On Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr announced that he would issue the full Mueller report — minus redactions — to Congress “within a week.” Although lawmakers and the public have yet to see the full report into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 campaign and the Trump team’s alleged involvement, the attorney general is already preparing to look into the counterintelligence decisions made by the Justice Department and FBI officials that led to the special counsel investigation.
“I am reviewing the conduct of the investigation and trying to get my arms around all the aspects of the counterintelligence investigation that was conducted during the summer of 2016,” Barr told the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. Bloomberg also reports that the AG is forming a team to investigate the Mueller investigation.
Republicans on the committee were ecstatic: The president and his party have declared since the beginning of the investigation that the FBI and the special counsel are “conflicted.” (Then, of course, there’s the repeated claim of a “witch hunt.”) One Republican on the committee, Alabama’s Robert Aderholt, asked the attorney general “how it came to be that your agency used a salacious and unverified dossier as a predicate for FISA order on a U.S. citizen?” Aderholt referred to the claim that the FBI used the Steele dossier as a means to obtain a warrant on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page — an intermediary that a Russian spy reportedly thought was an “idiot.”
Republicans and Fox News hosts have repeatedly — and falsely — claimed that the Russia investigations “started with this dossier.” In reality, the FBI interest in the Trump campaign began with a different mediator, George Papadopoulos, who drunkenly told to an Australian diplomat he had thousands of emails of dirt on the Clinton campaign. Papadopoulos eventually pleaded guilty for lying to the FBI, and served 14 days in prison.
“That’s great news he’s looking into how this whole thing started back in 2016,” said Representative Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee. “That’s something that has been really important to us. It’s what we’ve been calling for.” Barr will likely repeat his announcement on Wednesday in the Republican-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee, where it’s likely to gain more traction: Much of the questioning in the Democrat-controlled House committee involved Barr’s plan to release the full Mueller report, and its corroborating evidence.
Other Republicans have already expressed interest in counter-investigations. In a March interview with Fox News, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham said that, “Once we put the Mueller report to bed, once Barr comes to the committee and takes questions about his findings and his actions, and we get to see the Mueller report, consistent with law, then we are going to turn to finding out how this got off the rails.”
William Barr has already established his tenure as attorney general along partisan lines: Prior to his appointment, Barr wrote an unsolicited memo claiming that Trump did not obstruct justice and that the investigation into such a charge was “fatally misconceived.” Democrats were frustrated by Barr’s quick turnaround on his Mueller report summary, as the special counsel’s office never asked Barr to get the synopsis out that quickly — not to mention his hasty decision to let the president off for obstruction. Members of Mueller’s team have reportedly complained to those close to them that the evidence on such a charge was substantial. If Barr is determined to investigate counterintelligence decisions made by the DOJ and FBI regarding the Mueller report, it appears he’s doubling down on his prioritization to protect the president over his role as the chief lawyer of the United States.