Attorney General William Barr said in an interview aired Friday that special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigators “ignored” evidence of possible Russian disinformation in the Steele dossier.
“I think that’s one of the most troubling aspects of this whole thing,” Barr told CBS News when asked about the possibility that the Kremlin fed disinformation to Christopher Steele, a former British spy who investigated the Trump campaign.
Barr said he was “very concerned” at the possibility that the dossier and Steele “were used as a vector for the Russians to inject disinformation into the political campaign.”
The FBI relied heavily on information from Steele to obtain warrants to wiretap Trump campaign aide Carter Page. Multiple news outlets and Democrats in Congress also touted Steele’s information as evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government.
Despite Trump critics’ early confidence in the dossier, many of its allegations have come under scrutiny or been outright debunked over the past year or so. Mueller said in a report of his investigation released on April 18, 2019 that his investigators found no evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.
A Justice Department inspector general’s report on the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation did even more damage to Steele’s reputation, while raising questions about Mueller’s investigation.
It said that the FBI received evidence in early 2017 that Russian intelligence operatives may have fed disinformation to Steele, a former MI6 officer who investigated Donald Trump on behalf of Democrats.
The IG report also said that the U.S. intelligence community provided a report to the FBI in June 2017 that said two Russian intelligence officers were aware as early as July 2016 that Steele was investigating the Trump campaign.
Barr said in his CBS interview that Mueller should have investigated the dossier further, especially since the point of the special counsel’s investigation was to uncover Russia’s interference in the U.S. political system.
“I think that is something that Robert Mueller was responsible for looking at under his charter, which is the potential of Russian influence,” Barr told CBS News.
“But I think it was ignored and there was mounting indications that this could very well have been happening and no one really stopped to look at it.”
Mueller was appointed special counsel on May 17, 2017 to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election. The probe largely focused on allegations that members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government to influence the election.