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Attorney General Bill Barr dismissed some of the findings of the Justice Department's inspector general report in an interview with NBC News on Tuesday, saying he doesn't agree that there was "sufficient predication" to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign and that the prosecutor he appointed will have the final say.

"I think our nation was turned on its head for three years. I think based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by an irresponsible press. And I think that there were gross abuses of FISA. And inexplicable behavior that is intolerable in the FBI. 
And the attorney general's primary responsibility is to protect against the abuse of the law enforcement and intelligence apparatus and make sure that it doesn't play an improper role in our political life. That's my responsibility. And I'm going to carry it out."

Why it matters: Inspector General Michael Horowitz's report concluded that while there were some serious missteps pertaining to the FBI's surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, the Russia investigation was adequately predicated and was not tainted by political bias.

  • The report largely debunked theories promoted by allies of President Trump that the Russia investigation was a politically motivated "coup" perpetrated by the so-called "deep state."
  • Barr, meanwhile, told NBC's Pete Williams: "From a civil liberties standpoint, the greatest danger to our free system is that the incumbent government used the apparatus of the state ... both to spy on political opponents, but also to use them in a way that could affect the outcome of the election."
  • The purpose of the inspector general's role is to conduct independent investigations free of political influence. Barr's intervention has already set off allegations that he is spinning Horowitz's conclusions to benefit the president.

The big picture: Barr attacked the Russia investigation as "completely baseless," claiming that the FBI's surveillance of the Trump campaign was unprecedented and that FBI agents may have been operating with "bad faith" motivations.

  • He told NBC that veteran prosecutor John Durham is running a far more expansive investigation that includes examining conduct by investigators throughout the Russia probe.
  • Barr defended Durham's decision to issue a statement disputing some of Horowitz's findings on Monday, claiming, "I think it was sort of being reported by the press that the issue of predication was sort of done and over. Even though it was a very limited look at that issue by the IG ... I think it was important for people to understand that, you know, Durham's work was not being preempted."

Barr also declined to refute the conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, as FBI Director Christopher Wray and many other intelligence officials have done.

  • "I'm confident the Russians attempted to interfere in the election," Barr said. "I don't know about the Ukrainians. I haven't even looked into it, quite frankly."

Go deeper: Justice Department inspector general concludes Russia probe was justified

Go deeper

Updated 4 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum — White House: 60M households have ordered free COVID-19 rapid tests.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker
3 hours ago - World

Biden will move U.S. troops to Eastern Europe "in the near term"

President Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews on Jan. 28. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said on Friday he plans to move U.S. troops to Eastern European and NATO countries “in the near term.”

Driving the news: “Not too many” U.S. troops, Biden added in remarks to reporters at Joint Base Andrew upon returning from a trip to Pennsylvania. 

Updated 3 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a potentially historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.