Barr criticizes FBI, says it's possible agents acted in 'bad faith' in Trump probe

Attorney General William BarrBill BarrDemocrat asks Barr to preserve any records tied to environmental hacking probe Justice Dept. considering replacing outgoing US attorney in Brooklyn with Barr deputy: report Ousted Manhattan US Attorney Berman to testify before House next week MORE on Tuesday offered stern criticism of the FBI over its investigation into the Trump campaign in 2016, disputing a Justice Department inspector general's report one day earlier and saying it is possible the bureau acted in “bad faith.”

Barr in an interview with NBC News also elaborated on his disagreement with a key conclusion of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report that the investigation was justified, saying he doesn't believe the evidence backed up the steps that were taken.

“Here, I felt this was very flimsy,” Barr said. “I think when you step back here and you say, 'What was this all based on,' it’s not sufficient.”

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“There was and never has been any evidence of collusion and yet this campaign and the president’s administration has been dominated by this investigation into what turns out to be completely baseless,” Barr continued.

Barr’s interview came one day after Horowitz released his long-awaited report on the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion between Trump's campaign and Moscow. The report harshly criticized the FBI for errors in applying for a warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, identifying omissions and inaccuracies in the surveillance application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA court).

At the same time, the inspector general refuted assertions by President TrumpDonald John TrumpProtesters tear down statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore 'Independence Day' star Bill Pullman urges Americans to wear a 'freedom mask' in July 4 PSA Protesters burn American flag outside White House after Trump's July Fourth address MORE and his allies that FBI agents were motivated by political bias and improperly targeted his presidential campaign and said the investigation was adequately predicated.

Barr’s interview on Tuesday demonstrated his willingness to serve as one of Trump’s chief defenders. He reiterated that he believed the president’s campaign had been “spied” on in 2016.

Barr, who was confirmed as Trump’s second attorney general in February, has become a frequent target of the president’s critics, particularly for his handling of former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s report.

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Barr said Tuesday the inspector general report laid bare “very serious abuses of FISA that occurred,” asserting its findings had not been accurately reported by the media. And he said that there was a possibility that FBI agents acted in “bad faith,” saying the report’s findings about mistakes in the FISA process were not sufficiently explained.

“[T]hese irregularities, these misstatements, these omissions were not satisfactorily explained,” Barr told NBC.

“And I think that leaves open the possibility to infer bad faith. I think it’s premature now to reach a judgment on that, but I think that further work has to be done and that’s what Durham is doing,” he added, referring to U.S. Attorney John DurhamJohn DurhamTrump says Obama may have committed treason The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After rough week, can Trump bounce back? Barr: 'Developments' likely in Durham investigation this summer MORE.

Barr largely dismissed the Horowitz report’s finding that political bias did not influence the decision to launch an investigation into the Trump campaign in 2016, saying the final determination would come once Durham has completed his separate probe into the origin of the investigation.

“That is the point at which a decision has to be made about motivations,” Barr said. “And I think right now it would be premature to make any judgment one way or the other.”

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Barr said Durham would have broader authority than Horowitz to look into potential misconduct. The attorney general added that he’d instructed Durham examine the FBI’s conduct after Trump was elected, based on some of Horowitz’s findings.

Trump has heralded the inspector general’s findings, claiming they showed the FBI attempted an “overthrow” by investigating his campaign.

On Tuesday, Trump criticized FBI Director Christopher Wray in a tweet, disagreeing with his characterization of the inspector general report and casting doubt on his ability to fix a “badly broken” FBI.

Wray on Monday said the report described actions that were “unacceptable” and announced that the bureau would take corrective steps to address the inspector general’s concerns. At the same time, he said it was "important that the inspector general found that, in this particular instance, the investigation was opened with appropriate predication and authorization."

Barr told NBC that he still has confidence in Wray’s ability to lead the bureau and make necessary changes in the wake of the Horowitz report.

“And I think what the president was getting at, and I feel the same way, is that we can’t ignore the abuses of the past and appear to be justifying them or minimizing them, we have to focus on getting them right going forward,” Barr said.