In an exclusive interview with Fox News, Attorney General Bill Barr said “some very strange developments” happened between Election Day and Inauguration Day and those dates will be key to the probe.
Barr said the country needs to know “exactly what happened” with counterintelligence activities conducted during the 2016 presidential election and he is determined to get to the bottom of the case.
Speaking to “America’s Newsroom” host Bill Hemmer during a visit to El Salvador for meetings with law enforcement officials, Barr fired back at Democrats who have criticized him over his handling of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report — calling Nancy Pelosi’s claims that he lied to Congress “laughable” and dismissed an attempt to hold him in contempt of Congress.
“That’s part of the usual … political circus that’s being played out. It doesn’t surprise me,” he said.
The Attorney General provided new details about the recently announced probe into the origins of the Russia investigation, saying that many of the answers he’s gotten so far have been “inadequate.”
“The first step is to find out exactly what happened, and we’re trying to get our arms around that, getting all the relevant information from the various agencies and starting to talk to some of the people that have information,” Barr told Hemmer.
“I think there’s a misconception out there that we know a lot about what happened,” he said.
“The fact of the matter is Bob Mueller did not look at the government’s activities. He was looking at whether or not the Trump campaign had conspired with the Russians. But he was not going back and looking at the counterintelligence program. And we have a number of investigations underway that touch upon it — the main one being the office of inspector general that’s looking at the FISA warrants.”
Barr specifically acknowledged that the period between Election Day and Inauguration Day will be key to the probe, saying “some very strange developments” took place in that time – including the early January 2017 briefing intelligence officials gave to the president at Trump Tower and “the leaking of information subsequent to that meeting.”
At that meeting, Trump was briefed on Russian meddling and was informed by then-FBI firector James Comey about the allegations against him in a salacious and unverified dossier. Details later leaked to the press.
“That’s one of the things … we need to look at,” Barr said of the briefing.
Earlier this week Barr assigned U.S. Attorney John Durham to examine the origins of the Russia investigation. He has reportedly been working on his review “for weeks.”
Durham has been investigating misconduct and improper government surveillance on the Trump campaign in 2016 as well as whether Democrats improperly colluded with foreign actors.
Durham focus is on the period before Nov. 7, 2016—including the use of FBI informants, as well as improper issuance of FISA warrants. Durham is helping Barr to “ensure that intelligence collection activities by the U.S. Government related to the Trump 2016 Presidential Campaign were lawful and appropriate.”
Barr is also working “collaboratively” on the investigation with FBI Director Chris Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and that Durham is also working directly with Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who is currently reviewing allegations of misconduct in issuance of FISA warrants, and the role of FBI informants during the early stages of the investigation.
In the interview on Friday, Barr said he stressed it is of the utmost importance “to find out what the government was doing during that period.”
“I’ve been trying to get answers to questions and I found that a lot of the answers have been inadequate. And I’ve also found that some of the explanations I’ve gotten don’t hang together,” Barr told Hemmer.
“So in a sense, I have more questions today than I did when I first started. Some of what things don’t hang together, some of the explanations of what occurred. People have to find out what the government was doing during that period. If we’re worried about foreign influence, for the very same reason shouldn’t we be worried about whether government officials abused their power and put their thumb on the scale?”
He added: “I’m not saying that happened, but I’m saying that we have to look at that.”
Trump watching closely tweeted on Friday morning that those who spied on his campaign committed “treason” and could face “long jail sentences.” connection with the Russia case.
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