Former FBI General Counsel James Baker is telling people that he expects the Justice Department inspector general to find that the bureau made “mistakes” in its handling of the Trump-Russia investigation.
Baker was General Counsel to former FBI Director James Comey during both the Trump-Russia collusion investigation and Hillary Clinton email investigation, and served as the liaison with the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Baker initially believed Clinton deserved to face criminal charges, but was talked out of it “pretty late in the process,” according to testimony he gave to House investigators last year.
For the past year, Inspector General Michael Horowitz has been examining the sources and methods used by the FBI and DOJ to spy on members of the Trump campaign in 2016, especially the FBI’s reliance on the unverified Steele dossier in the FISA warrant application process. His report is expected in late May or early June.
During an interview with Lawfare’s Benjamin Wittes at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., last week, Baker admitted that he’s “nervous” about Horowitz’s investigation into the FBI’s conduct during the Trump-Russia probe because “they will dig and find stuff.”
Baker, who played a leading role in overseeing the FISA warrant applications, told Wittes that he is “always nervous about the IG,” adding “they’re coming in after the fact to look at what we did.” At the time, he claimed, the FBI was “trying to do it in real time and having the pressure to deal with these threats as they were coming.”
Baker contended that he was “confident in the judgments that I made at the time based on the information that I had available to me.” But he left open the possibility that others may have engaged in wrongdoing, saying, “I’m sure they will find things that I didn’t know at the time and maybe that others didn’t know at the time.”
“There were facts that existed in the Bureau that were known by certain people that weren’t known by others including me, that’s certainly possible and that happens frequently,” Baker said. “And so, I’m assuming that they will dig and find stuff like that. So, we’ll try to sort it out and see what mistakes were made.”
“The inspector general is looking at everything we did,” Baker said on CNN, Monday. “If the IG usually finds mistakes that we made, so I expect him to find mistakes this time.”
Baker was appointed FBI general counsel in January 2014 and reassigned by FBI Director Christopher Wray in December 2017. Last year, it was reported that Baker was resigning, and since has written for Lawfare and joined the R Street Institute.
Yesterday the New York Times reported that Attorney General William Barr appointed John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to conduct an inquiry into the FBI and DOJ’s alleged election year misconduct, and whether Democrats improperly colluded with foreign actors.
Baker has apparently been the subject of a leak investigation for many months.
In the letter, the two lawmakers cite the transcript of a congressional interview with Baker and his lawyer in October. “You may or may not know, [Baker has] been the subject of a leak investigation … a criminal leak investigation that’s still active at the Justice Department,” lawyer Daniel Levin told lawmakers, according to the transcript cited by Jordan and Meadows.
Monday night, former Deputy Assistant US Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel John Yoo told Laura Ingraham that Democrats should be “quite worried.”
Said Yoo: “If I were the Democrats I would be quite worried. And the reason why is by appointing a US attorney Attorney General Barr is essentially signaling that he thinks it’s possible that criminal violations occurred in the start of the whole investigation into any kind of Trump-Russia collusion.”
As Judge Starr said there is already an inspector general investigation that’s been going on that’s going to come to a conclusion. That’s what you would do if you were just interested in reforming the way the department does things, the way decisions were made. But you wouldn’t go with a US attorney like Durham or someone of his stature unless the Attorney General thinks actually something criminal might have happened. That someone might have violated the law, that there might have been malfeasance, that people at the FBI and Justice Department were acting out of partisan motives, not just out of incompetence or stupidity or they were duped by the Russians, or Steele, or by the English or by the Clinton Campaign. So if you were a Democrat, you’d be really worried to see the appointment of a career prosecutor.
Former Deputy AG John Yoo: “If I Were The Democrats, I Would Be Quite Worried Right Now. AG Barr Would Not Have Gone With U.S. Attorney John Durham To Investigate The Russia Probe Unless He Knew For a Fact That There Had Been Some Major Criminal Activity.”pic.twitter.com/G0I6v3E90q
— Flightcrew 🇺🇸 (@flightcrew) May 14, 2019