When Attorney General William P. Barr sat down Tuesday for interviews with NBC News’s Pete Williams and the Wall Street Journal’s Gerard Baker, the attorney general’s argument was not with Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on the origins of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Barr emphasized that he did not disagree with Horowitz’s conclusions, though he deems them incomplete. The inspector general, he noted, faced limits on the scope of his authorities and on the investigatory tools at his disposal.

Barr instead turned his attention to the media coverage of “Russiagate.” His criticisms were withering. And deserved.

“I think our nation was turned on its head for three years based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by a completely irresponsible press,” Barr said. He doesn’t seem to believe that, even yet, the news media generally understands that “there were gross abuses” and “inexplicable behavior that is intolerable in the FBI.”

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant on Trump adviser Carter Page ought not to have been sought, Barr made clear. Once it had been granted, the warrant’s renewal ought not to have been pursued, he said. But if the FBI and Justice Department were going to pursue a renewal, as they did, they had high obligations to alert the FISA court of the weaknesses in the application. Those obligations that were not met, Barr said. That is his critical point about the Russiagate investigation itself.

Even more important, though, is the education Barr gave everyone on the peril of a politicized intelligence and law enforcement community.

“From a civil liberties standpoint, the greatest danger to our free system is that the incumbent government use the apparatus of the state … both to spy on political opponents but also to use them in a way that could affect the outcome of an election,” Barr told NBC. He asserted that 2016 marked the first time in U.S. history that “counterintelligence techniques” were used against a presidential campaign by the state itself.

Most in the media, including me, have long been outraged by Russia’s election interference. Barr is too, but he seemed to be saying, with cause: “Where is the outrage at the interference that came from within our government, not from abroad?”

There isn’t a single factual argument to be made against Barr’s assertions on Tuesday. Transcripts of both full interviews should be studied in detail in constitutional law courses, as well as within the FBI, the Justice Department and the intelligence community. A surveillance state unchecked by internal controls is deeply sinister. The Russiagate investigation is an exception — a rare one, thankfully — and Barr is doing his best to guarantee it doesn’t happen again.

Lots of suspected wrongdoers and allies of suspected wrongdoers were out on cable news proclaiming vindication after the inspector general’s report came out, and many had willing media accomplices. But their declarations of innocence, filled with false, indeed almost palpable bravado, certainly will not work on Barr, nor should they. Barr takes seriously his No. 1 job, as he described it, which is to protect the governed from those with law enforcement powers that can be abused.

Now we all must wait for the report by federal prosecutor John H. Durham, who at Barr’s direction is investigating the origins of the FBI’s Russia probe. Durham deserves the same deference that former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III received from the press, for Durham was not merely a special counsel named by a Republican acting attorney general, as Mueller was, but Durham was nominated and confirmed by the Senate, and cleared as well — and strongly endorsed — by the two Democratic senators from Durham’s home state of Connecticut: Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy.

Their joint statement about Durham’s nomination as U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut should be pondered by every pundit scribbling or talking head hammering away at Barr and his alleged “rogue” actions.

“John Durham has earned immense respect as a no-nonsense, fierce and fair prosecutor,” they wrote, “and we are pleased that the White House has agreed with our recommendation that he serve as United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut. As an Assistant United States Attorney, John Durham has proven himself time and time again in some of the most challenging and sensitive cases.”

The collective Beltway-Manhattan media elite puts itself in the position of being disbelieved by a majority of the country because it was played — knowingly or not — by Trump “dossier” compiler Christopher Steele and his accomplices. These elites should not get played again by trashing an attorney general at least the equal in integrity and intellect of any who have gone before him.

Read more: