WASHINGTON—During the May 1 Senate Judiciary Committee testimony, Attorney General William Barr made it clear that he has multiple targets in view in a comprehensive review of the Clinton email and Russia collusion investigations.
The focus of Barr’s review is two-fold: First, how the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI investigated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to conduct official U.S. diplomatic business.
Second, why the DOJ and FBI launched an investigation of allegations that aides to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with Russian interests to sway the election against Clinton.
Barr did so with a series of terse “yes” responses to questions posed by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.):
Sen. Graham: “Do you share my concern about the FISA warrant process?”
Mr. Barr: “Yes.”
Sen. Graham: “Do you share my concern about the counter-intelligence investigation, how it was opened, and why it was opened?”
Mr. Barr: “Yes.”
Sen. Graham: “Do you share my concerns that the lack of professionalism in the Clinton email investigation is something we should all look at?”
Mr. Barr: “Yes.”
Graham was referring to four Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants granted to the FBI to spy on Trump aides Carter Page and George Papadopoulos during and after the campaign.
Serious questions have been raised about whether DOJ and FBI officials honestly represented evidence justifying their requests for those warrants. Michael Horowitz, the DOJ’s inspector general, is expected to issue a report on the FISA warrants in May or June.
The FISA warrant questions are also linked to concerns that Graham was referencing to whether or not there was credible evidence to justify the FBI’s decision to spy on Trump’s campaign aides.
Later in the hearing, in response to a question from former Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Barr revealed just how deeply he’s going in his review.
In a lengthy preface to a question, Grassley noted to Barr that “the inspector general found during its investigation of Hillary Clinton for mishandling highly classified information, there was a culture of unauthorized media contacts.”
“During the Russia investigation, the leaks continued. Leaks undermine the ability of investigators to investigate. Further leaks to the papers while Congress’ questions to the department go unanswered is unacceptable.
“What are you doing to investigate unauthorized media contacts by department and FBI officials during the Russia investigation?”
Barr responded that “we have multiple criminal leak investigations underway.” The attorney general didn’t provide further detail on specific leaks.
But Grassley has previously asked Barr in a letter about a 2017 leak to The Washington Post about the issuance of a classified surveillance order used to track former Trump campaign aide Page.
Officially, Barr testified May 1 before the Senate Judiciary Committee about his March 24 four-page description of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his investigation of the Russian collusion allegations.
Barr told Congress in the description that Mueller concluded that no American colluded with Russians to influence the 2016 election, but that Mueller deferred to Barr to decide whether Trump or his aides obstructed justice.
Barr is scheduled to appear before the House Judiciary Committee on May 2 to answer questions about his description, but there are last-minute questions about whether he will actually do so.
Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats on the panel want Barr to answer questions put to him by staff lawyers.
Barr is strongly opposed to doing so because he thinks questioning witnesses before congressional committees is the responsibility of elected senators and representatives.