Attorney General William Barr told the Senate Judiciary Panel this week that he has assembled a team at the Justice Department to probe whether the spying conducted by the FBI against the Trump campaign in 2016 was improper, reports Bloomberg.
Barr suggested that he would focus on former senior leaders at the FBI and Justice Department.
"To the extent there was overreach, what we have to be concerned about is a few people at the top getting it into their heads that they know better than the American people," said Barr.
Barr will also review whether the infamous Steele dossier - a collection of salacious and unverified claims against Donald Trump, assembled by a former British spy and paid for by the Clinton campaign - was fabricated by the Russian government to trick the FBI and other US agencies. (Will Barr investigate whether Steele made the whole thing up for his client, Fusion GPS?)
"We now know that he was being falsely accused," Barr said of Trump. "We have to stop using the criminal justice process as a political weapon."
Mueller’s report didn’t say there were false accusations against Trump. It said the evidence of cooperation between the campaign and Russia “was not sufficient to support criminal charges.” Investigators were unable to get a complete picture of the activities of some relevant people, the special counsel found.
Although Barr’s review has only begun, it’s helping to fuel a narrative long embraced by Trump and some of his Republican supporters: that the Russia investigation was politically motivated and concocted from false allegations in order to spy on Trump’s campaign and ultimately undermine his presidency. -Bloomberg
As Bloomberg notes, Barr's review could receive a boost by a Thursday New York Times article acknowledging that the FBI sent a 'honeypot' spy to London in 2016 to pose as a research assistant and gather intelligence from Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos over possible Trump campaign links to Russia.
The Trump re-election campaign immediately seized on the Times report as evidence that improper spying did occur. "As President Trump has said, it is high time to investigate the investigators," said Trump campaign manager, Brad Parscale in a statement.
During Barr's Wednesday testimony, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) told Barr "It appears to me that the Obama administration, Justice Department and FBI decided to place their bets on Hillary Clinton and focus their efforts" when it came to investigating the Trump campaign.
Depending on what Barr finds, his review of the Russia probe could give Trump ammunition to defend himself in continuing congressional inquiries -- and in a potential impeachment for obstructing justice. Barr told senators that Trump’s actions can’t be seen as obstruction if he was exercising his constitutional authority as president to put an end to an illegitimate investigation.
Barr’s efforts follow two years of work by a group of House Republicans who have been conducting dozens of interviews regarding the FBI’s and Justice Department’s conduct in the early stages of investigation of Trump and his campaign. -Bloomberg
On Thursday, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) issued a criminal referral for Nellie Ohr - a former Fusion GPS contractor who passed anti-Trump research to her husband, then the #4 official at the DOJ.
On Thursday, Meadows said that Barr's "willingness to investigate the origins of the Russia investigation is the first step in putting the questionable practices of the past behind us," and that the AG's "tenacity is sure to be rewarded."
The FBI opened its counterintelligence investigation against the Trump campaign after a self-professed member of the Clinton Foundation, Joseph Mifsud, fed Papadopoulos the rumor that Russia had "dirt" on Clinton. That rumor would be coaxed out of the former Trump aide by another Clinton-connected individual - Australian diplomat Alexander Downer, who would notify authorities of Papadopoulos' admission, officially launching the investigation.
Barr says he wants to get to the bottom of it.
His review will examine the above chain of events that set the investigation into motion, and whether any US agencies were engaged in spying on or investigating the Trump campaign before the probe was officially launched.
Barr said he’s working with FBI Director Christopher Wray “to reconstruct exactly what went down.” He said he has “people in the department helping me review the activities over the summer of 2016.”
Notably, Barr said his aides will be “working very closely” with the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz.
Horowitz is conducting his own investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation and whether there were abuses when the FBI obtained a secret warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in October 2016 to spy on another foreign policy adviser to the campaign, Carter Page. -Bloomberg
Barr will also investigate when the DOJ and FBI knew that the Democratic Party and Clinton was Steele.
More subterfuge, or is this really happening?