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From Consortium News
Attorney General William Barr on Monday disparaged the long-awaited findings of the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz into FBI conduct in the investigation of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. Barr, in effect, accused Horowitz of whitewashing a litany of proven misfeasance and malfeasance that created the "predicate," or legal justification, for investigating candidate-and-then-president Donald Trump on suspicion of being in cahoots with the Russians.
In grammatical terms, there can be no sentence, so to speak, without a predicate. Trump was clearly the object of the sentence, and the sleuths led by then-FBI Director James Comey were the subjects in desperate search of a predicate. Horowitz candidly depicted the predicate the FBI requires for a counter-intelligence investigation as having to meet a very low bar. The public criticism from his boss was unusual. For the tenacious attorney general, doing a serious investigation of how the FBI handled the Trump-Russia inquiry has become a case of no-holds-Barr-ed, one might say.
Lindsey Smacking His Lips
Particularly damning in Horowitz's report was the revelation that the FBI kept the "Russia investigation" going well after countervailing and exculpatory evidence clearly showed that, in the unforgettable words of one senior FBI official, Peter Strzok, there was "no there there."
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz
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As Sen. Lindsey Graham put it yesterday, FBI investigators kept running through STOP signs in hot pursuit of a needed, but ever elusive, credible predicate. At a press conference, Graham pointed to page 186 of the Horowitz report to call attention to one of the most obvious STOP signs FBI sleuths should have heeded; namely, the fact that the FBI learned in January 2017 that the primary sub-source for Christopher Steele's "dossier" disavowed it as misstated and exaggerated basically rumor and speculation. No problem: the FBI investigation continued.
Mincing no words, Graham called the FBI investigation into alleged Trump campaign ties with Russia a "criminal enterprise" that got off the rails. (Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of such a conspiracy.) Sparks will fly on Wednesday as Graham, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, pursues the matter in more depth when Horowitz testifies before the committee. Graham emphasized yesterday that the general goal is to ensure that such a "criminal enterprise" does not happen again.
He added that one of the ways to prevent a recurrence is to make sure "those who took the law into their own hands need to pay a price." Uh-oh. I cannot remember the last time leaders of the "national-security state" had to pay a price.
Barr: "Thinnest of Suspicions"
Barr took unusually strong public issue with Horowitz's conclusion that there was adequate reason to mount an FBI investigation of the Trump campaign and suspected ties to Russia. Barr issued a formal statement asserting that the Horowitz report "now makes it 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."
U.S. Attorney John Durham, whom Barr picked to lead what has now become a criminal investigation regarding how that FBI's "intrusive investigation" was launched, issued his own formal statement of criticism, expressing disagreement with the IG's findings as to the predication of the investigation and "how the FBI case opened." Durham added that he had told the IG last month of this disagreement. In his statement yesterday, Durham spoke not of suspicions, but of evidence his ongoing investigation has already gathered "from other persons and entities both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S."
Evidence, Not Just Suspicions
Both Barr and Durham chose their words carefully, and so did former CIA Director John Brennan in his May 2017 congressional testimony about his suspicions that Trump's campaign might have been colluding with the Russians. Soon the spotlight is likely to turn onto Brennan and his carefully parsed testimony, which fell considerably short of qualifying as a predicate for investigation (but played a key role anyway).
On May 23, 2017, Brennan told Congress: