Barr versus Comey

Martha MacCallum flew to Detroit this week to interview Attorney General William Barr for her evening FOX News show. FOX News broadcast portions of the interview on Thursday and Friday. Below is video of the first 18 minutes of the interview broadcast on the show Thursday night. In it, among other things, Barr responded to former FBI Director James Comey’s transparently deceitful interview with Chris Wallace this week on FOX News Sunday. Barr has of course commissioned the inquiry turned criminal investigation of the Russia hoax in which Comey played such a key role.

I posted video of the Wallace/Comey interview and commented on it in “A dirty cop speaks.” John added “More on Comey’s modified limited hangout.”

RCP’s Ian Schwartz has transcribed the Barr interview to accompany video of the 18-minute segment. I have embedded the video at the bottom of this post. Here is Schwartz’s transcription of the portion of the interview in which Barr responds to Comey:

MACCALLUM: Jim Comey came out after you gave your last interview. You responded to the IG Horowitz’s report and spoke out about that. And then he spoke with Chris Wallace and he said that the 17 mistakes and omissions that were uncovered in the FISA process, he attributed it to sloppiness largely. What do you say to that?

BARR: I think there’s some of them very hard to square with the idea that these were just mistakes and sloppiness. I have said that a number of these episodes leave open the possibility of inferring bad faith or improper motive. But I hasten to add that, as I’ve said all along, that I’ve reached no determination on that, nor do I think a final determination on that is appropriate until all the evidence is there. The — Horowitz himself in his testimony, I think pretty well summed it up, which is this could be on the one hand, at the very least, gross incompetence. On the other hand, it could also be improper motive, and he was not in a position to make that call. And that’s why we have the US attorney, John Durham, looking into this.

MACCALLUM: Yeah, and I want to ask you about that in a moment. Are you surprised that James Comey is so convinced himself that all of this was completely above board? He came out and said there was no treason and there’s no spying at all on the president.

BARR: Well, I think the IG report and the recent letter from the FISA court I think pulls the rug out from under that analysis. There was serious misconduct, as the court itself has said. And one of the things that I object to is the tact being taken by Comey, which is to suggest that people who are criticizing or trying to get to the bottom of the misconduct are somehow attacking the FBI. I think that’s nonsense. We’re criticizing and concerned about misconduct by a few actors at the top of the FBI, and they should be criticized if they engaged in serious misconduct. That doesn’t mean we’re criticizing the FBI, and I think the tact of trying to wrap yourself in the institution and say, gee, people who are criticizing the decisions I made are attacking the institution. I noticed people don’t that as far as I’m concerned, people feel free to criticize me. And I don’t say, gee, you’re attacking the honest men and women of the Department of Justice. I think leaders, you know, have to own their decisions and are fair game if they make bad decisions.

MACCALLUM: I want you to listen to this piece of his interview with Chris Wallace and get your reaction.

JAMES COMEY: He does not have a factual basis as the attorney general of the United States to be speculating that agents acted in bad faith. The facts just aren’t there. Full stop. That doesn’t make it any less consequential, any less important. But that’s an irresponsible statement.

MACCALLUM: He said you made an irresponsible statement about these FBI individuals.

BARR: Well, as I said, I made the same statement effectively and substantively as the inspector general, which is there are unexplained misconduct there. It just can’t be easily explained as to what was going on there. And as he said, it could involve bad motive. And he was not in a position, given the limited scope he has, of making that final determination. So, it’s not speculation. But, you know, I think there are episodes there that simply cannot be squared with innocent mistakes. And I think people have to come to terms with that.

MACCALLUM: Were you surprised that he seemed to give himself such a distance from the entire operation?

JAMES COMEY: As the director sitting on top of an organization of 30,000 people you can’t run an investigation that’s seven layers below you. You have to leave it to the career professionals to do.

MACCALLUM: Do you believe that?

BARR: No, I think that the one of the problems with what happened was precisely that they pulled the investigation up to the executive floors, and it was run and bird dogged by a very small group of very high level officials. And the idea that this was seven layers below him is simply not true.

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