With a Charitable Description that Bill Barnett Was “Confus[ed]” Jim Comey Undercuts the Agent’s Entire Interview

Long into yesterday’s Jim Comey hearing, Lindsey Graham suddenly called a break. I got the feeling, watching him, that he had finally figured out the hearing was having the opposite effect as he had intended. Jim Comey was repeatedly explaining the import of the Russian investigation, distinguishing the Carter Page application from the rest of the investigation, and Democrats were reviewing all the things the Committee could have been doing rather than chasing three year old allegations.

After the break, the remaining Senators (John Kennedy and Marsha Blackburn) and Lindsey Graham seemed intent on dirtying up Comey a bit, even if required discussing stuff that had nothing to do with Carter Page.

Still, this exchange between Comey and Lindsey also didn’t seem to go the way Lindsey wanted. In it, Jim Comey undercut the credibility of the William Barnett 302 in plenty of time for John Gleeson or Emmet Sullivan’s clerks to use it in the Flynn motion to dismiss opinion. First, Lindsey asked Comey if he was aware that Barnett didn’t believe Flynn committed a crime.

Lindsey Graham: Are you aware that Mr. Barnett, who is the lead investigator of the Flynn case recently said that he did not believe there was a crime involving General Flynn?

Jim Comey: I read his 302 and I think it does say he thought that before January 5, or before Flynn was interviewed.

Comey answered that that was true before January 24. Implicit in Comey’s answer (and something that Gleeson pointed out explicitly in Tuesday’s hearing) is that when Barnett said he “believed FLYNN lied in the interview to save his job,” Barnett was confirming that Flynn had committed a crime, lying to the FBI.

Lindsey ignored that though, going on to misstate Barnett’s testimony in a significant way.

Lindsey: How normal is it for the lead investigator to believe that the person he’s investigating didn’t commit a crime, and went so far as to say he thought the whole team was out to get Trump. Is that a normal thing in the FBI? Is that something the court should consider as to whether or not this is a legitimate prosecution?

Barnett did not say “the whole team was out to get Trump.” He said, “there was a ‘get TRUMP’ attitude by some at the SCO,” and specifically excluded Brandon Van Grack from that (though DOJ hid that by redacting Van Grack’s name). He then said “it was not necessarily ‘get TRUMP’ but more the conviction there was ‘something criminal there.'” Barnett’s most significant claims to substantiate this involve a real lead Weissmann chased down (involving Manafort and Tom Barrack), and a description of himself being a dick to Jeannie Rhee because she was doing her job; both involve people he didn’t work with closely.

In response to Lindsey’s observation that Barnett repeatedly stated — in response to Jeffrey Jensen’s cues — that he didn’t think there was evidence of a crime against Flynn, Comey pointed out the fundamental problem with the entire 302. This wasn’t a criminal investigation. It was a counterintelligence investigation.

Comey: I think Mr. Barnett was confusing the nature of the investigation which is a little bit concerning, if he was working on it. It was a counterintelligence investigation, not a criminal investi–

Lindsey: No, see, here’s the point, Mr. Comey. You set Flynn up to get prosecuted. This was a counterintelligence investigation. And there was no there there. This man was the incoming National Security Advisor, he had every reason in the world to be talking to the Russians about changing policy, but this whole rogue thing, setting up an interview in the White House, going around normal procedures bothered a lot of people.

After interrupting Jim Comey as he was pointing out how Barnett’s own 302 discredits every one of his claims [even ignoring that Barnett claimed to be ignorant of four known pieces of evidence], Lindsey nevertheless repeats the point (and then goes on to misread some texts about liability insurance that Barnett himself had debunked in his 302).

This was a counterintelligence investigation.

The fact that Jeffrey Jensen kept asking about crimes is proof that Jensen wants the investigation to be something other than virtually every witness, except Barnett, has testified both contemporaneously, and since. Even answering the question about what crimes he saw seems to suggest that Barnett didn’t understand what he was doing, didn’t understand that he was conducting a counterintelligence investigation.

Only, that’s not what Bill Barnett said in January 2017, just weeks before the interview, when he drafted a closing communication for the Flynn investigation.

The FBI opened captioned case based on an articulable factual basis that CROSSFIRE RAZOR (CR) may wittingly or unwittingly be involved in activity on behalf of the Russian Federation which may constitute a federal crime or threat to the national security.

Contrary to Comey’s least-damning interpretation, Bill Barnett wasn’t confusing whether this was a criminal investigation or a counterintelligence one. He noted in January 2017 that Flynn might have been unwittingly used by the Russians (and reading the transcripts, it’s obvious how Kislyak played to Flynn’s resentments and Trump’s ego.

