Don’t hold back — tell us how you really feel. Attorney General William Barr’s interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham airs tonight, but they’re teasing out a blockbuster statement from Barr over Operation Crossfire Hurricane. John Durham’s investigation will finish soon, but Barr’s seen enough to call it a travesty with “no basis” for opening the probe in the first place. Barr says the effect of the probe, if not its explicit intent, was to “sabotage the presidency”:
Preview of pt 2 Barr interview with Ingraham: “What happened to POTUS was one of the greatest travesties in American history, no basis for this investigation, what’s even more concerning is what happened after the campaign, a whole pattern of events… to sabotage the presidency” pic.twitter.com/85YLJU6IIZ
— Luke Goldberg (@LukeGoldberg4) April 9, 2020
BARR: … to be frustrated, because I think what happened to him was one of the greatest travesties in American history. Without any basis, they started this investigation of his campaign. And even more concerning actually is what happened after the campaign, a whole pattern of events while he was president, so I — to sabotage the presidency, and I think — or at least have the effect of sabotaging the presidency.
Hoo boy. Assuming that the full context of these remarks isn’t significantly more nuanced, that goes a lot farther than Barr has gone in the past in criticizing the FBI. Washington Post analyst Aaron Blake notes that Barr had openly disagreed with Inspector General Michael Horowitz’ assessment that no evidence existed of political motives behind the probe. This appears to be a full embrace of Donald Trump’s accusations that the whole investigation was a witch hunt aimed at driving him out of office:
Before we even get the report from U.S. attorney John Durham, who is examining the origins of the Russia probe, Barr has declared this to be a historic scandal. … “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,” Barr said at the time. He added that Horowitz’s report amounted to “malfeasance and misfeasance” and “a clear abuse of the FISA process.”
Barr added in an interview with ABC News at the time that it was a “travesty” and said that “the greatest danger” to our government is using government assets “to spy on political opponents, but also to use them in a way that could affect the outcome of the election.” He was careful to say, though, that he would await the investigation before determining if that’s what happened.
“I think that leaves open the possibility for bad faith,” Barr said. “I think it’s premature now to reach a judgment on that, but I think further work has to be done and that’s what Durham is doing.”
Barr has now apparently reached a judgment on that, even without Durham’s report.
Er … is Blake suuuuure about that? Durham works for Barr, who has every authority to get briefed on Durham’s findings. He’s not a special counsel or independent prosecutor; Durham’s working directly for Barr on this investigation. The probe has been open for almost a year, and it is expected to finish up sometime this summer. Enough has already leaked out to the media to know that Durham has put scrutiny on high-ranking officials like former CIA director John Brennan, among others. Barr has undoubtedly been briefed better than the anonymous sources who leak this stuff to reporters.
If Barr is pushing this out, though, he’d better be sure that Durham’s report contains enough evidence to support this allegation. Getting out over his skis now will be an absolute disaster for the Department of Justice if Durham’s report is more equivocal on these issues. In fact, it’s curious that Barr is saying anything ahead of the Durham report. Why not just wait for it to come out, res ipsa loquitur, and comment later, and just offer a “we’ll see soon enough” in this intervuew? It’s not as if the nation is particularly focused on Crossfire Hurricane in this immediate pandemic crisis, nor does Trump really need a media distraction from his handling of it.
Maybe we’ll get some answers to those questions from Ingraham’s full interview tonight at 10 pm ET. And maybe, just maybe, that will be a welcome distraction from the other bad news for some viewers.