Barr: ‘Completely Bogus’ Russia Investigation ‘Hyped By an Irresponsible Press’

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During an exclusive interview with NBC justice correspondent Pete Williams aired on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports on Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr reacted to the Justice Department’s inspector general report detailing the FBI’s mishandling of the Russia investigation and also blamed the media for constantly hyping the faulty inquiry.

At one point in the exchange, Williams observed: “I think a lot of people will hear what you’re saying here and think, ‘Well, that’s just Bill Barr defending Trump.’” Barr pushed back: “I think our nation was turned on its head for three years. I think based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by an irresponsible press.”

 

 

Barr went on to denounce the “gross abuses of FISA” and the “inexplicable behavior that is intolerable in the FBI” uncovered in the report released on Monday by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

The DOJ chief then declared: “And the attorney general’s primary responsibility is to protect against the abuse of the law enforcement and intelligence apparatus....That’s my responsibility and I’m going to carry it out.”

Earlier in the interview, Williams asked about Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham’s ongoing investigation into the origins of the Russia probe. Barr explained in part:

Well, Durham is looking at the whole waterfront. He’s looking at the issue of how it got started. He’s looking at whether or not the narrative of Trump being involved in the Russian interference actually preceded July and was, in fact, the precipitating trigger for the investigation....I told him that he should spend just as much attention on the post-election period. And I did that because of some of the stuff that Horowitz has uncovered, which to me is inexplicable.

Williams later worried that Durham publicly voicing disagreement with some of the IG report conclusions may not be “appropriate.” Barr countered: “I think it was definitely appropriate because I think it was necessary to avoid public confusion. I think it was sort of being reported by the press that the issue of predication [of the Russia investigation] was sort of done and over.”

Given how much time and energy that the media invested in the narrative that President Trump colluded with Russia, reporters are unwilling to accept the role they played in pushing the now-debunked conspiracy theory.

Here are excerpts of the December 10 interview:

12:39 PM ET

(...)

PETE WILLIAMS: So what do you think – what questions will John Durham address that the IG didn’t?

BILL BARR: Well, Durham is looking at the whole waterfront. He’s looking at the issue of how it got started. He’s looking at whether or not the narrative of Trump being involved in the Russian interference actually preceded July and was, in fact, the precipitating trigger for the investigation. He’s also looking at the conduct of the investigation. 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. But also a few weeks ago, I told him that he should spend just as much attention on the post-election period. And I did that because of some of the stuff that Horowitz has uncovered, which to me is inexplicable.

WILLIAMS: Such as?

BARR: Well, what I said is, their case collapsed after the election and they never told the court. And they kept on getting renewals on these applications. There were documents falsified in order to get these renewals. There was all kinds of withholding of information from the court. And the question really is what was the agenda after the election that kept them pressing ahead, after their case collapsed? This is the President of the United States.

WILLIAMS: You, of course, went to three countries with him [Durham]. Why did you have to do that? And some people have said, “Well this is clearly Bill Barr’s in charge of the investigation.”

BARR: Well, the presentation of that in the media has been silly. The person running the investigation is John Durham. But this is a very unusual circumstance where we are going to foreign governments and asking them to assist and cooperate, including, you know, some of their sensitive materials and personnel. And a U.S. Attorney doesn’t show up on the door step in some of these countries, like London, and say, “Hey, I want to talk to your intelligence people and so forth.” All the regularities were followed. I went through the – my purpose was to introduce Durham to the appropriate people and set up a channel that he can work with these countries. At the request of the – I went through ambassadors of each country. And the governments wanted to initially talk to me to find out what is this about? What are the ground rules? Is this going to be a criminal case? Are you going to, you know, do a public report? They wanted to understand the ground rules before they met with Durham, and I met with them, and I set up appropriate channels. This was perfectly appropriate.

WILLIAMS: Speaking of whether or not something is appropriate or not, was it appropriate for John Durham to issue his statement yesterday? Given that he’s a U.S. attorney with a grand jury and his investigation isn’t done yet?

BARR: Oh, yeah, I think it was definitely appropriate because I think it was necessary to avoid public confusion. I think it was sort of being reported by the press that the issue of predication was sort of done and over. Even though it was a very limited look at that issue by the IG, given the narrowness of his – you know, of the evidence available to him. And I think it was important for people to understand that, you know, Durham’s work was not being preempted. And that Durham was doing something different and he explains what he’s doing different. And that there are areas of disagreement. I think it was perfectly appropriate so the public understood the relationship between the two exercises.

(...)

12:44 PM ET

WILLIAMS Before I go into a couple other questions, let me just sort of button this up. I think a lot of people will hear what you’re saying here and think, “Well, that’s just Bill Barr defending Trump.” Your concern about the FBI’s investigation is what, civil libertarian?

BARR: I think our nation was turned on its head for three years. I think based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by an irresponsible press. And I think that there were gross abuses of FISA. And inexplicable behavior that is intolerable in the FBI. 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 going to carry it out.

(...)

NB Daily FBI Media Bias Debate Conservatives & Republicans MSNBC Andrea Mitchell Reports Video Pete Williams Bill Barr Michael Horowitz

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