WASHINGTON, DC - The FBI had little evidence to launch the investigation into the Trump presidential campaign, according to U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr.
In a statement released on Monday Barr was highly critical of the FBI, although he followed his criticism with praise for the current-day FBI administration.
"Nothing is more important than the credibility and integrity of the FBI and the Department of Justice. That is why we must hold our investigators and prosecutors to the highest ethical and professional standards," Barr said.
"The Inspector General's investigation has provided critical transparency and accountability, and his work is a credit to the Department of Justice."
"The Inspector General's report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on 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. Nevertheless, the investigation and surveillance was pushed forward for the duration of the campaign and deep into President Trump's administration. In the rush to obtain and maintain FISA surveillance of Trump campaign associates, FBI officials misled the FISA court, omitted critical exculpatory facts from their filings, and suppressed or ignored information negating the reliability of their principal source. The Inspector General found the explanations given for these actions unsatisfactory. While most of the misconduct identified by the Inspector General was committed in 2016 and 2017 by a small group of now-former FBI officials, the malfeasance and misfeasance detailed in the Inspector General's report reflects a clear abuse of the FISA process," Barr said.
"FISA is an essential tool for the protection of the safety of the American people. The Department of Justice and the FBI are committed to taking whatever steps are necessary to rectify the abuses that occurred and to ensure the integrity of the FISA process going forward."
"No one is more dismayed about the handling of these FISA applications than (FBI) Director (Christopher) Wray. I have full confidence in Director Wray and his team at the FBI, as well as the thousands of dedicated line agents who work tirelessly to protect our country. I thank the Director for the comprehensive set of proposed reforms he is announcing today, and I look forward to working with him to implement these and any other appropriate measures," the top law official in the U.S. said.
Former FBI Director James Comey, who was in charge of the bureau when it launched the investigation disputed the attorney general's assertions Monday.
"For two years, the president of the United States and his followers have loudly declared that the FBI acted unlawfully in conducting a counterintelligence investigation of Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential campaign," he wrote in an article published in The Washington Post on Monday, immediately after Mr Barr released his statement.
"They repeatedly told the American people that the FBI had done all sorts of bad things, such as tapping Donald Trump's wires during the campaign, opening an investigation without adequate cause, with the intent to damage Trump, and inserting secret informants into the Trump campaign."
"The president said the FBI's actions were "treason." The current attorney general even slimed his own organization by supporting Trump's claims, asserting there had been "spying" on the campaign. Crimes had been committed, the Trump crowd said, and a whole bunch of former FBI leaders, including me, were likely going to jail," Comey asserted.
"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."
"Although it took two years, the truth is finally out," said Comey.
"At the heart of the Russian attack on the election was the release of damaging emails stolen from organizations and individuals associated with the Democratic Party. The releases started in June 2016. In late July, the FBI learned that a Trump campaign foreign-policy adviser named George Papadopoulos had been involved months earlier in conversations about a Russian government offer of "dirt" in the form of emails damaging to Trump's rival, Hillary Clinton."
"Based on that information, the FBI opened an investigation to try to understand whether Americans, including any associated with the Trump campaign, were involved with the Russian influence effort. It would have been a dereliction of duty for the FBI not to investigate that," said the former FBI diretcor who was fired by President Trump.
"The investigation included electronic surveillance of one person, Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser with a long relationship to Russia and a history of contacts with Russian intelligence. The surveillance began with a court order shortly before the election. The order was renewed three times by federal judges. And the FBI kept it secret. Nothing was leaked to damage the Trump campaign."
"The Russia investigation was complicated - not surprisingly, the inspector general found mistakes, 17 of them, things the FBI should have done differently, or better. That's always unfortunate, but human beings make mistakes. Inspector-general reports are valuable because they offer the chance to learn. Horowitz also concluded that a low-level FBI lawyer doctored an email as part of the administrative process leading to the renewal of the application for electronic surveillance of the former campaign adviser. Although it is not clear what difference that made, it is still potentially serious wrongdoing and does not reflect the FBI culture of compliance and candor," Comey wrote.
"But most important, Horowitz's report found that the investigation was opened and conducted under the rules, finding no "evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced [the] decision" to start it or how to run it. Those of us who knew that truth had to remain silent while a torrent of smears and falsehoods flowed from the White House, from some congressional committee chairmen, the attorney general and Fox News personalities. The FBI's work was perceived as a threat to the president, and many Republicans apparently believe that all threats to Trump must be destroyed, no matter the cost to the nation."
"The painful part is that millions of good people believed what they heard. My 89-year-old mother-in-law, watching Fox News in her Iowa assisted-living facility, became convinced that I was going to jail. I repeatedly assured her that there was a zero percent chance of that. "It's all made up," I would tell her. But I couldn't say that publicly because the investigation wasn't done yet. Like the others accused of treason by the president, I respected the process and cooperated with the inspector general," Comey said.
"Well, the wait is over, and those who smeared the FBI are due for an accounting. In particular, Attorney General William P. Barr owes the institution he leads, and the American people, an acknowledgment of the truth."
"Unfortunately, it appears that Barr will continue his practice of deriding the Justice Department when the facts don't agree with Trump's fiction. Pointing to his personally commissioned "review" of the FBI's case-opening, Barr has declared it is too soon to conclude that the FBI was right to start an investigation. If his goal is simply to support the president's conspiracy theories, it will always be too soon to acknowledge the facts," wrote Comey in The Washington Post op-ed.
"As the leader of an institution that is supposed to be devoted to truth, Barr needs to stop acting like a Trump spokesperson. In the words of the nation's Founders, the Justice Department's inspector general has "Let Facts be submitted to a candid world." The FBI fulfilled its mission - protecting the American people and upholding the U.S. Constitution. Now those who attacked the FBI for two years should admit they were wrong."