AG Nominee Promises to Look Into Whether a Counter Intelligence Probe Was Improperly Opened Against Trump

By Melanie Arter | January 15, 2019 | 9:27pm EST
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 15: U.S. Attorney General nominee William Barr chats with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) after his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee January 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. Barr, who previously served as Attorney General under President George H. W. Bush, was confronted about his views on the investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

( - During his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday, Attorney General Nominee William Barr promised to look into whether a counter intelligence probe was appropriately opened against President Donald Trump by someone at the Justice Department.

Under questioning from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Barr was asked, “Would you promise to me and this committee to look into this and tell us whether or not in the appropriate way a counter intelligence investigation was opened up by somebody at the FBI/Department of Justice against President Trump?”

“Yes, Mr. Chairman. I think there are a number of investigations as I understand it going on in the department,” Barr replied.

“Have you ever heard of such a thing in all the time you’ve been associated with the Department of Justice?” Graham asked.

“I have never heard of that,” Barr said.


Graham began his questioning by saying he supports the idea that politicians should not interfere with criminal investigations, but he said there’s another side to the equation.

“What about those who are in charge of enforcing the law? What about those with the power to bring charges against American citizens including people up here? I remember Senator Stevens’ case in Alaska. So we should always be on guard about the politician interfering in a investigation, but we should also have oversight of how the department works and those with this tremendous power use that power,” he said.

Graham asked whether Barr was familiar with the Jan. 11 New York Times article about the FBI opening an inquiry into whether Trump was secretly working on behalf of Russians. Barr answered in the affirmative.

When asked whether there are checks and balances if he wanted to open up a counter-intelligence investigation against the president, Barr said, “Not outside the FBI.”

“Well, we need to look at that. In terms of people who are actually enforcing the law, don’t we want to make sure they don’t have an agenda?” Graham asked.

“That’s right, Mr. Chairman,” Barr said.

“Well, we need to look at that. In terms of people who are actually enforcing the law, don’t we want to make sure they don’t have an agenda?” Graham asked.

“That’s right, Mr. Chairman,” Barr replied.

Graham read excerpts of text messages between former FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page then asked him about the FISA warrant process.


GRAHAM: This is a message August 8th, a text message: ‘Trump’s not ever going to become president, right?

‘Right.’ Strzok responded. ‘No, no. He’s not. We’ll stop him.’

Strzok was in charge of the Clinton email investigation. Ms. Page worked with the Department of Justice.

August 15th, 2016: ‘I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office that there’s no way he can get selected, but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before 40.’

March 4, 2016: Page to Strzok: ‘God, Trump is a f-ing idiot, is unable to provide a coherent answer.’

To all those who enforce the law, you can have any opinion of us that you like, but you’re supposed to do your job without an agenda. Do you promise me as attorney general if you get this job to look into see what happened in 2016?

BARR: Yes, Mr. Chairman.

GRAHAM: How do these statements sit with you?

BARR: I was shocked when I saw them.

GRAHAM: Please get to the bottom of it. I promise you we will protect the investigation, but we’re relying upon you to clean this place up. FISA warrants. Are you familiar with a FISA warrant?

BARR: Yes, Mr. Chairman.

GRAHAM: During the process of obtaining a warrant, is there a certification made by the Department of Justice to the court that the information being provided is reliable?

BARR: Yes, sir.

GRAHAM: Are you familiar with Bruce Ohr?

BARR: No, I’m not.

GRAHAM: Bruce Ohr was the associate deputy attorney general for organized crime and drug enforcement. His wife worked at Fusion GPS. Are you familiar with Fusion GPS?

BARR: Yes, I’ve read about that.

GRAHAM: Fusion GPS, Mr. Barr, was hired by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign to do opposition research against President Trump and other candidates, but we now know that they hired Fusion GPS. Michael Steele, who is a former British agent, to do opposition research and produce the famous dossier. Are you aware that Mr. Ohr’s wife worked for that organization?

BARR: I’ve read that.

GRAHAM: Does that bother you if he had anything to do with the case?

BARR: Yes.

GRAHAM: Are you aware that on numerous occasions, he met Mr. Steele while his wife worked for Fusion GPS?

BARR: I’ve read that.

GRAHAM: The warrant certification against Carter Page on four different occasions certifies that the dossier, which was the main source of the warrant, was reliable. Would you look into whether that was an accurate statement and hold people accountable if it was not?

BARR: Yes, Mr. Chairman.


During his opening statement, Barr admitted that he and Special Counsel Robert Mueller were good friends. During questioning, Graham asked whether Barr believed Mueller was “fair-minded” and would be involved in a witch hunt.


GRAHAM: Mueller. You say you’ve known Mueller a long time. Would you say you have a close relationship with Mr. Mueller?

BARR: I would say we’re good friends.

GRAHAM: Would you say that you understand him to be a fair-minded person?

BARR: Absolutely.

GRAHAM: Do you trust him to be fair to the president and the country as a whole?

BARR: Yes.

GRAHAM: When his report comes to you, will you share it with us as much as possible?

BARR: Consistent with the regulations and the law, yes.

GRAHAM: Do you believe Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt against anybody?

BARR: I don’t believe Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt.


Graham asked whether Barr believed that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions had a conflict because he worked for the Trump campaign.

“I’m not sure of all the facts. I think he probably did the right thing recusing himself,” Barr said.“I agree. I think he did the right thing to recuse himself,” Graham concurred.



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