Attorney General Bill Barr lied to Congress by spreading fictitious stories about the Department of Justice (DOJ) spying on President Donald Trump‘s 2016 campaign, according to legal experts. And now, congressional calls are ramping up for Barr to be investigated by oversight authorities–and, some critics say, possibly impeached.
“I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” Barr told a panel of senators in April of this year–without providing any evidence for the controversial claim. “I think spying did occur.”
Congressional Democrats groused at the time–saying Barr’s comments were the result of “willful ignorance” and that they directly contradicted previous DOJ briefings on the subject.
Former U.S. Attorney and current University of Alabama Law Professor Joyce White Vance said a forthcoming report by the DOJ Office of Inspector General (OIG) will put the lie to Barr’s heavily-criticized “spying” claim once and for all.
“[T]he important takeaway is that everything that President Trump has been saying for the last couple of years about the deep state and the effort by the Obama Justice Department to attack his campaign, that’s all been made up,” Vance told MSNBC. “None of it was true.”
The MSNBC contributor then took direct aim at Barr’s role:
But [the deep state narrative] was fomented and it was really put into progress, as much as by the president, by his attorney general, Bill Barr, who famously went in front of Congress and talked about spying, which is not what the Justice Department does. The Justice Department does court-ordered supervision or court-ordered evidence collection. The notion that the attorney general would call it “spying” was shocking to many of us then, and the inspector general report confirms that it was indeed untrue.
As Law&Crime previously reported, the DOJ’s OIG report will vindicate the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) over the spying claims relentlessly promoted by Trump and his allies in government and media since the early days of the 45th president’s administration.
“Terrible!” Trump exclaimed via Twitter just weeks after taking office. “Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”
“How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process,” Trump tweeted later that same day in March 2017. “This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
According to the New York Times, the DOJ’s OIG “found no evidence” to support the idea that FBI agents engaged in material abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)–citing anonymous sources said to be familiar with a draft of the report.
Rather, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz is expected to ding a “low-level” FBI attorney for improperly altering a surveillance application on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. That alteration, however, was not significant enough to override the legal and factual basis for the Page warrant, Horowitz is expected to say.
News of Horowitz rubbishing the longstanding story line pushed by the White House has prompted critics to call for Barr’s head.
Congressional Democrats are wondering out loud why the attorney general is not himself the subject of investigation due to his seemingly tortured relationship with the truth while under oath.
Law&Crime reached out to former White House ethics counsel and current University of Minnesota Law School Professor Richard Painter for his take on Barr’s previous congressional testimony in light of the OIG’s soon-to-be-released findings.
Painter was asked if he thought Barr lied to Congress and, if so, whether such lies warranted Barr’s impeachment.
“Yes and yes,” Painter replied.
The full DOJ OIG report will be released December 9.
[image via Ed Zurga/Getty Images]