US Attorney General William Barr said on Tuesday that the Russia Investigation could reach an important “watershed” by late spring 2020 or early summer.
Barr told NBC that the investigation, which alleged that Trump colluded with Russia in the 2016 presidential elections, has turned out to be “completely baseless.”
“From the very first day of this investigation, which was July 31st, 2016, all the way to its end, in September 2017, there was not one incriminatory bit of evidence to come in,” Barr said. “It was all exculpatory.”
Barr who is overseeing U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation explained how Durham will look at the “whole waterfront,” whether the “narrative” of Trump being involved in the Russian interference preceded July 2016, and if that triggered the investigation.
“He’s also looking at the conduct of the investigation,” Barr said. “There are some things that were done in the investigation that are not included in Horowitz’s report, and he’s looking at those things.”
Barr described the report by Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz (pdf) released on Dec. 9 as limited only to violations of the FBI and Justice Department policies. Meanwhile, Durham has broader reach and can “compel testimony” by talking to a range of people, public and private, as well as foreign governments, Barr said.
For example, one of the problems in the IG’s report, Barr said, was that Former FBI Director James Comey couldn’t be questioned about classified matters as he had refused to sign for security clearance.
Comey, who was fired by Trump on May 9, 2017, was reported to have leaked classified information to his attorneys, and violated Department of Justice policies guiding the retention, handling, and dissemination of government documents.
“Durham is not limited to the FBI, he can talk to other agencies, he can compel people to testify,” Barr said.
Issues With the IG’s Report
U.S. Attorney John Durham issued a rare statement on Dec. 9, shortly after the IG report was published, that he disagreed with some of the conclusions in the IG’s report.
“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 said in a statement.
Barr and Durham disagreed with Horowitz on whether the FBI’s investigation was properly predicated, reported Washington Examiner.
“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.
Barr said that the surveillance of Trump-campaign associate Carter Page constituted a “clear abuse” of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process.
“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,” Barr said.
“The Inspector General found the explanations given for these actions unsatisfactory. 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 added that the nation was misled for three years, and that the Trump-Russia collusion narrative was “largely fanned and hyped by an irresponsible press.”
“I think that there were gross abuses of FISA, an inexplicable behavior that is intolerable in the FBI,” Barr said. “And the Attorney General’s primary responsibility is to protect against the abuse of the law enforcement, and intelligence apparatus and make sure that it doesn’t play an improper role in our political life, that’s my responsibility. And I’m gonna carry it out.”
Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.