if at first you don't succeed...
Attorney General William Barr has told colleagues he disagrees with Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz's conclusion in an upcoming report that the FBI had adequate legal and factual bases to open an investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia in July 2016, The Washington Post and The New York Times report. Horowitz's 400-page report, the culmination of a nearly two-year investigation, will be released Dec. 9; he will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Dec. 11.
Republicans have been looking forward to Horowitz validating President Trump's accusations that the FBI had abused its surveillance power to target him for political reasons. The report is not expected to support those allegations. It isn't clear whether Barr will publicly express his disagreement with Horowitz, or how — he could rebut Horowitz in the written response the Justice Department typically appends to such reports, or he could make a public statement. The inspector general's office is independent of Justice Department leadership, the Post notes, "so Barr cannot order Horowitz to change his findings."
Barr reportedly argues that Horowitz does not have enough information to clear the FBI, and he is relying in part on a separate investigation he initiated, nominally headed by U.S. Attorney John Durham, that is also examining any role the CIA played. But "the threshold to open the Russia investigation was not particularly high," the Times reports. "The FBI can open a preliminary inquiry based on 'information or an allegation' that a crime or threat to national security may have occurred or will occur, according to bureau policy."
Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement Monday that "the inspector general's investigation is a credit to the Department of Justice," that Horowitz's "excellent work has uncovered significant information that the American people will soon be able to read for themselves," and "rather than speculating, people should read the report for themselves next week" and "draw their own conclusions."