Barr and Wray agree: Investigations into presidential campaigns must be approved

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Attorney General William Barr revealed that he and FBI Director Christopher Wray agreed that, in the future, agents must get approval from the heads of the DOJ and the bureau before launching investigations into presidential candidates.

Barr announced the significant investigative reform during a Monday press conference about Saudi national Mohammed Alshamrani’s terrorist attack at a Pensacola air base that killed three U.S. service members in December. Barr’s comments during a question-and-answer session come in the wake of DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on the Trump-Russia investigation that found serious investigative missteps by investigators and abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

“We’re considering a number of additional things, and Chris Wray and I have discussed a number of possibilities,” Barr told reporters. “One of the things that we have agreed on is that the opening of a counterintelligence investigation of a presidential campaign would be something that the director of the FBI would have to sign off on and the attorney general would have to sign off on.”

Before now, no such green light from agency leaders was needed.

Horowitz’s team did not find evidence that political bias influenced the decisions to open the investigations into Carter Page, former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, former national security adviser Mike Flynn, and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort in the summer of 2016. William Priestap, then the assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, made the decision to open the Trump-Russia inquiry, dubbed Crossfire Hurricane, and Horowitz said its launch was adequately predicated.

But Barr disagreed.

“The inspector general’s report now makes clear that the FBI 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,” Barr said last month. “It is also clear that, from its inception, the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory.”

Horowitz concluded the FBI’s investigation of Page was flawed and criticized the DOJ and the FBI for 17 “significant errors and omissions” in targeting the Trump campaign associate and relying on British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s salacious and unverified dossier, criticizing the bureau’s “entire chain of command.” Horowitz was unable to determine whether the FBI’s flaws were due to “gross negligence” or “intentional misconduct.” The watchdog also referred one FBI lawyer to the DOJ for possible criminal prosecution.

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