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Barr Disputes IG on Key Finding in Russia Report

Attorney General William Barr disagrees with the Justice Department’s inspector general a key finding in a planned report: that the FBI had enough information in July 2016 to justify launching an investigation into members of the Trump campaign, reports the Washington Post. Inspector General Michael Horowitz is due to release his long-awaited findings next week. Barr has not been swayed by Horowitz’s rationale for concluding the FBI had sufficient basis to open an investigation, sources said. Barr’s public defenses of President Donald Trump, including his assertion that intelligence agents spied on the Trump campaign, have led Democrats to accuse him of acting like the president’s personal attorney and eroding the independence of the Justice Department.

It’s not clear how Barr plans to make his objection to Horowitz’s conclusion known. The inspector general report is being finalized after input from witnesses and offices that were scrutinized by the inspector general. Barr or another Justice Department official could submit a formal letter that would be included in the final report, or Barr could forgo a written rebuttal and publicly state his concerns. The Russia investigation was opened after the FBI was told of statements made by then-Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos that the Russians possessed hacked Hillary Clinton emails. Papodopoulos’ alleged comments were key because they were made well before any public allegation that Russian intelligence operatives had hacked the Democratic National Committee.
The attorney general has contended that Horowitz does not have enough information to conclude that the FBI had enough details in hand at the time to justify opening a probe. The inspector general operates independently of Justice Department leadership, so Barr cannot order Horowitz to change his findings.