That's a guy who's enjoying himself.
AG Barr testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee today, and Democrats wanted to know where he'll be going with his investigation into the Russia Hoax. What they heard must have them, well, puckering? (Video here.) He wants to investigate "the genesis and the conduct." The genesis, as in, where it all came from. Gosh, that sounds scary thorough!
ATTORNEY GENERAL BILL BARR: 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 during 2016. And a lot of this has already been investigated, and a substantial portion of it has been investigated and is being investigated by the office of the Inspector General, but one of the things I want to do is pull everything together from the various investigations that have gone on, including on the Hill and in the [Justice] Department, and see if there are any remaining questions to be addressed.
SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN: And can you share with us why you feel a need to do that?
BARR: Well, you know, for the same reason we're worried about foreign influence in elections, we want to make sure that during elections -- I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal. It's a big deal.
The generation I grew up in, which is the Vietnam War period, people were all concerned about spying on anti-war people and so forth by the government, and there were a lot of rules put in place to make sure that there's an adequate basis before our law enforcement agencies get involved in political surveillance. I'm not suggesting that those rules were violated but I think it's important to look at that. and I'm not talking about the FBI necessarily, but intelligence agencies more broadly.
SHAHEEN: So you're not suggesting, though, that spying occurred?
BARR: Well, I guess -- I think spying did occur, yes. I think spying did occur.
SHAHEEN: Well --
BARR: The question was whether it was adequately predicated. And I'm not suggesting it wasn't adequately predicated. I need to explore that. I think it's my obligation. Congress is usually very concerned about intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies staying in their proper lane. I want to make sure that happened. We have a lot of rules about that.
I want to say that I've said I'm reviewing this. I haven't set up a team yet, but I have in mind having some colleagues help me pull all this information together and letting me know whether there are some areas that should be looked at. I also want to make clear. I also want to make clear, this is not launching an investigation of the FBI. Frankly, to the extent there were any issues at the FBI, I do not view it as a problem that's endemic to the FBI.
I think there was probably a failure among a group of leaders there, at the upper echelon. So I don't like to hear attacks about the FBI because I think the FBI is an outstanding organization and I think Chris Wray is a great partner for me. I'm very pleased he's there as the director. If it becomes necessary to look over some former officials' activities, I expect I'll be relying heavily on Chris and work closely with him in looking at that information. But that's what I'm doing. I feel I have an obligation to make sure that government power is not abused. I think that's one of the principal roles of the attorney general.
Apparently Sen. Jack Reed tried to push Barr a bit, asking whether Barr has “specific evidence of anything improper in the counterintelligence investigation of the 2016 election.”
In his, by now, trademark plain and simple style, Barr replied:
I have no specific evidence that I would cite right now. I do have questions about it. I have concerns about various aspects of it.
And having questions means he has reasons to have those questions. Very bad news for Dems. Not to mention bad news for James Comey. "A failure among a group of leaders" at the FBI? James--call your lawyer!
UPDATE: Roger Simon has a fun article out: William Barr Is the Democrats' Worst Nightmare. Here's how it starts:
Though they were excruciatingly obnoxious to William Barr at Tuesday's House Appropriations subcommittee hearing, Democrats would be well-advised to lay off the attorney general, maybe even treat him with kid gloves, because he holds a good deal of the future of their party in his hands. In fact, he is positioned to make that party bleed as perhaps no one in history. And it only makes it worse that he is clearly such a straight shooter.
PRICELESS: Here's Barr interacting with twittish Senator Brian Schatz, who thinks he can patronize Barr and get him to back off saying that there was spying going on:
SCHATZ: Do you want to rephrase what you’re doing, uh, because I think the word “spying” could cause everybody in the cable news ecosystem to freak out, and I think it’s necessary for you to be precise with your language here. You normally are, and I want to give you a chance to be especially precise here.
BARR: I’m not sure of all the connotations of that word that you’re referring to, but unauthorized surveillance. I want to make sure there was no unauthorized surveillance. Is that more appropriate in your mind?