In his first interview since the release of a report largely clearing the FBI for its handling of a probe into President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, Attorney General William Barr continued to challenge the report’s conclusions and reiterated his assertion that the president was treated unfairly by the agency.
“I think our nation was turned on its head for three years based on a bogus narrative that was largely framed and hyped by an irresponsible press,” Barr told NBC News’ Pete Williams in the interview. He said the FBI’s actions in the case were “inexplicable” and “intolerable.”
“It was clearly spied upon,” Barr said, referring to the Trump campaign. “That’s what electronic surveillance is … going through people’s emails, wiring people up.”
The long-awaited report from the Justice Department’s Inspector General, Micheal Horowitz, concluded that there were serious problems in the way the FBI set out to conduct its investigation into connections between Russia and the Trump campaign, but that the effort was ultimately proper and free of political bias.
Following the report’s release, Barr immediately challenged its findings.
This AG Barr statement:— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) December 9, 2019
“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 his interview with NBC, Barr said law enforcement officials ignored key evidence that refuted the basis for their investigation and blamed the Obama administration for keepings its concerns about Russian interference in the campaign to itself. He suggested that there should be a high bar for allowing law enforcement to investigate an American citizen running for president.
“From a civil liberties standpoint, the greatest danger to our free system is that the incumbent government use the apparatus of the state … both to spy on political opponents but also to use them in a way that could affect the outcome of an election,” Barr said.
“I think that there were gross abuses of FISA and inexplicable behavior that’s intolerable in the FBI,” he added.