Who will get the last word in this escalating war of words — James Comey or William Barr? The former FBI director took a swipe at the Attorney General on Sunday after Barr declared that he has reason to doubt Michael Horowitz’ conclusion about a lack of evidence of bias in Operation Crossfire Hurricane. In his interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News SundayComey insisted that Barr had no “factual basis” for such a claim:

Comey repeatedly defended the men and women of his former agency throughout the segment and appeared to take particular offense to Barr’s comment that the inaccuracies and omissions in the FBI’s applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants for former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page may have been committed in bad faith.

“He does not have a factual basis as the Attorney General of the United States to be speculating that agents acted in bad faith,” Comey said. “The facts just aren’t there, full stop.” …

Comey blasted Barr for claiming that these failures could possibly have been done in bad faith.

“That’s an irresponsible statement,” he said.

Late yesterday, Barr responded to Comey in his own Fox News interview. He told Martha MacCallum that he has actually “reached no determination” on what drove the FBI’s improper actions in Operation Crossfire Hurricane, but that the totality of all instances of “serious misconduct” doesn’t suggest an accidental nature:

MACCALLUM: Jim Comey came out after you gave your last interview. You responded to the IG Horowitz’s report and spoke out about that. And then he spoke with Chris Wallace and he said that the 17 mistakes and omissions that were uncovered in the FISA process, he attributed it to sloppiness largely. What do you say to that?

BARR: I think there’s some of them very hard to square with the idea that these were just mistakes and sloppiness. I have said that a number of these episodes leave open the possibility of inferring bad faith or improper motive. But I hasten to add that, as I’ve said all along, that I’ve reached no determination on that, nor do I think a final determination on that is appropriate until all the evidence is there. The — Horowitz himself in his testimony, I think pretty well summed it up, which is this could be on the one hand, at the very least, gross incompetence. On the other hand, it could also be improper motive, and he was not in a position to make that call. And that’s why we have the US attorney, John Durham, looking into this. …

MACCALLUM: I want you to listen to this piece of his interview with Chris Wallace and get your reaction.

JAMES COMEY: He does not have a factual basis as the attorney general of the United States to be speculating that agents acted in bad faith. The facts just aren’t there. Full stop. That doesn’t make it any less consequential, any less important. But that’s an irresponsible statement.

MACCALLUM: He said you made an irresponsible statement about these FBI individuals.

BARR: Well, as I said, I made the same statement effectively and substantively as the inspector general, which is there are unexplained misconduct there. It just can’t be easily explained as to what was going on there. And as he said, it could involve bad motive. And he was not in a position, given the limited scope he has, of making that final determination. So, it’s not speculation. But, you know, I think there are episodes there that simply cannot be squared with innocent mistakes. And I think people have to come to terms with that.

“People,” in this case, includes James Comey himself. Comey didn’t appear inclined to do so in his own interview with Wallace, even when Wallace made it clear that he was very skeptical that these were just innocent mistakes, too. Wallace reminded Comey that at least one “mistake” had resulted in a criminal referral for potential perjury — Kevin Clinesmith’s alleged doctoring of e-mail to hide Carter Page’s true status with the CIA — which Comey had sloughed off as “not been resolved.” That’s a pretty glib response over manufactured evidence in a spy case from the man in charge of the bureau that ran it.

Speaking of spying, Barr had a rebuttal to Comey’s refusal to admit to it. Barr also took aim at Comey for trying to use the whole FBI as a shield against criticism of his own leadership, too:

MACCALLUM: Yeah, and I want to ask you about that in a moment. Are you surprised that James Comey is so convinced himself that all of this was completely above board? He came out and said there was no treason and there’s no spying at all on the president.

BARR: Well, I think the IG report and the recent letter from the FISA court I think pulls the rug out from under that analysis. There was serious misconduct, as the court itself has said. And one of the things that I object to is the tact being taken by Comey, which is to suggest that people who are criticizing or trying to get to the bottom of the misconduct are somehow attacking the FBI. I think that’s nonsense. We’re criticizing and concerned about misconduct by a few actors at the top of the FBI, and they should be criticized if they engaged in serious misconduct. That doesn’t mean we’re criticizing the FBI, and I think the tact of trying to wrap yourself in the institution and say, gee, people who are criticizing the decisions I made are attacking the institution. I noticed people don’t that as far as I’m concerned, people feel free to criticize me. And I don’t say, gee, you’re attacking the honest men and women of the Department of Justice. I think leaders, you know, have to own their decisions and are fair game if they make bad decisions.

That point is especially well taken. The FBI has thousands of thoughtful men and women trying to do the best they can to enforce the law and protect the country. They probably don’t appreciate it when a few who abused their authority, and broke the law, and violate the rights of American citizens to potentially play politics use them as human shields against accountability.

So who gets the last word? John Durham. When that comes, expect James Comey to get a sudden case of laryngitis.

Here’s the whole Barr interview. Be sure to catch the side-eye that Barr gives Rudy Giuliani, too.