Attorney General Barr Spins Hard, Wrongly Claims Steele Dossier Was Basis for Russia Investigation

Attorney General Barr Spins Hard, Wrongly Claims Steele Dossier Was Basis for Russia Investigation

Fox News helped Attorney General Bill Barr spin the fiction that the Steele dossier was the starting point for the Russia investigation during an interview on Friday morning.

Co-host of America’s Newsroom Bill Hemmer asked Barr what role the controversial dossier had in opening the investigation. Barr called it “an unusual situation to have opposition research, especially one that on its face had a number of clear mistakes and a somewhat jejune analysis, and to use that to conduct counterintelligence against an American political campaign is a strange development.”

This would have been a good opportunity for Hemmer, were he a journalist and not a propaganda conduit for a broadcast network interested only in telling its number-one fan Donald Trump what he wants to hear, to push back on Barr’s charcterization of the dossier.

First, the Steele dossier was not the reason the FBI began its counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign. The investigation began because one-time Trump advisor George Papadopoulos bragged to an Australian diplomat that the campaign knew the Russian government claimed to be in possession of thousands of emails it had allegedly stolen from Hillary Clinton. This point is made clear in the report by Robert Mueller that, elsewhere in the interview, Barr is happy to hold up as the final word on whether or not Trump and his campaign colluded with Russia in 2016.

Second, Christopher Steele himself estimated his dossier was only about 70 percent correct. So saying it had “a number of clear mistakes” tells us nothing. It was never intended as some sort of final word. It was a roadmap for further investigations. Which appears to be what the FBI, in conjunction with other information coming to it in 2016, went out and did.

Steele always described the dossier as containing raw intelligence that needed further investigation and vetting. Barr, who spent four years of his early career working for the Central Intelligence Agency, certainly knows what raw intelligence looks like and how it is evaluated.

Hemmer could have mentioned any of these points. Instead he followed up by asking Barr, “Do you smell a rat?”

Barr replied, “I don’t know if I’d describe it [as] a rat. The answers I’m getting are not sufficient.”

The network’s number-one fan, watching in the White House residence, was surely pleased.

Watch the clip up top, via Fox News.

Gary Legum

Gary Legum has written about politics and culture for Independent Journal Review, Salon, The Daily Beast, Wonkette, AlterNet and McSweeney's, among others. He currently lives in his native state of Virginia.