When Barnett focused on crimes, rather than national security threats, he was playing a role.

And in playing that role, his interview will not withstand the kind of scrutiny he may one day face if — for example — his claims about Andrew McCabe’s micro-management get him deposed as part of McCabe’s lawsuit.

12 replies
  1. Vinne Gambone says:

    To Marcy
    From June Bug,

    I don’t mind your work.
    I will pull canal barges for you,
    especially when they are full of papers you have gone through.

    I know there are many friends of yours whose tails wag when you post. and who wait anxiously for those post to arrive, like I wait for you to reach for the leash.

    I was snooping in one of the books I saw on the bottom shelf. There’s a poem in there called Adams Curse.
    In it were these lines that made me think of you.
    Fitting we find them here in Ireland.

    “I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe;
    Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,
    Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
    Better go down upon your marrow-bones
    And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
    Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather; ”

    Thank you so much Marcy for all your work, helping us to see the truth.

    • BobCon says:

      I was lucky to spend a couple of hours at the National Library in Dublin when they had a big Yeats exhibit. They had recordings of Irish actors reading his poems, and Adam’s Curse was one of them.


      It’s a great poem, although the National Library exhibit, being created by good scholars, spent time on Yeats’s messed up relations with women, and Adam’s Curse definitely reflects that side of him. You are left wondering what he really thinks about the reasons why they had “grown
      As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.” But I think that tension is worth adding to the experience of reading the poem.

      • John Paul Jones says:

        Indeed. I think of Yeats’ “A Prayer for My Daughter,” and wonder about the art that can make oppression seem right and just. For me, it’s a difficult poem, and all that saves it is the deep affection that underlies it; the surface, on the other hand, would condemn it.

      • graham firchlis says:

        Yeats commentary on the modern Republican Party:

        “The best lack all conviction, while the worst
        Are full of passionate intensity.”

      • bmaz says:

        Hi there “Timmer”, I approved this comment (and did not that other one). Are you sure you think you think you are the proper voice of moderation here? Maybe stick to pertinent commentary; nobody cares about your edicts on how we should run our blog. And you look like an idiot to people that have been here forever.

  2. BobCon says:

    I liked the description of the moment when Graham realized the hearing had gone off the rails. You really get the sense how much this is an absentee chair being driven by staff and select influencers, and how badly they are being served by their self-insulation from any serious challenges.

    They probably would have been better off if they never had Barnett and had to focus on substance, but the problem with sprawling issues is that there is always a Barnett somewhere. People who don’t know better will always chase after these guys down whatever blind alleys there might be, instead of sticking to more realistic paths.

      • subtropolis says:

        They’re very well aware of that. Their problem is that they are just not as good at the propaganda game themselves.

  3. David B Pittard says:


    In the moment, with words mashing into headlines,
    smashing lies against truth like swords against shields,
    the attack, so in detail planned, routes of escape cut off,
    surprising us, breaking our peace we thought secure,
    then, our only thought: struggle to live or die.

    In the aftermath, with little left but life, counting the dead we loved,
    and those who slew them fled, we hardly thankful felt.

    Now grasping that, as peacefully we slept, evil lurked nearby, we ask
    from whence came these blank-eyed spouters of half-truths and lies,
    with diseased, half-eaten brains, berserking,
    each a tenth our strength, but, in their numbers, strong,
    flagellating first themselves, then us,
    hoping their curse becomes ours, too?

    From servitude to Pharaohs, did we bring them with us?
    And do they mix among us as we march on for some better promised place?

    Did we not, when first we saw, now one, now two, now more,
    fear consequence, find cause, post lookouts, sharpen quill and spear?
    Not fear affliction spread? Think truth could outrun lies?

    Delusion runs amok, finds full extent,
    as when a forest, more dead and dry than green,
    in perfect union with a spark, is first a flame, then conflagration,
    the fire spares nothing until nothing is left to burn,
    our heritage: now a vast burnt ash-scape,

    False prophets overrun us with their fear and promise salvation,
    calling us to worship a golden-haired calf.

    Must we wander in a wilderness; suffer scourge, outnumbered by those afflicted,
    who witness to us their delusions, and pleasure take in scratching sores:
    signs of their righteousness? Ghastly blessings!

    They know not what they do, infecting those they love with
    ignorance, their holy symptom, by envy, justified:
    what goes around, they swear, will come.

    “Did he not break the tablets? Kneel when he should stand?”

    They chant, in misery, a brotherhood.
    They chant, mainlining fear.
    They chant and human sacrifice perform.

    They offer to the calf their prayers.
    They pray for magic to prevail.
    They pray that not one voice will utter truth.

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