Attorney General William Barr says that what the FBI did to President Trump in the Russia probe was one of the “greatest travesties in American history.”
He said investigator misdeeds went beyond “mistakes or sloppiness” to “sabotaging the presidency.”
Mr. Barr told Laura Ingraham on Fox News Thursday night that the FBI lacked sufficient evidence to open an investigation into the Trump campaign.
John Durham, a U.S. attorney and the attorney general’s special investigator since March on origins of the Trump-Russia election investigation, will file a report at some point.
But, Mr. Barr said, “his primary focus isn’t to prepare a report. He’s looking to bring to justice people who are engaged in abuses if he can show that there were criminal violations and that is what the focus is on, building these cases, especially the sprawling case we have between us that went on for two or three years here.
“It takes some time to build a case. So he’s diligently pursuing it. My own view is that the evidence shows we’re not dealing with just mistakes or sloppiness. There’s something far more troubling here and we’re going to get to the bottom of it …… and if people broke the law and we can establish that with the evidence they will be prosecuted.”
The FBI opened the Trump probe on July 31, 2016, singling out four Trump associates suspected of having contacts with Russians. There was no evidence at the time that they were involved in a conspiracy with the Kremlin to interfere in the election.
In March 2017, then-FBI Director James Comey announced at a House hearing that the entire campaign was under investigation for any links to Russian government officials.
In the end, special counsel Robert Mueller concluded in March, after a 22-month probe, that he did not establish a conspiracy and no Trump ally was charged in election interference.
Along the way, the FBI relied greatly on the Christopher Steele dossier. Financed by the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton campaign, Mr. Steele, a former British intelligence officer, leveled more than a dozen conspiracy allegations against Mr. Trump and associates. All were disproven by subsequent government reports.
The FBI used the dossier to convince judges to let agents spy on Trump volunteer Carter Page. The Justice Department inspector general said the warrant applications were riddled with errors and omissions of exonerating evidence.
The IG, however, did say the probe was justified because there is a low bar for starting a counter-intelligence inquiry.
With this FBI conduct as a backdrop, Mr. Barr told Ms. Ingraham: “I think the president has every right to be frustrated because I think what happened to him was one of the greatest travesties in American history. Without any basis, they [FBI] started this investigation of his campaign and even more concerning actually is what happened after the campaign. A whole pattern of events while he was president to sabotage the presidency, or at least having the effect of sabotaging the presidency.”
As for the warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Mr. Barr said, “The people who abused FISA have a lot to answer.”
FBI agents didn’t seek Justice Department approval to start the Trump probe. Mr. Barr has since changed the rules to require any investigation into a presidential campaign to require the attorney general’s OK.