Well it finally happened: After almost four years (literally since Trump won the election and — who are we kidding — about a year before that) of nonsense, the country has gotten some much-needed information about just exactly what was happening behind the scenes during the Russia collusion investigation with the release of the DOJ IG’s report on FISA abuse. Once we knew there was no collusion — thank you Robert Mueller — the question of “the predicate” (which, by the way, is what I would title the film/book about this giant mess of a smear) of the investigation became the thing: which is to say, why did they open it to begin with?
Attorney General Bill Barr thinks the “why” was pretty flimsy and disagrees with IG Michael Horowitz’s assessment that there was no political bias motivating that decision. The report makes clear that the FBI routinely uses intel they know is biased in investigations; that they are allowed to in fact. Which I think is informing Horowitz’s conclusions.
But Barr, who has been focused on the criminal investigation of the predicate with U.S. Attorney John Durham, clearly believes they have information Horowitz couldn’t use in his audit of the FBI.
And he has made some world-shaking statements since the release of the report that almost no one is talking about it. I wrote about it yesterday and will include his statements below because — and I can’t stress this enough — I think this is huge. Barr’s statements also outline his belief that the press has been massively irresponsible in this whole affair.
“I think probably from a civil liberties standpoint, the greatest danger to our free system is that the incumbent government used the apparatus of the state, principally the law enforcement agencies and the intelligence agencies, both to spy on political opponents but also to use them in a way that could affect the outcome of an election,” Barr said. “As far as I’m aware, this is the first time in history that this has been done to a presidential campaign, the use of these counterintelligence techniques against a presidential campaign.”
The attorney general, and the NBC news report points this out, is being criticized as a “hatchet man” for Donald Trump. But Barr believes that the evidence to open an investigation into the Trump campaign — given the lack of collusion revealed in the Mueller report — wasn’t sufficient enough. He also alludes to the idea that contact with “foreign persons” isn’t enough to make the case for an investigation, saying all administrations are in contact with foreign persons and there’s even been evidence of illegal foreign money coming into some campaigns in the past.
“[But] we don’t automatically assume the campaigns are nefarious and traitors and acting in league with foreign powers,” Barr said. “There has to be some basis before we use these very potent powers in our core first amendment activity. And here I felt this was very flimsy.”
And if you need to know more about how the press spun this pack of rumor and innuendo disguised as a serious investigation, here’s a Rolling Stone (!) article you should check out. I mean, when you’ve lost Matt Taibbi…
I get into all that in greater detail on today’s show, and I also review AppleTV’s “Servant” (Spoiler: I LOVE IT) — trailer below. And of course, I discuss the blowback to Clint Eastwood’s upcoming film about Richard Jewell. My Lord is the press sanctimonious…
(I should have a review of that film next week. Or the Mister Rogers biopic. Depending on my mood…)