Liberal media have ramped up attacks on Mr. Barr for his probe, which is looking at Democrats — that is, how the Barack Obama administration started an investigation in 2016 into the opposing campaign of Republican Donald Trump.
Some news articles have called it an investigation into the 22-month Robert Mueller inquiry that essentially cleared Mr. Trump and his allies of colluding with Russia in the presidential election.
But Mr. Barr’s investigators aren’t focusing on what Mr. Mueller did. They are zeroing in on what happened before Mr. Mueller’s May 2017 appointment as special counsel.
Mr. Barr appointed John Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, to look at something Mr. Mueller ignored: How extensive was FBI spying on the Trump campaign, was it justified and what help did Hillary Clinton’s people obtain from foreign governments?
One major question from Republicans is: Did the FBI assign an informant to plant information with a Trump adviser that, when repeated as gossip, triggered the long Russia probe?
Explaining to CBS News in May why he opened the investigation, Mr. Barr said: “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.”
Mr. Barr has further rankled Democrats by using the word “spy” to describe what the FBI did to the Trump campaign.
Papadopoulos today believes Mr. Downer was an informant, which the ambassador denies.
• Rome.Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham visited the U.S. Embassy last month to investigate Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud, a Daily Beast correspondent reported.
Mr. Mifsud, like Mr. Downer, played a crucial role in kick-starting the FBI probe. Papadopoulos met Mr. Mifsud where he taught — Link Campus University in Rome.
Rome is also where the FBI sent a team of agents in the fall of 2016 to meet with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who created the Democratic Party-financed, anti-Trump dossier that played a major role inside the FBI.
• London, a nexus of Trump-Russia intrigue. Mr. Mifsud told Papadopoulos in April 2016 that he had returned from Russia where he learned Moscow owned “thousands” of Clinton emails. It was this gossip, relayed to Mr. Downer in May 2016, that reached the FBI after WikiLeaks dumped its first batch of stolen Democratic Party emails.
The Mueller report listed only Mr. Mifsud’s Russia ties. It made no reference to his list of Western contacts such as Link Campus University, where NATO sends personnel for training; NATO headquarters in Brussels; the U.K. Foreign Office; and the State Department.
Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican, wrote in May to several government agencies seeking a fuller picture of Mr. Mifsud.
If he was a Russia agent, as the Mueller report contends, “then an incredibly wide range of Western institutions and individuals may have been compromised by him, including our own State Department,” Mr. Nunes wrote.
Mr. Mifsud has not been seen in public for months.
London is also where Papadopoulos interacted with another professor, American Stefan Halper. Mr. Halper was a paid FBI informant assigned to ingratiate himself with Papadopoulos and other Trump associates. Mr. Halper also employed an attractive female assistant named Azra Turk to flirt, as Papadopoulos put it, with him. Ms. Turk was also a U.S. informant.
London is where Mr. Steele plied his spy trade at his firm, Orbis Business Intelligence. There, he wrote the infamous anti-Trump dossier based on a flow of information from Kremlin intelligence figures. Mr. Steele funneled the information himself and through middlemen to the FBI, the Justice Department, the White House, the State Department and the liberal news media.
The FBI was so captivated by his work that it used the dossier as evidence to obtain at least one yearlong wiretap on a Trump campaign adviser. The FBI also tried to hire Mr. Steele to investigate the Trump presidency.
A Washington Times analysis showed that not one of Mr. Steele’s 13 conspiracy charges — such as Mr. Trump, as a Russian spy, financed Moscow computer hacking — was substantiated by Mr. Mueller or any congressional probe. Republicans call the dossier a hoax and evidence of Russia’s election interference, compliments of Democrats.
London is also where Mr. Steele delivered his first briefing to the FBI in early July 2016. Still not known is how that briefing influenced agent Peter Strzok, an acknowledged Trump antagonist, in opening the Russia investigation on July 31.
•Ukraine. Government officials cooperated with the Democrats in 2016 to try to provide dirt on Mr. Trump and his campaign manager, Paul Manafort. A “black ledger” appeared in the U.S. press that summer. It supposedly showed illegal cash payments from the Russia-friendly Ukrainian Party of Regions to Manafort, who was subsequently fired as campaign manager.
Manafort denied receiving cash payments and believes the document is bogus. The signatures on it don’t match his. Mr. Mueller brought no charges related to the black ledger.
In recent weeks, Papadopoulos has posted photos on Twitter to spread his belief that Mr. Downer, Mr. Halper and Mr. Mifsud were all Western spies sent to entrap him. He posted a photograph of Mr. Mifsud — whom the Mueller report described as a Russian asset and nothing more — attending a conference with former CIA and British intelligence (MI6) staff.
He also posted a photo of Mr. Downer and Mr. Halper sharing a dais in London a week before he shared a drink with the Australian ambassador.
“For anyone who thinks that the president is going to let Australia and the U.K. off the hook for trying to frame him and his team to try and overthrow his presidency for their own interests, I have a bridge to sell you in the Sahara,” Papadopoulos tweeted. “Italy was the first to flip and are ok now.”
J.D. Gordon, a former Pentagon spokesman and Trump campaign national security adviser, is rooting for Mr. Barr.
“The Trump-Russia collusion narrative was a clear attempt to subvert democracy by destroying a presidency and as many people in the president’s orbit as possible,” Mr. Gordon told The Washington Times. “Since the shady origins crisscross the globe from the U.K. to Italy to Ukraine to Australia and beyond, it’s only logical for Barr and Durham to pursue all credible leads and hold those accountable for any crimes they may have committed. Unless those responsible for the abuse of power that created Trump-Russia mass hysteria are punished, that sort of nefarious behavior will become the new normal in our media and politics.”
The Justice Department provided a statement from chief spokeswoman Kerri Kupec: “As the Department of Justice has previously announced, a team led by U.S. Attorney John Durham is investigating the origins of the U.S. counterintelligence probe of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign. Mr. Durham is gathering information from numerous sources, including a number of foreign countries. At Attorney General Barr’s request, the president has contacted other countries to ask them to introduce the attorney general and Mr. Durham to appropriate officials.”