Barr responded. “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. 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.”
Continuing to speak on why the government should not open an investigation on a “thin pretext,” Barr noted that “from a civil liberties standpoint, 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.”
“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,” Barr continued. “And we have to remember, in today’s world, presidential campaigns are frequently in contact with foreign persons and indeed, in most campaigns, there are signs of illegal foreign money coming in and we don’t automatically assume that the campaigns are nefarious and traitors and acting with foreign powers. There has to be some basis before we use these very potent powers in our core First Amendment activity.”
Barr noted that the entire basis for the investigation into the Trump campaign was insufficient and baseless and that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
“And here, I felt this was very flimsy. Basically, I think the department has a rule of reason which is at the end of the day, is what you’re relying on sufficiently powerful to justify the techniques you’re using? And the question there is, how strong is the evidence? How sensitive is the activity you’re looking at? And what are the alternatives?” Barr said. “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.”
AG Bill Barr slams the IG report over the "flimsy" investigation via a "thin pretext." Barr says a huge danger to our democracy is using law enforcement to "spy on political opponents." pic.twitter.com/IwjTgvY2tI
— (((Jason Rantz))) on KTTH Radio (@jasonrantz) December 10, 2019
Barr then addressed the way that the investigation was opened, which happened when an Australian Diplomat with ties to the Clintons told U.S. officials about a conversation that he had with Trump campaign volunteer George Papadopoulos at a bar.
“This is George Papadopoulos, and this was described by the foreign officials who heard him as — who couldn’t remember exactly what was said — but it was characterized as a suggestion of a suggestion,” Barr said. “He suggested that there has been a suggestion from the Russians that they had some adverse information to Hillary, which they might dump in the campaign.”
“But what was going on in May? You may recall that we were in the thick of the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s secret server and the media was full of stories and the blogosphere was full of stories and political circles in Washington were full of stories and speculation that the Russians had, in 2014, two years before, hacked into her secret server and were, therefore, in a position to drop this stuff during the election,” Barr continued. “In fact, the day before this comment was made, in a bar, Fox News was reporting that their sources told them there was a debate going on in the Russian government as to whether or not to drop this Hillary Clinton emails between the intelligence agency and the foreign ministry, but that related to Hillary’s server.”
Barr then noted that the Obama administration, including Obama himself, did not approach the situation correctly because they did not inform the Trump campaign what was going on and instead went and spoke directly to the Russians, who Barr said were clearly the bad guys in the whole ordeal.
“So the FBI, what the FBI did is, later, after the DNC hack and the dumping through Wikileaks in July, they get information that this somewhat vague statement was made in a bar. And they jumped right into a full-scale investigation before they even went and talked to the foreign officials about exactly what was said,” Barr said. “They opened an investigation of the campaign and they used very intrusive techniques. They didn’t do what normally would be done under those circumstances, which is to go to the campaign, and certainly, there were people in the campaign that could be trusted including a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Governor of New Jersey, and a former U.S. Attorney.”
“There were people to talk to. And what I find particularly inexplicable is that they talked to the Russians, but not to the presidential campaign. On August 4th, Brennan braced the head of Russian intelligence — he calls the head of Russian intelligence and says we know what you’re up to, you better stop it. He did it again later in August,” Barr continued. “And then President Obama talked to president Putin in September and said, ‘we know what you’re up to, you better cut it out.’ So, they go and confront the Russians, who clearly are the bad guys, and they won’t go and talk to the campaign and say ‘what is this about?’”
AG Bill Barr calls out the claim that Trump was colluding with Russia over a "vague statement made in a bar" that used "very intrusive techniques." The FBI and Obama admin didn't go to the Trump campaign, as Barr says would be normal, but "they went to the Russians." pic.twitter.com/xkX49HiYHP
— (((Jason Rantz))) on KTTH Radio (@jasonrantz) December 10, 2019