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

Attorney General William BarrBill BarrMeadows hires former deputy AG to represent him in Jan. 6 probe: report Why it's time for conservatives to accept the 2020 election results and move on Bannon's subpoena snub sets up big decision for Biden DOJ 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 TrumpJan. 6 panel plans to subpoena Trump lawyer who advised on how to overturn election Texans chairman apologizes for 'China virus' remark Biden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day 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) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel 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 DurhamAndrew McCabe's settlement with the Department of Justice is a signal to John Durham Barr-Durham investigation again fails to produce a main event Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' 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.