There were plenty of fireworks in Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing featuring Attorney General William Barr, but former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy says the biggest pieces of news concern the investigation still to come about how the government’s probe of the Trump campaign got started in the first place.
According to McCarthy, the first interesting revelation deals with the infamous Steele dossier, which was a key premise for launching the FBI investigation into possible conspiring between Russia and the Trump campaign.
“They’re looking into not only the origination of the investigation and the origination of the FISA warrants, but, specifically with respect to the Steele dossier, whether we’ve been the victims of Russian disinformation,” said McCarthy, a contributing editor at National Review Online who previously served as a Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney.
He also says Barr revealed another curious fact on Wednesday.
“The attorney general said that he thought it was astonishing that the Obama administration had not given a defensive briefing to the Trump campaign,” said McCarthy.
According to McCarthy, Obama administration officials could have briefed legal experts (like former U.S. Attorneys Rudy Giuliani, Jeff Sessions, and Chris Christie) in the Trump campaign about concerns of Russian infiltration but decided to launch a full espionage probe instead. That suggests to McCarthy that Trump himself, and not associates, was the target of the probe.
As for the fireworks on Wednesday, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee hammered Barr for declaring no evidence of Trump-Russia collaboration when the Mueller report documents numerous different points of contact.
McCarthy says those contacts might be worth discussing but don’t amount to criminal charges, and that’s the only thing the Justice Department is concerned with.
“It doesn’t mean that other stuff is irrelevant. It could be highly relevant for political reasons, for intelligence reasons, for a variety of reasons. But a prosecutor’s job is not to delve into everything that might be interesting. A prosecutor’s job is to determine whether crimes happened,” said McCarthy.
In addition to accusing Barr of downplaying the conclusions of the report, Democrats also took a different course than they’ve been tacking on other issues. Today, Barr was accused of not challenging Mueller’s decision not to prosecute Trump. They also turned very negative on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, whom most on the left have vigorously defended for the past two years.
“I think there might be politics going on, I’m not sure. Like every other prosecutor, I don’t want to get out over my skis on this one,” mused McCarthy. “I have to decide is it Monday-Wednesday-Friday or is it Tuesday-Thursday because I have to decide. Is it a ‘We like Rod’ day or a ‘We want to run Rod out of Washington’ day.”
Listen to the full podcast to hear McCarthy explain why all the posturing by senators is largely irrelevant at this point and why the next few weeks will likely bring a whole lot more drama to this debate.