Attorney General William P. Barr has communicated with associates that he disagrees with the Justice Department’s inspector general on one of the key findings in an upcoming report. His disagreement focuses on the FBI having enough information in July 2016 to justify launching an investigation into members of the Trump campaign, according to people familiar with the matter.
The Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, is ready to release his long-awaited findings in a week, but behind the scenes at the Department of Justice, disagreement has surfaced about one of Horowitz’s central conclusions on the origins of the Russia investigation. The controversy could be the beginning of a major fissure within federal law enforcement on the controversial question of investigating a presidential campaign.
Barr has not been convinced by Horowitz’s rationale for concluding that the FBI had sufficient basis to open an investigation on July 31, 2016, according to some sources. Barr’s public defenses of the President, including his assertion that intelligence agents spied on the Trump campaign, have caused Democrats to accuse him of acting like the president’s personal attorney. This has eroded the independence of the Justice Department, according to some. But Trump and his Republican allies have praised Barr’s skepticism of the Russia investigation.
It’s not yet known how Barr plans to make his objection to Horowitz’s conclusion known. The inspector general report, currently in draft form, is being finalized after input from various witnesses and offices that were scrutinized by the inspector general.
Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement that the inspector general investigation “is a credit to the Department of Justice. His excellent work has uncovered significant information that the American people will soon be able to read for themselves. Rather than speculating, people should read the report for themselves next week, watch the Inspector General’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and draw their own conclusions about these important matters.”
Barr has privately contended that Horowitz does not have enough information to reach the conclusion the FBI had enough details in hand at the time to justify opening such a probe. He maintains that other U.S. agencies, such as the CIA, may hold significant information that could alter Horowitz’s conclusion on that point, according to the people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) charged in September that Barr had “gone rogue.”
In recent weeks, Democrats have charged that Barr’s Justice Department was too quick to decide not to investigate Trump over his efforts to persuade Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to announce an investigation of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. The Ukraine controversy has led to an impeachment inquiry.
Written by Rich Stevenson
Credit: Washington Post