AG Barr will investigate origins of counterintelligence operations against Trump campaign

At a contentious hearing on Capitol Hill, Attorney General William Barr told lawmakers he had assembled a team of investigators to examine the origins of the FBI's counterintelligence operation against the 2016 Donald Trump campaign for president.  Barr also said he would investigate the application process used by the FBI to convince a FISA judge to grant a surveillance warrant against Trump campaign employee Carter Page.

Fox News:

The FBI's July 2016 counterintelligence investigation was formally opened by anti-Trump former FBI agent Peter Strzok.  Ex-FBI counsel Lisa Page, with whom Strzok was romantically involved, revealed during a closed-door congressional interview that the FBI "knew so little" about whether allegations against the Trump campaign were "true or not true" at the time they opened the probe, noting they had just "a paucity of evidence because we are just starting down the path" of vetting the allegations.

Page later said that it was "entirely common" that the FBI would begin a counterintelligence investigation with just a "small amount of evidence."

Former FBI Director James Comey would testify later that when agency initiated its counterintelligence probe into possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government, investigators "didn't know whether we had anything" and that "in fact, when I was fired as director [in May 2017], I still didn't know whether there was anything to it."

The collusion investigation did not take place in a vacuum.  At the time, the FBI was considering opening an investigation into the Trump campaign during the summer of 2016, there was other alarming intelligence indicating that the Russian government was making a massive effort to interfere in the presidential campaign.

The signals intelligence pointed to are several Russian companies with ties to Vladimir Putin involved in the cyber-attack on American democracy.  A hacking operation directed at the DNC, RNC, and several Democratic individuals was run by a shadowy group of Russians with ties to the GRU. 

So when Carter Page was running around Washington — and Moscow — bragging about how he had Trump's ear, it wasn't hard to see why American counterintelligence would be alarmed.  And if you add Paul Manafort's close business ties to pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians who were tight with Putin, the prospect of "collusion" became more than a theoretical exercise.

Of course, neither of those two men is going to jail for colluding with Russia. 

Now, having said all of this, the FBI should have realized after a very short period of time that there was absolutely nothing to the collusion charge.  It was anti-Trump agents and officials who flogged the story for all it was worth, withholding information and giving false evidence to the FISA court, and leaking damaging information that drove this ridiculous investigation forward.

Barr told lawmakers at a contentious hearing earlier Tuesday that he was reviewing the bureau's "conduct" in particular during the summer of 2016.  The attorney general's explosive testimony marked his first Capitol Hill appearance since he revealed the central findings of Mueller's investigation, and he indicated the full report — with redactions — would be made public within the week.

Mueller's investigation completed last month without securing the indictment of a single American for collusion with Russia or obstruction of justice, "despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign."

"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 said at the hearing.

Barr also was questioned about the initial Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants approved to surveil members of the Trump campaign, including former Trump aide Carter Page.

Republicans have called for a careful review as to whether the FBI, in violation of Page's constitutional rights and FBI procedures, misled the FISA court or withheld exculpatory information, and Barr testified that a DOJ review of the FBI's FISA practices was in progress.

The I.G. report on the FBI's Clinton email investigation cited political bias as one reason she was absolved of wrongdoing.  Barr is very likely to find similar anti-Trump bias (more accurate to say hatred) at work in this counterintelligence operation.  But I doubt that the A.G. will find fault with the original reasoning behind opening an investigation in the first place.  There was too much going on with the Russians and their attempts to interfere in the election of 2016 for the FBI not to take the idea of collusion seriously.  The fault occurred when Trump-haters got a hold of the investigation and used it for partisan political purposes.

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