AG William Barr Slams DOJ Inspector General Over Russia Report

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Attorney General William Barr adjusts his glasses while speaking to the National Association of Attorneys General, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
Attorney General William Barr adjusts his glasses while speaking to the National Association of Attorneys General, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

A closer look at Attorney General William Barr. He opposes the inspector general, but is absolute in his support for the president. We review his career and his impact on the Justice Department.


Mary McCord, acting assistant attorney general for national security at the Justice Department from 2016 to 2017. Principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s National Security Division from 2014 to 2016. Current legal director at the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP) and visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center. (@GeorgetownICAP)

David Rivkin, served under Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush in the White House Counsel’s office and at the Department of Justice. Current partner at the law firm of Baker Hostetler. (@DavidRivkin)

From The Reading List

Washington Post: "Inspector general says Barr’s hand-picked prosecutor failed to convince him FBI was wrong to open Trump campaign investigation" — "Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said Wednesday that a senior prosecutor failed to convince him that the FBI’s 2016 investigation of President Trump’s campaign was improperly opened, revealing new details about internal tension among senior officials over the politically explosive case.

"At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Horowitz was asked by the panel’s senior Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), if Attorney General William P. Barr or his hand-picked prosecutor on the issue, Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham, offered anything to change the inspector general’s view that the FBI had a valid reason to open the probe in July 2016.

"'No, we stand by our finding,' said Horowitz, who said he met in November with Durham to discuss the findings in the inspector general’s 434-page report released Monday."

The New York Times: "Trump and Barr Escalate Attacks on F.B.I. Over Report on Russia Inquiry" — "President Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr took aim at the F.B.I. on Tuesday, escalating their attacks on the bureau a day after an independent watchdog concluded that former F.B.I. officials had adequate reason in 2016 to open the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

"Mr. Barr said for a second straight day that he disagreed with the finding in a long-awaited report by the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, that the F.B.I. lawfully opened its inquiry. And he went further, saying that Obama administration officials had spied on the president’s associates and, in the process, jeopardized civil liberties.

"'The greatest danger to our free system is that the incumbent government use the apparatus of the state, principally the law enforcement and intelligence agencies, both to spy on political opponents but also to use them in a way that could affect the outcome of an election,' Mr. Barr said in an interview with NBC News.

"While Mr. Barr was careful to reserve his accusations for Obama-era F.B.I. and intelligence officials, Mr. Trump drew no such boundaries and attacked his handpicked F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, who has said he accepted the inspector general’s findings and had ordered 40 corrective steps to address the report’s recommendations."

The New York Times: "People Are Trying to Figure Out William Barr. He’s Busy Stockpiling Power." — "Not long before Attorney General William P. Barr released the special counsel’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, he strategized with Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, about one of his next moves: investigating the investigators.

"Over a dinner of steak, potatoes and carrots in a wood-paneled conference room off Mr. Barr’s Justice Department office, the two discussed their shared suspicions that the officials who initially investigated the Trump campaign’s links to Russia had abused their powers.

"They strongly agreed, Mr. Graham said, that 'maybe one of the most important things we’ll ever do is clean up this mess.'

"Less than two months later, Mr. Barr began his cleanup with the most powerful of brooms: a presidential order commanding intelligence agencies to cooperate with his inquiry, and sweeping power to declassify and make public their secrets — even if they objected."

This program aired on December 12, 2019.


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Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.


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Stefano Kotsonis is a senior producer for WBUR's On Point.



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