Senate

Democrats rip Barr over IG statement: 'Mouthpiece' for Trump

Senate Democrats ripped Attorney General William Barr on Monday after he broke with the Department of Justice's (DOJ) top watchdog on whether or not there was enough information to open up an investigation into the Trump campaign in 2016. 

 

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, as part of his report released on Monday, said he believed there was enough evidence to warrant opening up the probe, while Barr, in a statement, said the FBI had an "insufficient" basis to justify the steps taken. 

 

"Barr's decision to question the report in the media says a lot about Attorney General Barr," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). "The Inspector General is an important defender against political influence over law enforcement-a regrettable tendency under Attorney General Barr." 

 

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), asked about prosecutor John Durham's separate investigation into the origins of the Russia probe, took a passing swipe at Barr as he weighed in. Durham's office also issued a statement Monday disagreeing with some of the conclusions of Horowitz's report "as to predication and how the FBI case was opened," though he did not elaborate further.

 

"When Attorney General Barr picked Durham, I was skeptical because Attorney General Barr has proven to be a mouthpiece for President Trump and his wrongdoing, not an enforce rule of law attorney general," Schumer said. 

 

Schumer added that "if Durham was so nonpolitical, he never would have issued that statement." 

 

But Democrats largely trained their fire throughout Monday on Barr, who was confirmed to his job in a 54-45 vote largely along party lines. 

  

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii)-who like Whitehouse is a member of the Judiciary Committee where Horowitz will testify on Wednesday-said Barr's "first instinct is to protect" Trump. 

"Barr deliberately deceived the public about the Mueller report, and he's deceiving the public again by ignoring the IG's finding that opening the Trump/Russia investigation was justified," she tweeted. 

 

 

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) added that "Barr should stop covering up for Trump and stick with facts." 

 

 

Horowitz released the findings of his nearly two year investigation on Monday, including finding that the FBI's decision to open up the investigation was not driven by political bias. He's scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. 

 

He also concluded the bureau had "an authorized purpose" to launch an investigation to "obtain information about, or to protect against, a national security threat or federal crime, even though the investigation also had the potential to impact constitutionally protected activity."

 

But Barr, contradicting the IG, said Horowitz's report showed that the FBI opened an "intrusive" investigation "on the thinnest of suspicions," and that there was an "insufficient" basis to justify steps taken in the FBI's investigation. 

 

"It is also clear that, from its inception, the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory. Nevertheless, the investigation and surveillance was pushed forward for the duration of the campaign and deep into President Trump's administration," Barr said.

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