Weeks into an investigation of the origins of the FBI’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Attorney General William Barr said Friday that the probe has provided more questions than answers due to the “inadequate” and in some cases inconsistent answers he’s been given from the officials involved.
Asked during an interview with Fox News whether he knew exactly when the FBI began its investigation into the Trump campaign, Barr said he had not yet identified a reliable timeline.
“I’ve been trying to get answers to the questions, and I’ve found that a lot of the answers have been inadequate and some of the explanations I’ve gotten don’t hang together. In a sense I have more questions today than when I first started,” he said during the interview.
Pressed to explain what he was referring to, Barr would only say, “some of the explanations of what occurred.”
Barr told Fox that the investigation, which he disclosed to lawmakers during a congressional hearing last month, will eventually reveal whether the FBI puts its “thumb on the scale” by investigating and in some cases surveilling Trump campaign officials.
“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 we should be worried about whether government officials abuse their power and put their thumb on the scale,” Barr said before stipulating that he was “not saying that happened.”
Barr was maligned by congressional Democrats in the wake of his appearance on Capitol Hill last month for agreeing with Republicans’ contention that the Trump campaign was “spied” on. He defended that characterization during the Fox interview and reiterated that his job is to determine whether that spying was properly predicated.
“Government power was used to spy on American citizens,” he said in justifying his review. “I can’t imagine any world where we wouldn’t take a look and make sure that was done properly.”
In addressing whether the investigation was properly predicated, Barr suggested that it was “very unusual” for the FBI to rely on the Steele dossier, an unverified piece of opposition research commissioned by the Clinton campaign, to secure a FISA warrant to surveil Carter Page.
“It’s a very unusual situation to have opposition research like that, especially one that on its face had a number of clear mistakes and a somewhat jejune analysis,” Barr said. “And to use that to conduct counterintelligence against an American political campaign is a strange — would be a strange development.”