May 31, 2019 / by emptywheel

 

On Nine Different Occasions, Bill Barr Was Unable to Offer Any Evidence of Irregularity in Russia Investigation

Bill Barr says a lot of things in his softball interview with CBS that are factually incorrect. He repeatedly states that counterintelligence activities were directed at the Trump Campaign.

People have to understand, you know, one of the things here is that these efforts in 2016, these counter-intelligence activities that were directed at the Trump Campaign, were not done in the normal course and not through the normal procedures as a far as I can tell.

[snip]

WILLIAM BARR: Well, I just think it has to be carefully look at because the use of foreign intelligence capabilities and counterintelligence capabilities against an American political campaign to me is unprecedented and it’s a serious red line that’s been crossed.

JAN CRAWFORD: [1] Did that happen?

WILLIAM BARR: There were counterintelligence activities undertaken against the Trump Campaign.

[snip]

I think it’s important to understand what basis there was for launching counterintelligence activities against a political campaign, which is the core of our second amendment- I’m sorry, the core of our first amendment liberties in this country.

[snip]

The fact that today people just seem to brush aside the idea that it is okay to you know, to engage in these activities against a political campaign is stunning to me especially when the media doesn’t seem to think that it’s worth looking into. [my emphasis]

Counterintelligence activities were directed at three people the campaign itself fired because of their suspect ties to Russia, and a fourth guy who was secretly acting as a paid agent of a foreign country even while serving as the primary advisor for Trump’s campaign intelligence briefings. And the only known counterintelligence activities, as opposed to predicated criminal investigative techniques, were directed at people after they had been ousted from the campaign.

He claims, falsely and in contradiction to what Mueller said the other day, that there was “no” evidence of a conspiracy.

WILLIAM BARR: Well it might be legit under certain circumstances but a lot of that has to do with how good the evidence was at that point. And you know Mueller has spent two and half years and the fact is there is no evidence of a conspiracy. So it was bogus, this whole idea that the Trump was in cahoots with the Russians is bogus. [my emphasis]

He makes an absolutely hilarious comment about how, if there were evidence that FBI agents investigating — say — Hillary Clinton were biased or leaking, we’d be hearing about it. He even mentions the conspiracy theories about Obama that were fed, at a national level, by a guy named Donald Trump.

JAN CRAWFORD: But it seems like you have a concern that there may have been a bias by top officials in the FBI as they looked at whether to launch and conduct this investigation?

WILLIAM BARR: Well it’s hard to read some of the texts with and not feel that there was gross bias at work and they’re appalling. And if the shoe were on the other–

JAN CRAWFORD: Appalling.

WILLIAM BARR: Those were appalling. And on their face they were very damning and I think if the shoe was on the other foot we could be hearing a lot about it. If those kinds of discussions were held you know when Obama first ran for office, people talking about Obama in those tones and suggesting that “Oh that he might be a Manchurian candidate for Islam or something like that.” You know some wild accusations like that and you had that kind of discussion back and forth, you don’t think we would be hearing a lot more about it?

We’re not hearing about it precisely because Barr is treating the investigation into people who had loose ties to Trump’s campaign as unprecedented as if the investigation into Hillary by FBI Agents who were leaking about it wasn’t happening at the same time. These are all things that he should have been corrected on air — as well as the fact that the public record shows that the investigation into Trump’s former campaign aides was slower than it normally would have been.

In general, Jan Crawford was utterly supine in this interview, letting the Attorney General state one falsehood after another, without correction.

The one place where she did commit some journalism was in asking repeatedly for evidence that something went wrong that justifies his investigation into the investigation. Nine times, Crawford asks the Attorney General for actual evidence that there’s reason for an investigation into the investigation.

JAN CRAWFORD: [2] So I guess in making this turn can you help us understand, I mean what’s- what is the concern? What have you seen, what’s the basis for that?

WILLIAM BARR: Well I don’t want to  get you know, too much into the facts because it’s still under review.

[snip]

JAN CRAWFORD: [3] What have you seen? What evidence? What makes you think, I need to take a look at this? I mean, what have you seen in the summer of 2016?

WILLIAM BARR: Well, I’ll say at this point is that it, you know, I- like many other people who are familiar with intelligence activities, I had a lot of questions about what was going on. I assumed I’d get answers when I went in and I have not gotten answers that are well satisfactory, and in fact probably have more questions, and that some of the facts that- that I’ve learned don’t hang together with the official explanations of what happened.

JAN CRAWFORD: [4] What do you mean by that?

WILLIAM BARR: That’s all I really will say. Things are just not jiving, and I’m not saying at this stage that–

[snip]

JAN CRAWFORD: I mean, [5] there’s a concern that this may have happened before we realized that the investigation was initiated in July. I mean, what…

WILLIAM BARR: I don’t want to get into those details at this point. I would just say that, you know…

JAN CRAWFORD: [6] But you said there’s a timeline concern.

WILLIAM BARR: Well I won’t, I won’t confirm that, but I’ll just say that, you know, there’s some questions that I think have to be answered, and I have a basis for feeling there has to be a review of this.

JAN CRAWFORD: You’ve said, you’ve said the time frame between the election and the inauguration, you’ve said this publicly, was kind of strange. Some strange things may have happened.  [7] What concerns you there? Specifically, the meeting at Trump Tower.

WILLIAM BARR: I don’t want to- I don’t want to get into that.

[snip]

JAN CRAWFORD: [8] What suggests to you there was a failure in the upper echelon at the FBI?

WILLIAM BARR: Because I think the activities were undertaken by a small group at the top which is one of the- probably one of the mistakes that has been made instead of running this as a normal bureau investigation or counterintelligence investigation. It was done by the executives at the senior level. Out of head quarters–

[snip]

JAN CRAWFORD: [9] And you think that happened even with the investigation into the campaign, potentially?

WILLIAM BARR: I am concerned about that.

To each of those nine questions, he responds by making false claims about what happened, speaking about his feelings, or simply dodging.

That should be the takeaway of this interview. The Attorney General has launched an investigation without having any basis on which to do so, even while exhibiting either ignorance or outright deliberate false statements about what happened.

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Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/2019/05/31/bill-barr-was-unable-to-offer-any-evidence-of-irregularity-in-russia-investigation-nine-different-times/