WASHINGTON — Attorney General William P. Barr sharply criticized on Monday the F.B.I.’s decision to open the Russia investigation, undercutting a major finding in a long-awaited watchdog report and at the same time showing his willingness to act as President Trump’s vocal defender.
The report, by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, found that the F.B.I. had adequate reason in 2016 to open an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia. Mr. Horowitz did not support Mr. Trump’s accusations that F.B.I. officials conspired to sabotage his campaign, but Mr. Barr highlighted other parts of the report that underscored his and the president’s shared view that investigators were nonetheless overly invasive in scrutinizing people associated with a presidential campaign.
“The inspector general’s report now makes clear that the F.B.I. launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken,” Mr. Barr said in a statement.
John H. Durham, a federal prosecutor whom Mr. Barr appointed to run a separate criminal investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation, backed Mr. Barr’s findings in his own highly unusual statement. “Last month, we advised the inspector general that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the F.B.I. case was opened,” Mr. Durham said.