Attorney General William Barr “disagrees” with a forthcoming report by the Justice Department’s inspector general that says the FBI had enough information in 2016 to launch an investigation into President Donald Trump’s campaign, The Washington Post reported Monday.
The Post, citing conversations with people familiar with the matter, said Barr has also privately told associates that he thinks other federal agencies, “such as the CIA, may hold significant information that could alter (inspector general Michael) Horowitz’s conclusion on that point.”
Horowitz is due to release his report next week on the FBI probe, which has caused “disagreement” at the department because of his “central conclusions” of the nearly two-year-long Russia investigation, according to the Post. Trump and many conservatives have long accused the FBI of wrongdoing in its investigation into connections between Russian election meddling and the Trump campaign, and Barr has previously criticized the handling of the probe.
It’s unclear how Barr will make his concerns with the report known, the paper said, noting that either he or a senior official at the department could submit a letter to be included in the report. Although the attorney general could opt out of including a letter with the report, he could instead make his objections public, the Post said.
Kerri Kupec, a Justice Department spokeswoman, advised Monday against speculating on Barr’s position on the report, which she said has “uncovered significant information.”
“Rather than speculating, people should read the report for themselves next week, watch the Inspector General’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and draw their own conclusions about these important matters,” Kupec said in a statement.
Asked on Tuesday about Barr’s reported comments, former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said that during his tenure at the bureau he had “never seen an attorney general essentially preempt the conclusions of an (inspector general) report.”
“The report in The Washington Post really kind of takes us back to the way (Barr) handled the release of (former special counsel Robert Mueller’s) report last summer,” McCabe, now a CNN analyst, told CNN’s John Berman on “New Day,” referring to Barr’s public reaction in March to Mueller’s report before it was officially released. “So in this case, it appears that he’s doing the exact same thing with an IG report, which is just remarkable.”
Barr has long questioned the basis of the original Russia investigation, telling The New York Times in 2017, “I have long believed that the predicate for investigating the uranium deal, as well as the foundation, is far stronger than any basis for investigating so-called ‘collusion,'” a reference to Hillary Clinton’s role in the approval of a uranium sale to a Russian state energy company.
Earlier this year, Barr also suggested to Congress that Trump’s campaign was spied on, saying he will be looking into the “genesis” of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation that began in 2016 of potential ties between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. He later defended his use of the word “spying,” saying it was used “off the cuff” and that he wasn’t using it pejoratively.
Barr has “praised the inspector general’s overall work on the matter,” the Post said, noting that because the inspector general is independent of the department, he cannot have Horowitz change his findings.
Last month, CNN reported that a former FBI lawyer is under criminal investigation after allegedly altering a document related to 2016 surveillance of a Trump campaign adviser, several people briefed on the matter told CNN. But the situation did not sway the independent Justice Department watchdog from finding the surveillance was valid, sources said.
Horowitz reviewed the FBI’s effort to obtain warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide.
Horowitz turned over evidence on the allegedly altered document to John Durham, the federal prosecutor appointed early this year by Barr to conduct a broad investigation of intelligence gathered for the Russia probe by the CIA and other agencies, including the FBI. The document is also at least one focus of Durham’s criminal probe.