OPINION: William Barr is distracting us, just as Trump wanted him to

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OPINION: William Barr is distracting us, just as Trump wanted him to

Tommy Mozier, Opinion Editor

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The first round of the NBA playoffs has begun, but Attorney General William Barr had the best head fake you will see when he appeared in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee on April 10.

“I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal. It’s a big deal,” Barr said at the senate meeting, referring to unsubstantiated claims that the FBI illegally surveilled the Trump campaign in 2016.

“I’m not suggesting that those rules were violated, but I think it’s important to look at that,” Barr said to the committee.

When a senator asked Barr if he believed spying occurred, he answered: “I think spying did occur, yes. I think spying did occur.”

When pressed, Barr appeared to contradict his original statement: “I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred. I am saying I am concerned about it, and I am looking into it. That is all.”

Yes, the FBI surveilled the Trump campaign during the 2016 election cycle. The Washington Post reported in July 2016 that the FBI began surveillance on a Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos. They received a tip from a foreign diplomat that Papadopoulos could have information about Russia’s efforts to hack the Hillary Clinton campaign to benefit Trump.

The FBI also intercepted communications from another Trump campaign aide, Carter Page, under probable cause that Page was acting as a foreign agent for the Russian government. A Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court warranted both investigations. Former FBI director James Comey, whom Trump fired over “this whole Russia thing,” oversaw the operations.

“I really don’t know what he’s talking about when he talks about spying on the campaign,” Comey said at a conference on April 11 after Barr’s appearance in front of Congress. “It’s concerning because the FBI and the Department of Justice conduct court-ordered electronic surveillance. I have never thought of that as spying. . . If the attorney general has come to the belief that that should be called spying, wow.”

Barr’s use of the term “spying” is massively important. By portraying a legitimate, warranted investigation into possible illegal activity between a presidential campaign and a foreign country as something sneaky and nefarious, he, yet again, is attempting to protect the president.

First, Barr is attempting to throw into question the legitimacy of the Mueller report, which the attorney general still has not released as of April 16. If the full, 400-page report does not clear the president, as Trump has claimed, using the term “spying” and suggesting an investigation of the investigators gives Trump loyalists a chance to decry the entire Russia investigation as illegitimate, which they already do.

The conservative news media jumped on “spying did occur.” Fox News ran that portion of Barr’s quote in huge letters on every news program. The second part of the quote, that Barr is not suggesting the surveillance was illegal, merely posing the question, fell by the wayside. “Spying” grabbed viewers’ attention. It acted as reassurance for Trump and his supporters as the Mueller report looms and gave further “evidence” of a deep state.

Finally, Barr creates a new investigation, a new scandal, to distract from the one whose findings he may be subpoenaed for, as members of the Mueller team have already expressed displeasure about Barr’s four-page summary of the report, claiming he misrepresented or left out important findings.

A calculated head fake to distract the public from the real scandal. Barr once again shows where his loyalties lie. This is the reason Trump appointed him.