Former FBI Director James Comey called out Attorney General Bill Barr’s response to the just-released DOJ IG report on FISA abuse and warned that US Attorney John Durham might himself face eventual investigation if his upcoming report didn’t corroborate President Donald Trump’s claims about spying on his 2016 campaign.
On Monday, in a highly controversial move, Barr offered a distorted conclusion about the findings of his Justice Department’s own Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, after that report concluded that the 2015–16 FBI investigation of Trump’s ties to Russian election interference was justified and not motivated by personal, political bias.
“I hope he completes whatever he’s doing and offers transparency to the American people,” Comey told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday evening, referring to Durham. “I suspect he’s not going to find what will satisfy the president’s conspiracy theories. There will probably be an investigation of Durham when this is over. But we need to know what he has done and what he found. We need transparency. My worry is this attorney general will kick it down the road, keep it alive until the election next November, and then we’ll never hear another word about it. That’s not acceptable.”
Cooper followed up on Comey’s claim that the Trump DOJ could end up spiraling into yet another probe to bolster the White House’s Deep State conspiracy.
“Were you joking when you said you think Durham will be investigated?” a clearly surprised Cooper asked. “Essentially that’s the kind of thing that happened in the Soviet Union of, you know, they investigate the investigators, then investigate the people who investigated the investigators.”
“I wish I was joking,” Comey responded. “But who would imagine a circumstance like this, where an inspector general, an independent force that’s been very tough on me, spends two years gathering facts and the attorney general brushes it off his shoulder and commissions a personal investigation to investigate again. I don’t think it’s a joke to think, ‘Well, if that guy doesn’t come up with what they need, they’ll find another way."”
Cooper then pressed Comey on Barr’s pattern of conduct on behalf of the president. The attorney general has been repeatedly criticized for appearing to curry favor with the president, bending over backwards to affirm Trump’s executive power, and, most notably, issuing a preemptive, highly criticized press release that differed greatly in emphasis from the actual Mueller report.
“From your experience in the Justice Department and the FBI, is Attorney General Barr working as — in the role that he should be? In his constitutionally mandated role? Or do you believe he views himself and the president views him as the president’s attorney?” Cooper asked.
“The attorney general has to be the steward of an organization that’s apolitical, so he has to be both a political appointee and a guardian of the apolitical nature of investigations,” Comey said. “It’s certainly hard to explain a lot of his conduct over the last year as consistent with that role of balancing the political and apolitical. He seems to have leaned on the political entirely.”
What’s the signal Barr is sending when he publicly undermines the Horowitz report’s findings, Cooper wondered.
Comey, answering as Barr, suggested his comments were aimed at just one individual in the White House: “Yeah, I know it looks like you told whoppers to the American people about a vital institution for two years, but I got this. We’ll keep digging until we find something that justifies what you’ve been saying for two years.”
“I don’t think that’s a role for the Attorney General of the United States,” Comey added.
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