AG Barr interview on Investigation of the Predicate for Spying
For those of us interested enough in the Barr investigation of the Russia/Collusion investigation, there is a transcript of AG Barr's recent interview on CBS, posted yesterday at the Conservative Treehouse by sundance.
There are some key qualities about Barr's statements. He exhibits a strong respect for the First Amendment and for law in general. But then he mentions the "intent" thing and his "love" for the FBI and the DOJ. And that tends to reduce one's hopes for actual justice. At the same time, he doesn't mince words about the Praetorian Guard nature of the possible suspects in the case. Here are some excerpts:
AG William Barr on DOJ/FBI Conduct in 2016: “Things are just not jiving” – Full Interview and Transcript…
Posted on May 31, 2019 by sundance
… JAN CRAWFORD: You’re saying that spying occurred. There’s not anything necessarily wrong with that.
WILLIAM BARR: Right.
JAN CRAWFORD: As long as there’s a reason for it.
WILLIAM BARR: Whether it’s adequately predicated. And look, I think if we — we are worried about foreign influence in the campaign? We should be because the heart of our system is the peaceful transfer of power through elections and what gives the government legitimacy is that process. And if foreign elements can come in and affect it, that’s bad for the republic. But by the same token, it’s just as, it’s just as dangerous to the continuation of self-government and our republican system, republic that we not allow government power, law enforcement or intelligence power, to play a role in politics, to intrude into politics, and affect elections.
JAN CRAWFORD: So it’s just as dangerous- So when we talk about foreign interference versus say a government abuse of power, which is more troubling?
WILLIAM BARR: Well they’re both, they’re both troubling.
JAN CRAWFORD: Equally?
WILLIAM BARR: In my mind, they are, sure. I mean, republics have fallen because of Praetorian Guard mentality where government officials get very arrogant, they identify the national interest with their own political preferences and they feel that anyone who has a different opinion, you know, is somehow an enemy of the state. And you know, there is that tendency that they know better and that, you know, they’re there to protect as guardians of the people. That can easily translate into essentially supervening the will of the majority and getting your own way as a government official.
... JAN CRAWFORD: You’re working with the DNI, the head of CIA. I want to ask you about something- just declassification. But the president has tweeted and said publicly that some in the upper echelon, Comey, McCabe, etc., committed treason. I mean do you agree with that?
WILLIAM BARR: Well, I- as a lawyer I always interpret the word treason not colloquially but legally. And you know the very specific criteria for treason- so I don’t think it’s actually implicated in the situation that we have now. But I think what he–
JAN CRAWFORD: Legally.
WILLIAM BARR: Right.
JAN CRAWFORD: You don’t think that they’ve committed treason?
WILLIAM BARR: Not as a legal matter, no.
JAN CRAWFORD: But you have concerns about how they conducted the investigation?
WILLIAM BARR: Yes but you know, when you’re dealing with official government contact, intent is frequently a murky issue. I’m not suggesting that people did what they did necessarily because of conscious, nefarious motives. Sometimes people can convince themselves that what they’re doing is in the higher interest, the better good. They don’t realize that what they’re doing is really antithetical to the democratic system that we have. They start viewing themselves as the guardians of the people that are more informed and insensitive than everybody else. They can- in their own mind, they can have those kinds of motives. And sometimes they can look at evidence and facts through a biased prism that they themselves don’t realize.
WILLIAM BARR: That something objectively as applied as a neutral principle across the board really you know, shouldn’t be the standard used in the case but because they have a particular bias they don’t see that. So that’s why procedures and standards are important and review afterward is an important way of making sure that government power is being conscientiously and properly applied. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there are people- you know, that people have crossed lines have done so with corrupt intent or anything like that.
JAN CRAWFORD: But it seems like you have a concern that there may have been a bias by top officials in the FBI as they looked at whether to launch and conduct this investigation?
WILLIAM BARR: Well it’s hard to read some of the texts with and not feel that there was gross bias at work and they’re appalling. And if the shoe were on the other–
JAN CRAWFORD: Appalling.
