Conservative Attorneys Blast AG William Barr For Mischaracterizing IG Report

U.S. Attorney General William Barr attends an event to present the Attorney Generals Award for Distinguished Service in Policing at the U.S. Department of Justice on December 3, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Attorneys from the conservative group Checks & Balances recently blasted Attorney General William Barr’s comments about Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz’s 476-page report on the FBI’s investigation into Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, Newsweek reports.

“Bill Barr has grossly mischaracterized and subverted the findings of the IG investigation report addressing the FBI investigation into Russian interference in our 2016 election,” said Donald Ayer, former United States deputy attorney general under George H.W. Bush.

“The report’s headline findings are that the investigation was properly initiated based on a sound factual basis, and that the allegations of ‘witch hunt’ and bias on the part of those overseeing it are without foundation.”

The release of the report revealed that — despite incidences of misconduct and abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process — the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s campaign was deemed warranted due to valid concerns about Russia meddling in the 2016 election. Not long after the report’s release, Barr criticized the FBI’s “intrusive investigation” based on the “thinnest of suspicions,” adding that he believes such suspicions were “insufficient” to justify the process.

Like Ayer, former associate deputy attorney general Jonathan Rose took issue with Barr’s comments.

“The attorney general has returned to his playbook of distortion and obfuscation in a transparent effort to undermine the IG’s meticulous, fact-based conclusions.”

Carrie Cordero, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and former counsel to the assistant attorney general for national security, noted that the report did not find that the FBI was guilty of “political bias or systematic abuse of surveillance authorities.” This conclusion conflicts with the common defense of Trump and his allies that investigations into his campaign were part of a “witch hunt.”

Cordero also criticized Trump’s attack on his appointed FBI director, Christopher Wray, who agreed with the findings of the IG report.

Stuart Gerson, a former assistant and acting attorney general, highlighted that the report found sufficient probable cause to begin the investigation into Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 election.

Others, such as George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley, focused more on the report’s findings of malpractice, including the Department of Justice’s failure to properly verify some of the information contained in Christopher Steele’s dossier. The dossier reportedly ended up playing an important role in convincing the FISA court to allow the FBI to wiretap Carter Page, the former foreign policy adviser for Trump’s campaign. Journalist Eli Lake also expressed concerns with the reported FBI misconduct, which he believes reveal how easily the FISA system can be taken advantage of.