Attorney General William Barr revealed that the recently announced review of the origins of Mueller’s probe will partially focus on a controversial briefing that intelligence officials gave Trump shortly before he took office in 2017.
Barr told Fox News’ Bill Hemmer in an interview aired Friday that one portion of the review led by US Attorney John Durham would cover the time period between Election Day and Inauguration Day, saying “some very strange developments” took place during that time.
Barr specifically was referring to the early January 2017 briefing intelligence officials gave then-president-elect Trump at Trump Tower on alleged Russian election meddling, and “the leaking of information subsequent to that meeting,” including the Trump dossier leaked to the press.
Earlier this week, former FBI general counsel James Baker said he and other officials were “quite worried” of Comey giving off the appearance that he was trying to blackmail Trump when he first told him about the allegations in the dossier. Baker said that “analogies” were made to J. Edgar Hoover — the former FBI director who famously abused his power to blackmail individuals.
Barr said he is “not sure what role [the leaked dossier] played,” but it is part of the review.
“It’s a very unusual situation to have opposition research like that, especially one that, on its face, had a number of clear mistakes and a somewhat jejune analysis,” Barr said. “And to, and to use that, take it to conduct counterintelligence against an American political campaign is a strange—would be a strange development.”
Earlier this week, it was revealed that Barr had appointed Durham, the US attorney from Connecticut, to lead the investigation and to cover “all intelligence collection activities” related to the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election and any misconduct during the early stages of the FBI’s original probe. Barr is working “collaboratively” on Durham’s investigation with FBI Director Chris Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, a source told Fox News.
“The first step is to find out exactly what happened, and we’re trying to get our arms around that, getting all the relevant information from the various agencies and starting to talk to some of the people that have information,” Barr told Hemmer.
The Attorney General also noted that there is still much to know in regard to the origins of the special counsel’s probe.
“I think there’s a misconception out there that we know a lot about what happened. The fact of the matter is Bob Mueller did not look at the government’s activities. He was looking at whether or not the Trump campaign had conspired with the Russians. But he was not going back and looking at the counterintelligence program. And we have a number of investigations underway that touch upon it — the main one being the office of inspector general that’s looking at the FISA warrants.”
The US Justice Department released the redacted version of the report in mid-April summarizing the outcome of Mueller’s investigation into allegations of Trump-Russia collusion and Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US election. According to the document, the investigation did not find any evidence of collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign team.
Russia has repeatedly denied any claims of interference in the US political system, saying the allegations were made up to excuse the election loss of Trump’s opponent and deflect public attention from actual instances of election fraud and corruption.