Barr: "Republics Have Fallen Because Of Praetorian Guard Mentality"

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In an interview with CBS News legal correspondent Jan Crawford, Attorney General Bill Barr said that he is as concerned about domestic intelligence and law enforcement agencies becoming politicized as he is about foreign election meddling. Interference in elections by law enforcement officials is "just as dangerous to the continuation of self-government and our republican system" and needs to be fully investigated, he said.

"Why are we worried about foreign influence in the campaign?" he asked. "We should be, because the heart of our system is the peaceful transfer of power through elections and what gives the government legitimacy is that process. And if foreign elements can come in and affect it, that's bad for the republic. But by the same token, it's just as dangerous to the continuation of self-government and our republican system that we do not allow government power, law enforcement or intelligence power, to play a role in politics, to intrude into politics, and affect elections."





"I mean, republics have fallen because of a Praetorian Guard mentality where government officials get very arrogant," he said, referring to the personal guards of the Roman Emperor, who as the empire gradually decayed, began to kill emperors who got a little too crazy or too ambitious, and replace them with whoever could pay the most. "They identify the national interest with their own political preferences and they feel that anyone who has a different opinion, you know, is somehow an enemy of the state."

Barr said accusations that some in the FBI had political motivations for investigating the 2016 Trump campaign "has to be carefully looked at."

"The use of foreign intelligence capabilities and counterintelligence capabilities against an American political campaign to me is unprecedented and it's a serious red line that's been crossed."

"Did that happen?" CBS's Jan Crawford asked.

"There were counterintelligence activities undertaken against the Trump campaign," Barr said. "I'm not saying there was not a basis for it, that it was legitimate, but I want to see what that basis was and make sure it was legitimate."

JAN CRAWFORD, CBS NEWS: I want to talk to you about the investigation. Um, because your, that's suggesting that was obviously inadequate, but when you talked to Director Wray about appointing this high-level group and efforts to ensure that this doesn't happen again in 2020, has he expressed any concern to you that the kind of review that you are now going to undertake, or this investigation of the investigation, that that could hamper these efforts in 2020?

ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR: We've discussed how important it is that that not be allowed to happen and we are both very cognizant of that and--

JAN CRAWFORD: You have discussed that with him?

WILLIAM BARR: Oh yes, and I think he is being very supportive and we're working together on, you know, trying to reconstruct what happened. People have to understand, you know, one of the things here is that these efforts in 2016, these counter-intelligence activities that were directed at the Trump Campaign, were not done in the normal course and not through the normal procedures as a far as I can tell. And a lot of the people who were involved are no longer there.

JAN CRAWFORD: So when we are talking about the kind of the-- well you have used the word spy. You have testified that you believe spying occurred.

WILLIAM BARR: Yes.

JAN CRAWFORD: Into the Trump campaign.

WILLIAM BARR: Yes.

JAN CRAWFORD: You've gotten some criticism for using that word.

WILLIAM BARR: Yeah, I mean, I guess it's become a dirty word somehow. It hasn't ever been for me. I think there is nothing wrong with spying, the question is always whether it is authorized by law and properly predicated and if it is, then it's an important tool the United States has to protect the country.

JAN CRAWFORD: On using the word, I mean, do you understand, and I know that some former intelligence chiefs have said that the president has made that word somewhat pejorative, that there is spying, this is a witch hunt, this is a hoax, and so your use of that word makes it seem that you are being a loyalist.

WILLIAM BARR: You know, it's part of the craziness of the modern day that if a president uses a word, then all of a sudden it becomes off bounds. It's a perfectly good English word, I will continue to use it.

JAN CRAWFORD: You're saying that spying occurred. There's not anything necessarily wrong with that.

WILLIAM BARR: Right.

JAN CRAWFORD: As long as there's a reason for it.

WILLIAM BARR: Whether it's adequately predicated. And look, I think if we -- why are we worried about foreign influence in the campaign? We should be because the heart of our system is the peaceful transfer of power through elections and what gives the government legitimacy is that process. And if foreign elements can come in and affect it, that's bad for the republic. But by the same token, it's just as, it's just as dangerous to the continuation of self-government and our republican system, republic that we not allow government power, law enforcement or intelligence power, to play a role in politics, to intrude into politics, and affect elections.

JAN CRAWFORD: So it's just as dangerous- So when we talk about foreign interference versus say a government abuse of power, which is more troubling?

WILLIAM BARR: Well they're both, they're both troubling.

JAN CRAWFORD: Equally?

WILLIAM BARR: In my mind, they are, sure. I mean, republics have fallen because of Praetorian Guard mentality where government officials get very arrogant, they identify the national interest with their own political preferences and they feel that anyone who has a different opinion, you know, is somehow an enemy of the state. And you know, there is that tendency that they know better and that, you know, they're there to protect as guardians of the people. That can easily translate into essentially supervening the will of the majority and getting your own way as a government official.

JAN CRAWFORD: And you are concerned that that may have happened in 2016?

WILLIAM BARR: Well, I just think it has to be carefully looked at because the use of foreign intelligence capabilities and counterintelligence capabilities against an American political campaign to me is unprecedented and it's a serious red line that's been crossed.

JAN CRAWFORD: Did that happen?

WILLIAM BARR: There were counterintelligence activities undertaken against the Trump campaign. And I'm not saying there was not a basis for it, that it was legitimate, but I want to see what that basis was and make sure it was legitimate.

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