William Barr Suggests Obama Administration Posed the ‘Greatest Danger’ to Democracy in 2016
In an interview with MSNBC Tuesday, William Barr demonstrated why he’s President Donald Trump’s preferred attorney general.
Appearing a day after FBI Director Christopher Wray defended his department on ABC News, Barr delivered an all-out attack on the FBI and rebuke of the his own department’s inspector general, whose report found the 2016 investigation into the Trump campaign was opened on legitimate grounds.
One of the more blistering attacks on the FBI came when NBC News reporter Pete Williams pressed Barr on why he characterized the opening of the Russia investigation as “flimsy” — despite Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s finding the FBI had an “authorized purpose” to initiate the probe.
Williams said one could argue the FBI had an imperative to investigate the Trump campaign over evidence of ties to Russian interference, given “there could be a threat to our political process.”
Barr replied by suggesting that Obama’s FBI investigating the Trump campaign posed a greater threat to a free system of democracy in the United States than Russian interference.
“I think, probably from a civil liberties standpoint, the greatest danger to our free system is that the incumbent government used the apparatus of the state, principally the law enforcement agencies and the intelligence agencies, both to spy on political opponents but also to use them in a way that could affect the outcome of an election,” Barr said.
Many have taken issue with Barr’s characterization of the FBI’s surveillance as “spying” — which is broadly a disagreement over semantics.
What’s more important here is his apparent allegation that the FBI meddled in the 2016 election to sabotage Trump and benefit Hillary Clinton. That begs the obvious question: why did the Bureau keep the Russia investigation secret until after Trump was elected president?
Disregarding the inefficiency of this alleged deep state plot, it is also remarkable that an FBI investigation deemed legitimate — if flawed — by the Justice Department’s own inspector general is being described by the attorney general as a greater danger to the democratic process than Russian meddling.
Barr continued: “As far as I’m aware this is the first time in history that this has been done to a presidential campaign, the use of these counterintelligence techniques against a presidential campaign.”
Trump’s attorney general is probably correct there. But, as the Horowitz report made clear, it was also likely the first time in history the FBI had reason to believe a political campaign was coordinating with illegal efforts by a foreign power to subvert a U.S. election.
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