The Justice Department’s internal watchdog found that the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane (CH) team failed to inform the DOJ of “significant information” which “was inconsistent with, or undercut” assertions made in their Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications and knowingly withheld exculpatory information. Nonetheless, the IG concluded that there was legal justification for the opening of the CH counterintelligence investigation in July 2016 and full counterintelligence investigations into Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, General Michael Flynn and Carter Page in Aug 2016.
The long-awaited IG report, released Monday by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, identified 17 separate inaccuracies throughout three surveillance applications to justify the surveillance of former Trump Campaign adviser Carter Page.
“We also found the quantity of omissions and inaccuracies in the applications and the obvious errors in the Woods Procedures deeply concerning,” the report states. “Although we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence of intentional misconduct on the part of the case agents who assisted 01 in preparing the applications, or the agents and supervisors who performed the Woods Procedures, we also did not receive satisfactory explanations for the errors or missing information.”
“That so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate, hand-picked teams on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations that was briefed to the highest levels within the FBI, and that FBI officials expected would eventually be subjected to close scrutiny, raised significant questions regarding the FBI chain of command’s management and supervision of the FISA process,” the report states.
Crossfire Hurricane team failed to inform Department officials of significant information that was available to the team at the time that the FISA applications were drafted and filed. Much of that information was inconsistent with, or undercut, the assertions contained in the FISA applications that were used to support probable cause and, in some instances, resulted in inaccurate information being included in the applications.
The report also confirmed that former CIA Director John Brennan lied to Congress about whether the discredited Steele dossier was used in the Obama administration’s 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA).
Brennan categorically denied that the CIA relied on the Steele dossier for the ICA report in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in May of 2017.
But according to the IG report, “there was significant discussion by top intelligence officials as to whether the unverified Steele dossier should be included in the main body of the ICA report, summarized in an appendix, or even included at all.”
Earlier this year, rumors swirled Brennan was actually the one who insisted that the anti-Trump dossier be included in the ICA.
Horowitz, nevertheless, concluded that there was no “documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the FBI’s decision to conduct these operations.”
The report states upfront that the IG’s “role in this review was not to second-guess discretionary judgments by Department personnel about whether to open an investigation, or specific judgment calls made during the course of an investigation, where those decisions complied with or were authorized by Department rules, policies, or procedures.”
Two witnesses, Fusion GPS founder and Glenn Simpson and former State Dept. official Jonathan Winer declined the IG’s requests for voluntary interviews, and the IG was “unable to compel their testimony,” the report states.
Although the IG found ample evidence of wrongdoing, only one Justice Department official was referred for possible criminal investigation. The official, Kevin Clinesmith, is accused of forging an email to indicate that the FBI wasn’t aware that Carter Page had had a prior relationship with another U.S. government agency as an informant.
As the report was made public, both Attorney General William Barr and U.S. Attorney John Durham disputed the IG’s finding that there was legal justification for the fatally flawed investigation in statements arguing that Crossfire Hurricane was not justified.
“The Inspector General’s report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken,” said Barr in a scathing statement.
“Based on the evidence collected to date, & while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the IG that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened,” Durham stated.
“I have the utmost respect for the mission of the Office of Inspector General and the comprehensive work that went into the report prepared by Mr. Horowitz and his staff,” Durham added. “However, our investigation is not limited to developing information from within component parts of the Justice Department. Our investigation has included developing information from other persons and entities, both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray welcomed the report as “constructive criticism that will make us stronger as an organization.”
“We are vested with significant authorities and it is our obligation as public servants to ensure these authorities are exercised with objectivity and integrity,” Wray said. “Anything less falls short of the FBI’s duty to the American people.”
Naturally, the media is playing up the IG’s finding that the investigation was justified:
The spin begins.
The public is about to see what these "performance failures" were. https://t.co/o910TAKWt3
— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) December 9, 2019
Breaking News: A Justice Department watchdog report criticized how the FBI handled the early stages of the Russia investigation. But it found no evidence to support President Trump's claim of a politicized conspiracy against him. https://t.co/b9aAsZd3QL
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 9, 2019
The Justice Department's inspector general found that the FBI properly opened its investigation into Russian election interference but said there were major errors in how the agency conducted the probe https://t.co/XRSzBrZRZT
— CNN (@CNN) December 9, 2019
Breaking: Inspector general report says FBI had "authorized purpose" to investigate Trump campaign's Russia ties but finds some wrongdoing https://t.co/c7fBRzbhpI
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) December 9, 2019
Congressional Democrats meanwhile claimed that the report debunks the president’s “conspiracy theories” about how the Russia investigation began.
“Those discredited conspiracy theories were attempts to deflect from the President’s serious and ongoing misconduct, first urging Russia and now extorting Ukraine into interfering with our elections to benefit him personally and politically,” said New York Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney.
James Comey, who narrowly escaped criminal prosecution for unauthorized leaking earlier this fall, characterized the FBI’s malfeasance as “just good people trying to protect America.”
So it was all lies. No treason. No spying on the campaign. No tapping Trumps wires. It was just good people trying to protect America. https://t.co/9nurCaIBq2
— James Comey (@Comey) December 9, 2019
The Federalist’s Sean Davis summed up Comey’s stunning mendacity on Twitter.
“Firing this dishonest, sanctimonious clown was the best thing Trump has done as president. The worst was not firing him on Inauguration Day,” Davis tweeted. The journalist also pointed out that Comey was personally complicit in the FBI’s FISA abuse.
Note that James Comey personally signed off on warrants falsely claiming Page had never refuted allegations that he was a Russian agent.
In fact, Page formally refuted the charges in a detailed letter TO JAMES COMEY HIMSELF ahead of the first spy warrant in October of 2016.
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) December 9, 2019
Davis also pointed out on Twitter that the FBI was caught in a lie about providing a “defensive briefing” to Trump and his campaign in 2016,”
In 2017, the FBI told @ChuckGrassley in a letter that it provided a "defensive briefing" to Trump and his campaign in 2016.
The IG report today shows that claim was a lie. The FBI attended the briefing to spy on the Trump team, not warn it of Russian attempts to infiltrate it. pic.twitter.com/2wpP2RrpYj
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) December 9, 2019
“What America learned today is that a glorified internet rumor padded with bad faith “opposition research” can lead to most powerful law enforcement agency in the world opening up a relentless investigation that ignores all contrary evidence in its quest to crush innocent people,” said conservative radio host Buck Sexton.
What America learned today is that a glorified internet rumor padded with bad faith “opposition research” can lead to most powerful law enforcement agency in the world opening up a relentless investigation that ignores all contrary evidence in its quest to crush innocent people
— Buck Sexton (@BuckSexton) December 9, 2019
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) noted on Twitter that the IG report backs up the then-Republican majority’s February 2018 findings on FISA abuse, and called on the FISA court “to take action.”
Looks like DOJ IG Report is clear that Republican FISA abuse memo from February 2018 was accurate and actually understated the FISA abuse the dirty cops engaged in. Time for FISA court to take action!
— Devin Nunes (@DevinNunes) December 9, 2019
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) held a press conference on the report’s findings Monday afternoon, saying even if the FBI investigations started out okay, “they sure as hell didn’t end okay,” arguing that at some point, the probe went “off the rails” and became “a criminal enterprise.”