A report requested from the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election has been reportedly complete for some time, but it still has not been released. The reason for that appears to be clear enough: Despite months of looking into the specific points that Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr, and Republicans in general have presented as sure signs of some “deep state” conspiracy behind the Russia investigation, Horowitz reportedly found no reason to suspect that either the FBI or the DOJ had engaged in any political action aimed at Trump or his campaign. But with the report still a week from release, Barr is continuing to fume behind the scenes, and appears to be on the edge of tearing a rift down the middle of the DOJ.
According to The Washington Post, Barr has let it be known that he doesn’t agree with Horowitz’s main findings that the FBI had sufficient information to justify launching the investigation into Trump’s campaign. With apparently no evidence for the conspiracy against him that Trump has claimed—and that Barr has traveled to Australia, Rome, and London in an attempt to find support for—Barr appears set to simply declare Horowitz’s investigation insufficient.
The IG report is still being passed around the Justice Department, collecting final comments. One of those comments should be Barr’s final assessment giving his approval and recommending the report. Instead, it appears likely that he may do exactly the opposite by including a letter in the report that essentially states that Horowitz is wrong, that the conspiracy is real, and that, as attorney general, Barr is overruling the findings of the report as he continues his investigation into exactly the conspiracy theories that Trump was trying to press on Ukraine.
In the case of the Mueller report, Barr was able to write a draft “summary” that appeared weeks in advance of the still-redacted report, giving the public an enormously false view of what Mueller had found. Barr may try to do something of the sort this time, releasing an advance look that ignores Horowitz’s key findings to highlight some inconsequential actions. At the same time, Barr may restate his own confidence that his own agency was filled to the brim with Never Trumpers out to thwart the election no matter what it took. And just as with the special counsel report, there’s little to stop Barr from releasing his version and keeping the actual findings buried for as long as he likes.
In fact, Barr may be set to essentially overrule the inspector general by claiming that the internal investigation was lacking key information. Barr may simply set aside the Horowitz report by saying the inspector general lacked information that Barr and his hand-selected investigator, John Durham, have collected on their round-the-world jaunts. In any case, Barr seems determined to keep Trump’s claims of conspiracy alive, even it means absolutely destroying the last remains of credibility in his own agency.
Instead, Barr will press for shelving Horowitz’s report in favor his own expanded probe into the actions of all U.S. agencies. That probe is following such conspiracy theories as the one that says the professor who acted as George Papadopoulos’ Russian contact was actually a CIA mole working to subvert the Trump campaign before Trump even announced his run. And that Australian officials were in on setting up Carter Page. And that Ukraine was trying to bring down Paul Manafort to please Hillary Clinton.
What Horowitz has reportedly found is that, while some low-level FBI officials made what amounted to clerical errors, none of the players that regularly come in for abuse on Trump’s Twitter feed acted from political motivations. The reason they opened an investigation into connections between Trump’s campaign and Russia is because there was overwhelming evidence of connections between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
Meanwhile, Politico reports that Trump is continuing to claim that Horowitz’s report contains “devastating things.” Which could mean that Barr is simply going to insert his own “findings” into Horowitz’s report.