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 37 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 12,859,834 — Total deaths: 567,123 — Total recoveries — 7,062,085Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 3,297,501— Total deaths: 135,155 — Total recoveries: 1,006,326 — Total tested: 40,282,176Map.
  3. States: Florida smashes single-day record for new coronavirus cases with over 15,000 — NYC reports zero coronavirus deaths for first time since pandemic hit.
  4. Public health: Ex-FDA chief projects "apex" of South's coronavirus curve in 2-3 weeks — Coronavirus testing czar: Lockdowns in hotspots "should be on the table"
  5. Education: Betsy DeVos says schools that don't reopen shouldn't get federal funds — Pelosi accuses Trump of "messing with the health of our children."

Scoop: How the White House is trying to trap leakers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has told several White House staffers he's fed specific nuggets of information to suspected leakers to see if they pass them on to reporters — a trap that would confirm his suspicions. "Meadows told me he was doing that," said one former White House official. "I don't know if it ever worked."

Why it matters: This hunt for leakers has put some White House staffers on edge, with multiple officials telling Axios that Meadows has been unusually vocal about his tactics. So far, he's caught only one person, for a minor leak.

11 GOP congressional nominees support QAnon conspiracy

Lauren Boebert posing in her restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, on April 24. Photo: Emily Kask/AFP

At least 11 Republican congressional nominees have publicly supported or defended the QAnon conspiracy theory movement or some of its tenets — and more aligned with the movement may still find a way onto ballots this year.

Why it matters: Their progress shows how a fringe online forum built on unsubstantiated claims and flagged as a threat by the FBI is seeking a foothold in the U.S. political mainstream.