Attorney General Bill Barr’s criticism of Monday’s inspector general report was unexpected, Justice Department watchdog Michael Horowitz told Senators on Wednesday.
Horowitz made the statement in response to questioning from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who noted that his staff had reviewed 797 IG reports issued by Horowitz’s office during his tenure.
“How many I.G. Reports under your name involve the Justice Department arguing that in fact committed more misconduct than your investigation uncovered?” Leahy asked, referencing Barr’s statement that the Trump-Russia investigation was opened “on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken.”
Horowitz told Leahy, “I don’t recall that happening before.”
The Justice Department was given an opportunity to provide a response to the report’s conclusions, Horowitz said, but did not reply. Instead, Barr and Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is conducting a separate, criminal probe into the Trump-Russia investigation, issued statements timed to coincide with the report’s Monday release.
Leahy told the DOJ watchdog that he found it “very unusual that Attorney General Barr didn’t send you anything to go in the report.”
Later during the questioning, Leahy referenced Barr and Durham’s recent trip to Italy, where they reportedly gathered evidence for Durham’s probe.
“How do we know that politics is not driving the Barr Durham investigation?” Leahy asked.
“I’m not sure how anybody knows what you don’t know unless you do an investigation or you review it or somebody looks through as we did, for example, here,” Horowitz replied.