President Donald Trump and his Republican supporters have long called for the Justice Department to scrutinize decisions made by the FBI related to its 2016 investigation into the Trump presidential campaign — an investigation that the president has repeatedly lambasted as politically motivated. It now appears that Attorney General William Barr is acceding to this demand.
Barr, who was tapped by Trump to head the Department of Justice in December, has put together a team to review earlier counterintelligence decisions made by the Justice Department and the FBI, including a look into the origins of the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia, according to separate reports from Bloomberg and Fox News on Tuesday. Both news outlets cited unnamed sources who were familiar with the situation.
“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 reportedly told the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday as he answered lawmakers’ questions about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his investigation into the 2016 campaign and Russian influence. He has yet to release Mueller’s report to Congress.
Barr, appearing before the Senate appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday, addressed reports that he is assembling a team to review earlier Justice Department decisions related to investigating Trump’s 2016 campaign.
“I haven’t set up a team yet,” Barr said. “But I do have in mind some colleagues to pull all this information together and let me know whether there are some areas that should be looked at.”
As Bloomberg noted, Barr’s decision to review the beginnings of the FBI investigation suggests he’ll be digging into Republicans’ allegations that it was “tainted at the start by anti-Trump bias.”
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, lauded Barr’s move as “great news,” telling Bloomberg that it’s “something that has been really important to us. It’s what we’ve been calling for.”
Barr’s planned review, which Fox News said would be “comprehensive,” is separate from an ongoing investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general into actions taken by the Justice Department and FBI as part of the Russia inquiry.
Barr told House lawmakers on Tuesday that the inspector general’s review is almost complete, with a possible end date in May or June.
“As I said in my confirmation hearing, I am going to be reviewing both the genesis and the conduct of intelligence activities directed at the Trump campaign in 2016,” Barr said Wednesday. “A lot of this has already been investigated.”
Republican lawmakers have also been conducting their own inquiries into whether political bias influenced the Justice Department and FBI’s investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
A House Judiciary Committee review into the matter was concluded “quietly and unceremoniously” in December, The Guardian noted. At the time, Republicans on the committee said merely that their probe had “revealed troubling facts which exacerbated our initial questions and concerns,” and they urged the Justice Department to investigate further.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, vowed last month that his committee would launch an investigation of its own.
This story has been updated with Barr’s comments before a Senate panel Wednesday.
Hayley Miller contributed reporting.