WASHINGTON — Attorney General William P. Barr sharply criticized on Monday the F.B.I.’s decision to open the Russia investigation, undercutting a major finding in a long-awaited watchdog report and at the same time showing his willingness to act as President Trump’s vocal defender.
The report, by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, found that the F.B.I. had adequate reason in 2016 to open an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia. Mr. Horowitz broadly rejected Mr. Trump’s accusations that F.B.I. officials conspired to sabotage his campaign, but Mr. Barr highlighted findings that underscored his and the president’s shared view that investigators were nonetheless overly invasive in scrutinizing people associated with a presidential campaign.
“The inspector general’s report now makes clear that the F.B.I. launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken,” Mr. Barr said in a statement.
John H. Durham, a federal prosecutor whom Mr. Barr appointed to run a separate criminal investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation, backed Mr. Barr’s findings in his own highly unusual statement. “Last month, we advised the inspector general that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the F.B.I. case was opened,” Mr. Durham said.
Read the Inspector General’s Report on the Russia Investigation
The Justice Department’s inspector general released this report into the early stages of the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation.
The statements from the Justice Department’s top official and one of his key investigators gave Mr. Trump’s supporters ammunition to dispute one of the key findings in the long-awaited report by Mr. Horowitz that excoriated the F.B.I.’s handling of a wiretap application used in the early stages of its Russia investigation.
While the report was searing in its conclusion that the wiretap application process was marked with errors, it exonerated former bureau leaders of accusations by the president and his allies that Mr. Trump was the victim of a politicized conspiracy to sabotage his campaign and his presidency.
Mr. Horowitz concluded that the F.B.I. had sufficient evidence in July 2016 to lawfully open the investigation and to use informants. But he did note that the bureau’s standards were very low.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.