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Former DOJ Inspector General Discusses Horowitz Report On 2016 Election

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Attorney General Bill Barr is casting doubt on a key finding in the mammoth report the Justice Department inspector general released yesterday. The report finds there was enough credible evidence for the FBI to launch an investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign in 2016 - in short, no political witch hunt.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Barr took issue with that finding in media appearances today. Speaking on NBC, he described the evidence that led to the FBI investigation as, quote, "very flimsy."

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BILL BARR: I think when you step back here and say, what was this all based on, it's not sufficient. Remember, there was and never has been any evidence of collusion. And yet this campaign and the president's administration has been dominated by this investigation into what turns out to be completely baseless.

SHAPIRO: The Justice Department's inspector general, Michael Horowitz, will defend the report before a Senate hearing tomorrow. Ahead of that, we wanted to speak with someone who has held that job. Michael Bromwich was the Justice Department's inspector general in the mid-1990s. He's now in private practice. And we should say he represents former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, whose actions were examined in the report.

I asked Bromwich what he made of the attorney general's public criticism of the report.

MICHAEL BROMWICH: I think it's a real incursion on the independence of the inspector general for the attorney general to essentially seek to undermine or raise doubts about some of the central conclusions in the IG's report. The IG Found that this investigation was authorized under relevant regulations and rules and that there was a valid, factual predicate for launching the investigation. There is nothing in the IG report about launching an investigation based on, quote, "the thinnest of suspicions." And so it's very troubling that the attorney general's comments really do seem to try to undermine some of the core conclusions in the IG's report.

SHAPIRO: The inspector general is the Justice Department's internal watchdog and is supposed to be independent. How common is it for somebody in that job to be caught in a political fight of this size?

BROMWICH: I think the political fights for Mr. Horowitz have been larger and more frequent than the political fights that I experienced from 1994 to 1999 or that my successor, Glenn Fine, experienced. And he held the job for something like 11 years. We're living in just a much more politicized environment. And Mr. Horowitz has had to deal with the political currents in a way that I think just didn't exist for us.

SHAPIRO: And yet, in the last day since he released his report, even though people have characterized the report very differently, they've really refrained from attacking him or accusing him of partisanship.

BROMWICH: Yes, that's right. And I think that's because a reading of the report suggests that a tremendous amount of work went into it - 170 interviews, a million pages of documents. It's an extraordinarily detailed and granular report. And I think people are taking a big risk if they start to criticize someone based on the amount of work that was done and the - you know, the quality of the presentation of the report.

SHAPIRO: Finally, we're speaking to you as a former inspector general. But as I mentioned, you do represent the former deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, who was fired from the bureau. And this report found 17 instances of errors, omissions and distortions with the FBI's application to surveil a Trump campaign aide. Does your client take responsibility for this?

BROMWICH: Well, I heard him say on TV - and I knew before he said it on TV - that he does take responsibility for it in the sense that he was a senior manager in the FBI at the time that these errors and omissions took place. That's, as we know, a very different issue from his actually having knowledge of those errors and omissions at the time. So any good leader takes responsibility for the errors, omissions and problems that arose on his watch. It's very different from saying that he knew about them. He did not.

SHAPIRO: Michael Bromwich, former Justice Department inspector general and founder of the Bromwich Group, thanks for speaking with us.

BROMWICH: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.