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In CBS Interview, Barr Offers Vague Reasons For Probe Of Trump Investigation

Attorney General Bill Barr is leading a crusade against the people who initiated an investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and its connections to President Donald Trump’s campaign, but he has never explained why he has such serious suspicions. Such an explanation is needed because, despite two other investigations into the matter, he recently asked a U.S. attorney in Connecticut to review the Russia probe’s origins.

And in a new interview with CBS News, Barr’s comments indicated that he has a flimsy justification for launching the investigation. It’s the height of irony, of course, because his and others’ apparent accusations against the Russia probe investigators is that they supposedly engaged in a political hit job against then-President Barack Obama’s opponents without adequate predication. Now, it seems Barr is doing exactly that for Trump.

In discussing his concerns about what he calls the “spying” against the Trump campaign, he said:

JAN CRAWFORD: Do you think enough was done in 2016?

WILLIAM BARR: Enough was done in 2016? Probably not. You know, I think Bob Mueller did some impressive work in his investigation, you know, identifying some of the Russian hackers and their influence campaign and you sort of wonder if that kind of work had been done starting in 2016, things could have been a lot different.

JAN CRAWFORD: Right because it’s just hard to understand why it wasn’t taken more seriously.

WILLIAM BARR: Yes. In other words, you know, there are statements being made that people were warned back in April–

JAN CRAWFORD: –of 2016–

WILLIAM BARR: Right, and I don’t have any reason to doubt that, but I’m wondering what exactly was the response to it if they were alarmed. Surely the response should have been more than just, you know, dangling a confidential informant in front of a peripheral player in the Trump Campaign.

Consider what this last statement means. He suggests that the Obama administration probably didn’t do enough in 2016 in response to Russia’s interference and that they didn’t take it seriously. But then he also says, well, if the administration really was “alarmed” about the Russian threat, “surely” (always a good indicator that someone has no evidence for the claim they’re making) the investigators should have done more than use a confidential informant to get information on a Trump campaign staffer (which happens to be George Papadopoulos, who later lied to the FBI.)

But now Barr is talking out of both sides of his mouth. How can he both be concerned that the investigation wasn’t properly predicated, and also believe that the FBI’s concerns were so serious that they must have used even more extensive surveillance methods than we’re aware of? It’s clear he’s in search of a problem, not on a good-faith quest driven by legitimate concerns.

He went on to say:

WILLIAM BARR: 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 far as I can tell. And a lot of the people who were involved are no longer there.

It’s true that a lot of the people have now left the FBI because Trump chased them out, a purge that prompted an obstruction of justice investigation that produced damning evidence (which Barr now ignores). But again, Barr’s language here is telling. He says the investigation was “not done in the normal course and not through the normal procedures.” Given that it was an unprecedented case, this is essentially a vacuous claim. And his “as far as I can tell” caveat is another phrase that suggests he has little basis for his claims.

He later adds:

WILLIAM BARR: There were counterintelligence activities undertaken against the Trump Campaign. And I’m not saying there was not a basis for it, that it was legitimate, but I want to see what that basis was and make sure it was legitimate.

Of course, based on the Mueller Report and the conclusion of the investigation, we know there was good reason to investigate Trump associates. Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn had all been working as undisclosed agents of foreign powers. Carter Page, the report says, knew he had been targeted for recruitment as a Russian asset. And Papadopoulos has admitted that he was approached by a person offering Russian election help in the form of stolen email — emails he later.

It’s conceivable, I suppose, that the FBI decided to launch a probe of Trump’s campaign for political reasons and just happened to find a bunch of people it happened to target had extensive compromising foreign ties. But why, exactly, would anyone believe that?

And again, with all this focus on whether the Russia investigation was properly predicated, Barr can’t give a confident and specific answer as to whether his investigation is properly predicated:

WILLIAM BARR:Well I don’t want to  get you know, too much into the facts because it’s still under review. But 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. And what was the predicate for it? What was the hurdle that had to be crossed? What was the process- who had to approve it? And including the electronic surveillance, whatever electronic surveillance was done. And was everyone operating in their proper lane?
In fact, he suggests that his concerns stem from not being “satisfied” and that he has a “feeling” about the need for an investigation:

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.

… 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.

Now, to be clear, it’s perfectly possible that the DOJ crossed the line at a few points during the investigation or took inappropriate steps. And DOJ itself was reviewing some of its conduct in the case before Barr got involved, which is merited. But he offers incoherent and vague explanations for inserting himself into the case, citing his feelings and nebulous “questions” that have to be answered. This gives us no reason to doubt the inference that he’s looking to confirm his own prejudices, particularly as he ignores the mountain of evidence in Volume I of the Mueller Report that shows why a deep investigation was warranted. And all the while, he is clearly playing the role Trump wanted for him: a partisan guardian of the president’s narrow interests.

FBI Director: No Evidence Of Illegal Spying On 2016 Trump Campaign

On Tuesday morning, FBI Director Christopher Wray put to rest the wild conspiracy theories touted by Trump and his hand-picked attorney general, William Barr, about whether Trump’s 2016 campaign was illegally spied on by U.S. law enforcement.

