Attorney General William Barr said in an interview Congress’ attempts to hold him in contempt are part of the “usual … political circus” and he’s determined to uncover “exactly what happened” when the Obama administration launched a counterintelligence operation against the 2016 Trump campaign.
“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 explained.
His comments came in an exclusive interview with Fox News’ Bill Hemmer during a trip to El Salvador in which he met with law enforcement officials.
Barr fired back at Democrats who have criticized his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. He called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claim 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.
Barr said there’s much to be learned about the Obama administration’s use of a debunked, anti-Trump dossier funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign to obtain warrants to spy in the Trump campaign.
Then there were alleged efforts to entrap campaign volunteers and the leader FBI investigator who vowed to “stop” Trump from being elected and had a “back-up” plan in case they were unsuccessful.
“I think there’s a misconception out there that we know a lot about what happened,” Barr told Hemmer.
“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,” he told Fox News.
Fox News said Barr’s review “could prove as politically explosive as the Russia probe itself.”
President Trump tweeted Friday morning that those who spied on his campaign committed “treason” and could face “long jail sentences.”
Meanwhile, congressional Democrats are probing the Trump administration, including looking at obstruction allegations in connection with the Russia case.
Barr has appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham to investigate the origins of the Russia claims. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., previously promised a review but then said he would back away while the other reviews are going on.
Fox News cited a source saying Barr is working “collaboratively” on the investigation with FBI Director Chris Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
The source said Durham is also working directly with Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz.
The IG is reviewing allegations of misconduct in issuance of FISA warrants and the role of FBI informants during the early stages of the investigation.
Barr told Hemmer it’s very important that Americans know what their government, under the Obama administration, was doing, and the responses he’s seen so far “don’t hang together.”
“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 asked.
He said that’s among the focal points of the investigations.