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Barr, who was appointed by Trump after the latter became president, tasked U.S. Attorney John Durham to look into the government’s Trump investigation, which involved surveilling Trump campaign figures and examining the unverified dossier compiled on behalf of Trump rival Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Durham was later made special counsel by Barr.
“The idea that there was a thin basis for doing it doesn’t hold water,” Barr told the Los Angeles Times this week, following a New York Times report that claimed there was “a strained justification” for opening the Durham-led probe.
Barr noted that the probe didn’t start as a criminal investigation and added that he made the move to examine whether there was an abuse of power.
The New York Times “ignored some fundamental facts as to why some of the information that Durham was seeking was very important information,” Barr added, speaking after the California News Publishers Association meeting, which he attended on Feb. 1.
“The New York Times stands behind our story and the reporting it contains,” a spokesperson told The Epoch Times via email.
The story noted that Michael Horowitz, the Department of Justice’s inspector general, uncovered major problems with the applications to spy on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign associate, and that an FBI lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, admitted to doctoring an email to state that Page had never been a CIA asset when, in fact, he had been.
But its authors said that Durham’s probe “had failed” to find evidence about abuse of power.
Durham brought charges against two other people—Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann, who brought a tip to the FBI without revealing he was being paid by the campaign, and Igor Danchenko, the primary subsource for Christopher Steele, the ex-British spy who compiled the Trump dossier on behalf of Clinton and other Democrats. Juries in Washington and Virginia acquitted both, though the cases brought to light significant evidence, including that neither Steele nor Danchenko provided information to corroborate the dossier.
Durham has not said publicly what’s next.
Barr told the Los Angeles Times that Durham will explain in his report, “to the extent he’s allowed to put it out, the whole genesis of [situation] and how it all occurred.”
“So what’s wrong with that? You review something, you get the facts. Yes, we wanted to hold people accountable if something came up that indicated criminality, or you could prove criminality. But it wasn’t a criminal investigation, it was a review to get the story. And he got the story,” Barr added.
Call for Investigation
Reps. Daniel Goldman (D-N.Y.) and Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) sent Horowitz a letter after the new report, saying they were alarmed and requesting Horowitz to investigate whether Durham or Barr violated any laws or department rules.
They also asked Horowitz to determine whether there were sufficient grounds for the special counsel appointment.
If the allegations in the report are true, they “show Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham misled the American people, abused their prosecutorial powers, and corrupted the Department of Justice to pursue a false political narrative,” the congressmen said. “They may also have violated the law, Department of Justice regulations, and legal ethics in doing so. We request that you investigate this serious matter in an expeditious manner.”
Horowitz said during a hearing on Feb. 1 that he had not been aware of the letter but that he would read and review it.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a comment from the New York Times.
By Zachary Stieber