During a congressional hearing and under questioning from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Wray admitted that he had no evidence whatsoever that the FBI conducted any illegal spying on any campaigns in 2016.

“Do you have any evidence that any illegal surveillance into the campaigns or individuals associated with the campaigns by the FBI occurred?” Shaheen asked.

A nervous Wray took a deep breath before answering.

“I don’t think I personally have any evidence of that sort,” Wray finally said.

Wray’s answer flatly contradicts the talking points routinely spouted by Trump and Barr, who falsely accused the FBI of spying on Trump’s campaign.

“I think spying did occur,” Barr told Shaheen during an April 10 hearing, echoing the baseless accusations of Trump and other Republicans.

Trump has gone so far as to say the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign was “an attempted coup” against him.

“It was started illegally, everything about it was crooked,” Trump said to reporters in early April. He then attacked the women and men working for the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies.

“There were dirty cops, these were bad people … this was an attempted coup — this was an attempted takedown of the president,” he said.

In reality, the FBI obtained warrants and used legal surveillance techniques to investigate the numerous contacts Trump’s campaign had with Russia. The whole investigation started because George Papadopoulos, a high-ranking Trump campaign aide, got drunk and made suspicious comments to a diplomat of an allied country. Papadopoulos later lied to the FBI, was arrested, and served time in prison.

Barr has gone so far as to open an investigation into whether Trump’s baseless conspiracy theory is true. Maybe Barr should just turn on the television and watch the head of the FBI admit — under oath — that Trump’s claims are absolutely false.

Published with permission of The American Independent. 

IMAGE: FBI director Christopher Wray.

Kremlin Scandal: Did Sessions Lie About Meetings With Russian Ambassador?

After today, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions may no longer be able to stonewall an independent investigation of suspected collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin – owing to reports that Sessions himself met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak last year and then misled the Senate about those meetings during his confirmation.

The Washington Post revealed on Wednesday night that the Alabama Republican — who became the first U.S. senator to endorse Donald Trump a year ago — met with Kislyak last July and then again in September, amid growing concern over alleged Russian hacking of Democrats to sway the presidential race. But during his confirmation hearings last month, Sessions assured Senator Al Franken (D-MN) that he knew of no meetings between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” he insisted, adding, “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

In response to written questions from Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sessions similarly denied talking with any Russian officials about the 2016 campaign. A spokeswoman for the attorney general told the Washington Post that his meetings with Kislyak were part of his work as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee — although 20 of its 26 other members told Post reporters that they had not met with the Russian envoy at all last year.

Whether Sessions actually perjured himself in Senate testimony is still unclear. But Franken expressed deep dismay to the Post upon learning of the meetings that his former colleague failed to mention during Sessions’ confirmation hearing.

“If it’s true that Attorney General Sessions met with the Russian ambassador in the midst of the campaign,” he said, “then I am very troubled that his response to my questioning during his confirmation hearing was, at best, misleading. It is now clearer than ever that the attorney general cannot, in good faith, oversee an investigation at the Department of Justice and the FBI of the Trump-Russia connection, and he must recuse himself immediately.”

This latest charge against Sessions is yet another farcical echo of the Watergate scandal, which saw then-Attorney General John Mitchell discredited amid his own department’s investigation, and eventually sent to prison.

The New York Times also advanced its Russia scandal coverage last night, reporting salient information from intelligence sources both in the US and abroad that will undoubtedly elicit more presidential shrieks about “leaks.” According to the Times, officials from the United Kingdom and the Netherlands provided information to the US intelligence community confirming meetings in various European cities between Trump associates and Russian figures, including both government officials and others close to Vladimir Putin. And US intelligence also intercepted communications among Russians discussing various meetings with Trump associates.

All of this lends fresh weight to the Steele dossier — along with new reports on CNN and in the Post disclosing that the FBI had agreed to compensate its author, former MI6 official Christopher Steele, for expenses related to his investigation of Trump’s Russian links. The bureau had previously employed Steele to assist its massive investigation of corruption permeating FIFA, the world soccer league, and considered him a reliable professional. While the bureau wanted Steele to continue probing Trump’s ties to Putin beyond Election Day, the Post reports their arrangement fell apart after his investigation was disclosed in the press.

No amount of evidence will dissuade House Republicans from covering up for Trump, apparently. That effort continued on Tuesday as the House Judiciary Committee rejected a “resolution of inquiry” introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), in a party-line vote. The measure would have required the Justice Department to surrender to Congress any and all evidence relating to an ongoing “criminal or counterintelligence” investigation of Trump — including the continuing counterintelligence probe currently under way within the FBI. Committee Republicans denounced Nadler’s resolution as “premature,” and echoed the president in accusing Democrats of using the Russian probe as an “excuse” for Hillary Clinton’s Electoral College defeat last November.

At minimum, however, the New York Democrat succeeded in putting the Republican leadership under public scrutiny as they protect Trump and his cronies from oversight. And even the stupidest among them must know by now that their long, national nightmare has only just begun.