Attorney General William Barr responded to the Justice Department inspector general’s report on the FBI’s abuse of the FISA system to surveil the Trump campaign by slamming the FBI for withholding exculpatory evidence from their filings with the FISA court.
“The Inspector General’s report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken,” Barr said. “It is also clear that, from its inception, the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory. Nevertheless, the investigation and surveillance was pushed forward for the duration of the campaign and deep into President Trump’s administration.”
“In the rush to obtain and maintain FISA surveillance of Trump campaign associates, FBI officials misled the FISA court, omitted critical exculpatory facts from their filings, and suppressed or ignored information negating the reliability of their principal source. The Inspector General found the explanations given for these actions unsatisfactory,” Barr continued. “While most of the misconduct identified by the Inspector General was committed in 2016 and 2017 by a small group of now-former FBI officials, the malfeasance and misfeasance detailed in the Inspector General’s report reflects a clear abuse of the FISA process.”
Barr’s statement comes as the inspector general found “serious” problems with the way that the FBI conducted itself while trying to surveil the campaign. The report outlined 17 “inaccuracies and omissions” in the FBI’s FISA application of then-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and also found that top officials doctored evidence that was used against Page.
“FISA is an essential tool for the protection of the safety of the American people,” Barr said. “The Department of Justice and the FBI are committed to taking whatever steps are necessary to rectify the abuses that occurred and to ensure the integrity of the FISA process going forward.”
“No one is more dismayed about the handling of these FISA applications than Director Wray,” Barr continued. “I have full confidence in Director Wray and his team at the FBI, as well as the thousands of dedicated line agents who work tirelessly to protect our country. I thank the Director for the comprehensive set of proposed reforms he is announcing today, and I look forward to working with him to implement these and any other appropriate measures.”
Barr concluded by stating that the Department of Justice was going to follow up on all the recommendations that were made in the report, including potential disciplinary actions against certain individuals.
One of the most troubling parts of the report was that the investigators discovered that the anti-Trump dossier created by British spy Christopher Steele was viewed by the CIA as an “internet rumor” and that they advised the FBI not to use it because it was not credible and that, despite the warning, top officials like former FBI Director James Comey insisted that it be used to obtain a FISA warrant to surveil the Trump campaign. The report found that Steele’s dossier — which was paid for by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) — was almost completely unverified and yet was used to launch the investigation into Carter Page after initial efforts proved to be unsuccessful due to insufficient evidence.