Former FBI Director James Comey bashed Attorney General William Barr on Saturday, accusing him of "echoing" conspiracy theories in his interview with CBS Friday.
That interview took place one day after Special Counsel Robert Mueller gave his statement, just short of ten minutes long, about the investigation, his report, and his reluctance to go before Congress to testify. In the interview, Barr contradicted one of Mueller's central assertions, saying that he felt Mueller "could've reached a decision" about whether Trump obstructed justice or not.
Barr also questioned the origins of the investigation into the Trump campaign, a matter which the Justice Dept. under his direction is conducting its own investigation. "I think the activities were undertaken by a small group at the top, which is one of the, probably one of the mistakes that has been made instead of running this as a normal bureau investigation or counterintelligence investigation. It was done by the executives at the senior level, out of headquarters," said Barr.
That leadership at the top, to which Barr referred, obviously includes then-FBI Director Comey, even though Barr told CBS's Jan Crawford he was "not going to get into the individual names at this point."
Comey was not happy. He said that Barr offered "no facts," and that an Attorney General should not be "echoing conspiracy theories."
"He should just gather facts and show them," said James Comey.
"That is what Justice is about," James Comey added.
Bill Barr on CBS offers no facts. An AG should not be echoing conspiracy theories. He should gather facts and show… https://t.co/9jlz8tEeXK— James Comey (@James Comey)1559410329.0
In the CBS interview, Barr said that "Mueller has spent two and half years and the fact is there is no evidence of a conspiracy. So it was bogus, this whole idea that the Trump was in cahoots with the Russians is bogus." That, too, could not have sat well with Comey, who just a few days ago penned an op-ed for the Washington Post defending himself and his investigation.
After finding out that Russia was attempting to interfere with the 2016 election, wrote Comey, "what should the FBI have done? Let it go? Go tell the Trump campaign? Tell the press? No. Investigate, to see what the facts were."
"We didn't know what was true. Maybe there was nothing to it, or maybe Americans were actively conspiring with the Russians. To find out, the FBI would live up to its name and investigate," he said. "As director, I was determined that the work would be done carefully, professionally and discreetly. "
Much of his argument was specifically about the FBI not dislosing details to the Trump campaign.
"We were just starting. If there was nothing to it, we didn't want to smear Americans. If there was something to it, we didn't want to let corrupt Americans know we were onto them. So, we kept it secret. That's how the FBI approaches all counterintelligence cases."
It's a big topic this week. Just the other day Catherine Herridge of Fox News revealed that, in a meeting about security threats with the Trump campaign, disgraced FBI Deputy Director Peter Strzok withheld information that Russia was attempting to interfere, and that Russians were targeting Trump officials, and even that two Trump campaign staff, George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn, were at that time the subject of investigation.
d that certainly was a big part of my formative years of dealing with those issues. The fact that today people just seem to brush aside the idea that it is okay to you know, to engage in these activities against a political campaign is stunning to me especially when the media doesn't seem to think that it's worth looking into. They're supposed to be the watchdogs of, you know, our civil liberties.
Barr talked about the explanations offered by Comey and others regarding those decisions, and why they are investigating that investigation.
"The fact that today people just seem to brush aside the idea that it is okay to you know, to engage in these activities against a political campaign is stunning to me," he said. "Especially when the media doesn't seem to think that it's worth looking into. They're supposed to be the watchdogs of, you know, our civil liberties."
Crawford asked Barr what he has seen that makes him question those decisions.
Barr said he has "not gotten answers that are, well satisfactory, and in fact probably have more questions, and that some of the facts that- that I've learned don't hang together with the official explanations of what happened."
Crawford pressed for specifics, but Barr said he couldn't go into details. "Things are just not jiving," he said, though he emphazised several times he saw a problem with the leadership of the FBI at the time, and not "rife through the bureau."
All of that no doubt contributed to Comey's outbursts, and there will likely be interviews for him in the coming days and weeks as Barr continues to investigate, and Democrats continue to question Barr's commitment to his job and ability to perform his tasks objectively.