Michael Horowitz, inspector general for the Justice Department, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. | Win McNamee/Getty Images
The Justice Department’s top watchdog on Wednesday reaffirmed that the FBI’s investigation into Russian influence on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign was adequately justified, despite Attorney General William Barr’s comments expressing doubts about that conclusion.
Horowitz also seemed to criticize a senior prosecutor Barr has tasked to examine some of the same events, U.S. Attorney John Durham, suggesting that it was improper for Durham to issue a highly unusual statement Monday disagreeing about the basis for the Russia probe. The watchdog said he knew of Durham’s view but was taken aback that he would announce it publicly while his investigation is still underway.
“Ongoing investigations are–need to be protected from outside influence,” the inspector general added moments later in response to a question about the propriety of such comments. “Until you’re done with the investigation, you shouldn’t be reaching your conclusions until you reach that point. Giving preliminary, ideas, advice, guidance, statements, can be misleading, and you should not reach final conclusions until you get to the end of the investigation.”
While Durham’s statement drew strong criticism from former Justice officials and prosecutors, Barr defended it Tuesday. “I think it was definitely appropriate,” the attorney general told NBC. “I think it was necessary to avoid public confusion.”