WILLIAM BARR: Those were appalling. And on their face they were very damning and I think if the shoe was on the other foot we could be hearing a lot about it. If those kinds of discussions were held you know when Obama first ran for office, people talking about Obama in those tones and suggesting that “Oh that he might be a Manchurian candidate for Islam or something like that.” You know some wild accusations like that and you had that kind of discussion back and forth, you don’t think we would be hearing a lot more about it?
JAN CRAWFORD: You- I guess when you said that there were things done that were not the typical run of business, ad hoc, small group, it’s not how these counterintelligence operations normally work. I think that maybe Comey and others might say well this was such an extraordinary thing we had to keep it so closely held. So we had to do it differently what’s your response to that? Is that legit?
WILLIAM BARR: Well it might be legit under certain circumstances but a lot of that has to do with how good the evidence was at that point. And you know Mueller has spent two and half years and the fact is there is no evidence of a conspiracy. So it was bogus, this whole idea that the Trump was in cahoots with the Russians is bogus
… JAN CRAWFORD: So did you ask the president for authority to declassify?
WILLIAM BARR: Yes.
JAN CRAWFORD: You asked the president?
WILLIAM BARR: Yes and also you know, the direction of the intelligence agencies to support our efforts.
JAN CRAWFORD: So did you discuss this with the DNI and head of the CIA?
WILLIAM BARR: Yes.
JAN CRAWFORD: And what’s their response?
WILLIAM BARR: That they’re going to be supportive.
JAN CRAWFORD: And so you won’t will you declassify things without reviewing it with them it seems like you have the authority to do that?
WILLIAM BARR: Well in an exceptional circumstance I have that authority but obviously I intend to consult with them. I’m amused by these people who make a living by disclosing classified information, including the names of intelligence operatives, wringing their hands about whether I’m going to be responsible in protecting intelligence sources and methods.
I’ve been in the business as I’ve said for over 50 years long before they were born and I know how to handle classified information and I believe strongly in protecting intelligence sources and methods. But at the same time if there is information that can be shared with the American people without jeopardizing intelligence sources and methods that decision should be made and because I will be involved in finding out what the story was I think I’m in the best decision to make that decision
… JAN CRAWFORD: But when you came into this job, you were kind of, it’s like the US Attorney in Connecticut, I mean, you had a good reputation on the right and on the left. You were a man with a good reputation. You are not someone who is, you know, accused of protecting the president, enabling the president, lying to Congress. Did you expect that coming in? And what is your response to it? How do you? What’s your response to that?
WILLIAM BARR: Well in a way I did expect it.
JAN CRAWFORD: You did?
WILLIAM BARR: Yeah, because I realize we live in a crazy hyper-partisan period of time and I knew that it would only be a matter of time if I was behaving responsibly and calling them as I see them, that I would be attacked because nowadays people don’t care about the merits and the substance. They only care about who it helps, who benefits, whether my side benefits or the other side benefits, everything is gauged by politics. And as I say, that’s antithetical to the way the department runs and any attorney general in this period is going to end up losing a lot of political capital and I realize that and that is one of the reasons that I ultimately was persuaded that I should take it on because I think at my stage in life it really doesn’t make any difference.
… WILLIAM BARR: I’d rather, in many ways, I’d rather be back to my old life but I think that I love the Department of Justice, I love the FBI, I think it’s important that we not, in this period of intense partisan feeling, destroy our institutions. I think one of the ironies today is that people are saying that it’s President Trump that’s shredding our institutions. I really see no evidence of that, it is hard, and I really haven’t seen bill of particulars as to how that’s being done. From my perspective the idea of resisting a democratically elected president and basically throwing everything at him and you know, really changing the norms on the grounds that we have to stop this president, that is where the shredding of our norms and our institutions is occurring.
JAN CRAWFORD: And you think that happened even with the investigation into the campaign, potentially?
WILLIAM BARR: I am concerned about that.