No one spied on the Trump campaign. The Steele dossier did not set off the Russia investigation. Two FBI employees, FBI attorney Lisa Page and FBI agent Peter Strzok, were not decision-makers and did not taint the investigation. In short, the panoply of screwy accusations meant to smear the FBI was false. As Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told the media at a Monday news conference, “The bottom line is clear: the IG report — written by someone who Republicans repeatedly praised, embraced by the Trump-appointed FBI director — shows there is no basis for the president’s absurd claim that the investigation into his campaign was a hoax or a conspiracy against him.”
FBI Director Christopher A. Wray claimed vindication, saying it was “important that the inspector general found that in this particular instance the investigation was opened with appropriate predication and authorization.” While promising to take seriously the criticism raised in the inspector general report, he denounced the “deep state” nonsense perpetrated by President Trump and his right-wing allies. “I think that’s the kind of label that’s a disservice to the men and women who work at the FBI who I think tackle their jobs with professionalism, with rigor, with objectivity, with courage,” Wray said. “So that’s not a term I would ever use to describe our work force and I think it’s an affront to them.”
Former FBI director James B. Comey writes for The Post: “On Monday, we learned from a report by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, that the allegation of a criminal conspiracy was nonsense. There was no illegal wiretapping, there were no informants inserted into the campaign, there was no ‘spying’ on the Trump campaign.”
The ones whose reputations suffer are U.S. Attorney John Durham and the man who picked him, Attorney General William P. Barr. In much the same way he did with the Mueller report, Barr tried to undermine an independent investigation by injecting his own opinion that the FBI proceeded with “the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken. It is also clear that, from its inception, the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory.” Durham agreed with his boss and insisted the investigation was still ongoing. (Really? Didn’t the inspector general issue his final report?)
"Barr is always careful with his words. It is as important to consider what he does not say as what he does say,” observes former prosecutor Barbara McQuade. “ He does not say that the FBI engaged in unlawful surveillance or that it violated any policy when it opened the investigation into Russian election interference. He says the investigation was ‘intrusive.’” She explains: “All investigations are intrusive. He said it was launched on the ‘thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken.’ He did NOT say that the suspicious were insufficient under the law or FBI policy.” She concludes, “He seems to be nothing more than a spin doctor for the president.”
It is hard to stress how bizarre Barr’s behavior is. The attorney general is in essence saying, without factual support, that he won’t accept the factual inquiry by a nonpolitical inspector general. His weak effort to spin the report cannot conceal his own inappropriate role as the president’s defense lawyer, nor the obliteration of years of conspiratorial nuttery from Republicans.
Former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller told me, “It’s not surprising that Barr continues to play defense attorney for Trump — at this point, it would have been surprising if he did anything to the contrary.” However, Miller continued, “the fact Durham put out a statement about an investigation he’s in the middle of conducting shows Barr’s rot is seeping into the department.” He concluded, “There is no justification for that statement from Durham, and the fact he allowed himself to be used like that shows the problems at DOJ are even worse than we thought.”
Former prosecutor Mimi Rocah compared the responses of Wray and Barr. “[Wray’s] is what a response from a leader of a nonpartisan law enforcement agency should look like: accurately summarizes the IG conclusion that investigation was predicated, acknowledges problems in the FISA process, takes responsibility & action to fix. This is the FBI I know.”
Horowitz deserves credit for sticking to the facts and resisting what must have been intense pressure to go along with an administration bent on sustaining blatantly false conspiracy theories. Here is one more instance in which a diligent civil servant thwarted the efforts of political officials bent on confusing the public — and proffering Trump’s unsubstantiated claims to be the real victim in all this. Another set of conspiracies theories (along with the debunked claims that Ukraine meddled in our election and the Democratic National Committee server is in Ukraine) has been blown up by honest public servants who believe facts really do matter.