In Case You Were Wondering Which Side Bill Barr’s Bread Is Buttered On…

The Attorney General’s response to the Department of Justice Inspector General’s Report on the Trump/Russia investigation leaves no doubt.

Attorney General Bill Barr might as well have written “WRONG!” across the front of this with a Sharpie

There shouldn’t have been much doubt anyway. He’s a Trump cheerleader. And now he’s working hard to debunk an exhaustive report emanating from behind his own walls (although the Inspector General operates mostly independently).

The 476 page report states (among other things):

  • The FBI had reason to believe that Russia may have been connected to the WikiLeaks disclosures that occurred earlier in July 2016….[and] was aware of Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 U.S. elections. Given the low threshold for predication in the AG Guidelines and the DIOG (F.B.I.’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide), we concluded that the FFG (Friendly Foreign Government) information…was sufficient to predicate the full counterintelligence investigation because it provided the FBI an articulable factual basis that, if true, reasonably indicated activity constituting either a federal crime or a threat to national security may have occurred or may be occurring.
  • “We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the decisions to open the four individual investigations….The quantum of information articulated by the FBI to open the individual investigations on Papadopoulos, Page, Flynn, and Manafort in August 2016 was sufficient.”
  • Regarding the F.B.I.’s pursuit of information provided by “Trump Dossier” compiler Christopher Steele, whom Trump has repeatedly hammered on: “We determined that the FBI’s decisions to use Steele’s information…were based on multiple factors unrelated to political considerations.
  • (Just as a side note: we learned a lot of interesting abbreviations and jargon from the report. Our favorite being CHS: “Confidential Human Source”. Remember that one. We’re sure it’ll come up again.)

In other words, investigators had enough to go on to start an investigation and it wasn’t a conspiracy against Trump.

Barr says:

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.

In other words, investigators didn’t have enough to go on to start an investigation and it was a conspiracy against Trump.

In addition, the U.S. Attorney whom Barr assigned to do his own investigation into the investigation, took an unusual step of releasing a statement too. Here is John Durham’s statement, in its entirety:

Which doesn’t seem totally insane in and of itself. But also kind of underscores why federal investigators don’t generally comment on investigations while they are doing investigations. Because that throws all kinds of fuel on conspiracy theorists’ fire. Which is certainly the case here.

So what were being told to believe now is when it’s done, that’s gonna be the real report. Since we don’t like the conclusions of this one.

Alternately, the President and some Republicans decided they can just lie about the report that’s already out.

Trump is characterizing it as utterly damning, while at the same time pretty much also demonstrating he had not really reviewed and had no real knowledge of the specifics:

It’s everything that a lot of people thought it would be, except far worse.”

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise was more pointed, Tweeting (with a police siren emoji):

The IG report proves Obama officials abused their FISA power to trigger an investigation into @realDonaldTrump’s campaign. Just more evidence Dems will break any rule or law to rig an election against Trump.

Which is exactly the opposite of what the IG report actually concludes. But who’s gonna bother reading a 476-page report?

That’s not to say there wasn’t some pointed criticism in this report. A lot of it. And a lot of it comes back to F.B.I. agents not being “scrupulously accurate” in warrant applications, as they’re required to be, especially since they knew this investigation, because of the players involved and its magnitude, would be scrupulously scrutinized.

This latest report is actually the second report Inspector General Michael Horowitz issued on the F.B.I.’s doings related to the 2016 election. The first may have been even more critical of F.B.I. employees (including former Director James Comey), of overstepping.

FBI Director Christopher Wray issued his own statement, which seems completely sensible. But even that’s hard to figure out in these days of selective facts. Wray says “the FBI accepts the Report’s findings and embraces the need for thoughtful, meaningful remedial action”, lending legitimacy to the IG’s overall conclusions. At the same time, that doesn’t really preclude anything Barr (or the President) is asserting. Wray continues, outlining steps he’s taking as the bureau head to address criticisms in the report, specifically related to handling of warrants and informants. He concludes by pledging the FBI will “continue to discharge our responsibilities objectively and free from political bias ”. (Our emphasis).

But that’s not what the AG says happened here, even though the IG says it was.

Let the conspiracy theories live on!