Attorney General William Barr hit back Wednesday at James Comey over the former FBI director’s attempts to downplay his role in Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign.
In an interview with Fox News, Barr disputed Comey’s claim in a “Fox News Sunday” interview that the investigation was run “seven layers” below him.
“The idea that this was seven layers below him is simply not true,” Barr told Fox’s Martha MacCallum in an interview that aired Wednesday.
“I think that one of the problems with what happened was precisely that they pulled the investigation up to the executive floors, and it was run and birddogged by a very small group of very high level officials,” he added.
Barr and Comey were responding to the findings of a Justice Department inspector general’s (IG) report that found “significant inaccuracies” in the FBI’s applications for surveillance orders against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
The report said the FBI withheld exculpatory information regarding Page and derogatory information regarding the Steele dossier, which the FBI cited extensively in its applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against the Trump aide.
The report also said that Comey was involved in plans to open Crossfire Hurricane and that he reviewed the initial Page FISA application. FBI agents updated Comey on the status of the investigation every two to four weeks, the report said.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), which approved the FBI’s four Carter Page applications, excoriated the bureau in an order released publicly Tuesday for providing “false” and “misleading” information to assert that Page was an agent of Russia.
Comey acknowledged in his interview Sunday that he was “wrong” to have previously asserted that the FBI did nothing wrong during the surveillance process. He also tried to downplay the IG’s findings. He chalked the errors up to “sloppiness” on the part of the FBI. He accepted some responsibility for the errors but ultimately pinned them on career FBI agents who carried out the day-to-day activities of the investigation.
Barr took another jab at Comey for whitewashing his role in the investigation.
“I think leaders have to own their decisions and are fair game if they make bad decisions,” he said in his Fox interview.
Barr also said he objects to allegations from Comey and others that his criticisms over the FBI’s handling of the Trump-Russia probe is an attack on the bureau itself.
“One of the things I object to is the tack being taken by Comey, which is to suggest that people who are criticizing or are trying to get to the bottom of the misconduct are somehow attacking the FBI,” Barr said. “I think that’s nonsense.”
“We’re criticizing and concerned about the misconduct of a few actors at the top of the FBI, and they should be criticized if they engaged in serious misconduct. That doesn’t mean that we’re criticizing the FBI,” he continued.
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