Count William Barr among those unconvinced that Michael Horowitz’ report has vindicated anything about Operation Crossfire Hurricane. The Attorney General sat down with NBC News’ Pete Williams and declared that he disagreed that the FBI had a “sufficient predicate” for opening an intelligence operation against a major-party presidential candidate in the first place. Barr cited “gross abuses” and “inexplicable behavior” that leads him to conclude that the totality of Horowitz’ findings still “leaves open the possibility that there was bad faith.”
And that bad faith includes the media’s coverage of the issue, Barr pointedly notes:
In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Barr essentially dismissed the findings of the Justice Department’s inspector general that there was no evidence of political bias in the launching of the Russia probe, saying that his hand-picked prosecutor, John Durham, will have the last word on the matter.
“I think our nation was turned on its head for three years based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by a completely irresponsible press,” Barr said. “I think there were gross abuses…and inexplicable behavior that is intolerable in the FBI.”
“I think that leaves open the possibility that there was bad faith.”
Barr’s blistering criticism of the FBI’s conduct in the Russia investigation, which went well beyond the errors outlined in the inspector general report, is bound to stoke further controversy about whether the attorney general is acting in good faith, or as a political hatchet man for President Trump.
As I noted earlier today, this raises some questions about how Barr plans to work with current FBI director Christopher Wray after Horowitz’ stinging indictment. Wray seemed happy to accept the conclusion that there was no evidence of political motivation, although Wray’s satisfaction glossed over the passive nature of the conclusion. It also glosses over the fact that both of his bosses don’t accept that passive conclusion, and the fact that Barr has been kept abreast of John Durham’s criminal probe into Crossfire Hurricane, which has a much broader scope and jurisdiction than the IG did.
One has to wonder what Durham has already told Barr. The AG is normally a careful man, especially in his public statements. At least for now, Barr seems convinced that there’s more to the predication issue than what Horowitz found, and Durham has already made a public statement to that effect. More shoes seem likely to drop, in other words.
That didn’t keep James Comey from taking a victory lap in today’s Washington Post, though, as Allahpundit pointed out yesterday. Comey declared vindication over attacks from Donald Trump and Fox News, but the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board begs to differ:
The press corps is portraying Monday’s report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz as absolution for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but don’t believe it. The report relates a trail of terrible judgment and violations of process that should shock Americans who thought better of their premier law-enforcement agency.
Readers can look at the detailed executive summary and decide for themselves. But our own initial reading confirms the worst of what we feared about the bureau when it was run by James Comey. The FBI corrupted the secret court process for obtaining warrants to spy on former Trump aide Carter Page. And it did so by supplying the court with false information produced by Christopher Steele, an agent of the Hillary Clinton campaign. …
Mr. Horowitz also finds that the FBI told the FISA court that Mr. Steele was credible without having tried to confirm the details or verify his sources. Mr. Horowitz found no fewer than seven key “errors or omissions” in the FBI’s original FISA application, and 10 more in the three subsequent applications. The latter were especially egregious because they ignored information that the FBI’s own Crossfire Hurricane team had later gathered that cast doubt on the Steele claims.
The omissions include the stunner that Mr. Page had been working as an “operational contact” for what Mr. Horowitz calls another U.S. agency from 2008-2013. Mr. Page has said this is the CIA, which Mr. Horowitz doesn’t confirm, though he does say that Mr. Page was reporting on his Russian contacts, which the agency deemed credible.
In other words, the FBI was using Mr. Page’s Russian contacts as evidence against him to the FISA court even as the other agency considered his reports on those Russians to be helpful to the U.S. Mr. Horowitz says the FBI never disclosed this information to the FISA judges.
Comey is protecting his own standing as an aggrieved victim of Donald Trump. However, the Horowitz report made clear that the FBI’s upper echelons — including Comey — were part and parcel of the cascade of errors and lies. It’s bad enough that the IG wants the entire bureau audited:
That so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate, hand- picked teams on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations that was briefed to the highest levels within the FBI, and that FBI officials expected would eventually be subjected to close scrutiny, raised significant questions regarding the FBI chain of command’s management and supervision of the FISA process. FBI Headquarters established a chain of command for Crossfire Hurricane that included close supervision by senior CD managers, who then briefed FBI leadership throughout the investigation. Although we do not expect managers and supervisors to know every fact about an investigation, or senior officials to know all the details of cases about which they are briefed, in a sensitive, high-priority matter like this one, it is reasonable to expect that they will take the necessary steps to ensure that they are sufficiently familiar with the facts and circumstances supporting and potentially undermining a FISA application in order to provide effective oversight, consistent with their level of supervisory responsibility. We concluded that the information that was known to the managers, supervisors, and senior officials should have resulted in questions being raised regarding the reliability of the Steele reporting and the probable cause supporting the FISA applications, but did not. In our view, this was a failure of not only the operational team, but also of the managers and supervisors, including senior officials, in the chain of command.
For these reasons, we recommend that the FBI review the performance of the employees who had responsibility for the preparation, Woods review, or approval of the FISA applications, as well as the managers and supervisors in the chain of command of the Carter Page investigation, including senior officials, and take any action deemed appropriate.
In other words, the vindication claim is another “completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by a completely irresponsible press.” Only much more recently.