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Trump and Barr Criticize F.B.I. Director Over Report on Russia Inquiry

WASHINGTON — President Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr took aim at the F.B.I. on Tuesday, reiterating attacks on former bureau officials and contradicting the agency’s director, Christopher A. Wray, a day after an independent watchdog concluded that agents were justified in opening an investigation into Russia’s possible ties with the Trump campaign.

In an early Twitter post, Mr. Trump snapped at Mr. Wray for not agreeing with his interpretation of the watchdog report’s findings.

“I don’t know what report current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was reading, but it sure wasn’t the one given to me,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken despite having some of the greatest men & women working there!”

Mr. Wray had said on Monday that he concurred with the Justice Department inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, who found that political bias did not influence investigative decisions, directly undercutting the president’s yearslong accusations.

Mr. Barr went a step further and called the findings about the origins of the inquiry “flimsy.” He also repeated a longtime refrain of Mr. Trump and his allies, saying the F.B.I. improperly used counterintelligence tools to spy on a presidential campaign.

In an interview with NBC News, Mr. Barr said there were “gross abuses” and “inexplicable behavior that is intolerable in the F.B.I.”

In July 2016, the F.B.I. opened the investigation after it learned a Trump campaign aide had bragged that he was told that Russia had information that could damage Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. At the same time, stolen Democratic emails were being released. This prompted the F.B.I. to open the inquiry, the inspector general found, not the salacious dossier of opposition research on Mr. Trump by a former British intelligence official.

Mr. Horowitz said the bureau was right to open the inquiry, but he recommended additional levels of supervision in the future.

While there was little expectation that the inspector general’s conclusions would settle the partisan debate over the legitimacy of the Russia inquiry, the president’s suggestion that he lacked confidence in Mr. Wray’s ability to “fix” the bureau raised the possibility that he was considering replacing Mr. Wray, which would give him his third F.B.I. director since he took office.

The director position has a 10-year term limit devised specifically to prevent political interference.

Mr. Trump appointed Mr. Wray after he fired the previous director, James B. Comey, in 2017. By the time Mr. Wray became director, a special counsel had been appointed to take over the Russia investigation, and Mr. Trump was regularly lashing out at the F.B.I. During his first two years in office, Mr. Trump attacked the bureau, the Justice Department and intelligence agencies 277 times.

Mr. Trump and some of his allies saw the dense report as proof that their conspiracy theories were in fact true. The president has claimed for years that the Russia investigation was a witch hunt pursued by “deep state” bureaucrats who did not support him politically. And he has been particularly critical of the F.B.I., calling former bureau leaders “losers.”

“I think our nation was turned on its head for three years based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by a completely irresponsible press,” Mr. Barr said on Tuesday.

Mr. Wray has sought to avoid confrontation with Mr. Trump as he navigates the bureau through one of its most turbulent eras. He and his aides had hoped that with the release of the inspector general report, the F.B.I. could finally move past the toxic politics of the last three years.

Standing in disagreement with the president and the attorney general, Mr. Wray will now have to decide how to lead the agency while his bosses promulgate the inaccurate narrative that the F.B.I. plotted to sabotage Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016.

Mr. Barr is overseeing a separate Justice Department criminal investigation into the basis of the Russia inquiry, with broad access from Mr. Trump to a range of sensitive materials, some of which were not part of Mr. Horowitz’s review.

A federal prosecutor, John H. Durham, is leading that investigation and supported the attorney general’s assessment of the report.

“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.

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