Watchdog report finds FBI not motivated by political bias in Trump probe | TheHill – The Hill

Posted: December 14, 2019 at 10:42 pm


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The Justice Department inspector general on Monday released a long-awaited report that found FBI agents were not motivated by political bias in opening investigations into associates of the Trump campaign in 2016.

The report, however, sharply criticizes the FBI over its handling of applications to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, providing fodder for Trump and his Republican allies while at the same time undercutting a key GOP talking point that agents driven by bias improperly targeted then-candidate Trump.

The findings released by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz set the stage for a partisan showdown on Capitol Hill, where he is slated to testify publicly Wednesday to answer questions from a Senate panel about the inquiry into the FBIs Russia probe.

We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the decisions to open the four individual investigations, the report states, referring to investigations into four people on Trump's campaign: George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosFive takeaways on Horowitz's testimony on Capitol Hill DOJ watchdog: Durham said 'preliminary' FBI Trump probe was justified Trump can't cry foul on FISA unless he's suddenly a civil libertarian MORE, Michael Flynn, Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortDOJ backs ex-Trump campaign aide Richard Gates's probation request Former FBI general counsel wants apology from Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - Democrats to release articles of impeachment today MORE and Page.

Horowitz further concluded that the FBI had an authorized purpose to launch an investigation to obtain information about, or to protect against, a national security threat or federal crime, even though the investigation also had the potential to impact constitutionally protected activity.

The report found that the FBI launched its investigation into the Trump campaign, dubbed Crossfire Hurricane, after it received information from a friendly foreign government on July 28, 2016, that Papadopoulos had suggested the campaign received an indication that Russia could assist in the election process by releasing damaging information on then-Democratic candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMore than 200,000 Wisconsin voters will be removed from the rolls Trump is threatening to boycott the debates here's how to make sure he shows up Trey Gowdy returns to Fox News as contributor MORE.

Horowitz did not find evidence that additional information was used as the basis to launch the investigation, but said the FBI and other intelligence agencies were already aware at the time of Russias efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.

But thenearly 500-page report was deeply critical of certain aspects of the FBIs handling of the investigation.

The inspector general outlined seven significant inaccuracies and omissions in its applicationto the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA court) to monitor Page, some of them related to the FBIs assertions or omissions regarding information they received from Christopher Steele, an ex-British intelligence agent who authored the notorious Trump-Russia dossier.

We found that members of the Crossfire Hurricane team failed to meet the basic obligation to ensure that the Carter Page FISA applications were scrupulously accurate, the report states.

Horowitz said the breakdown in the FISA process demonstrated a failure on the part of the managers and supervisors in the Crossfire Hurricane chain of command, including FBI senior officials.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a lengthy response included in the inspector generals report that the bureau accepted the investigations findings and would implement more than 40 corrective steps to address areas of concern outlined by Horowitz.

The bureau, which cooperated with the investigation, will modify its handling of FISA applications to enhance accuracy and completeness, Wray said, as well as reviewing its confidential human source program.

The FBI will also review and potentially discipline officials whose conduct was singled out in the report, Wray said.

Horowitzs report is the product of a nearly two-year inquiry centered on the FBIs actions in applying for and renewing a warrant to surveil Pageas part of the bureaus original investigation into Russian interference.

But it is far from the final word on the investigation into 2016 election interference and the Trump campaign. The response to the report quickly fell along partisan lines, and even some in theDepartment of Justice (DOJ) pushed back on one of its key findings.

Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrJudge rejects DOJ effort to delay House lawsuit against Barr, Ross Holder rips into William Barr: 'He is unfit to lead the Justice Department' Five takeaways on Horowitz's testimony on Capitol Hill MORE said in a statement that the report showed the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions. Barr also said that, in his view, the FBI had an insufficient basis to justify steps taken in the investigation into the Trump campaign in 2016, putting him at odds with Horowitz.

While most of the misconduct identified by the Inspector General was committed in 2016 and 2017 by a small group of now-former FBI officials, the malfeasance and misfeasance detailed in the Inspector Generals report reflects a clear abuse of the FISA process," Barr said.

The statement drew blowback from former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyThe Hill's 12:30 Report Presented by UANI Judiciary Democrats approve articles of impeachment setting up House vote next week Huckabee teases Hannity appearance, says he'll explain why Trump is eligible for third term Five takeaways on Horowitz's testimony on Capitol Hill MORE and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTurf war derails bipartisan push on surprise medical bills Senate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA CEO group pushes Trump, Congress on paid family, medical leave MORE (D-N.Y.), who accused Barr of acting as a mouthpiece for Trump.

U.S. Attorney John DurhamJohn DurhamFive takeaways on Horowitz's testimony on Capitol Hill DOJ watchdog: Durham said 'preliminary' FBI Trump probe was justified Live coverage: DOJ inspector general testifies on Capitol Hill MORE, who is conducting his own probe into the origins of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election at the direction of Barr, added that his own findings do not comport with all of Horowitzs conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened.

Trump weighed in during a roundtable Monday afternoon at the White House, calling the revelations a "disgrace" and an "embarrassment to our country" and claiming the report showed officials attempted an "overthrow of government."

This was an overthrow of government, this was an attempted overthrow and a lot of people were in on it and they got caught, they got caught red-handed, Trump said at the White House.

White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayMLB removing marijuana from list of banned substances Grocery store behind viral reusable bag at impeachment hearing offers 'free briefcase' promotion Watchdog report finds FBI not motivated by political bias in Trump probe MORE, who served as the Trump campaign manager for the final months before Election Day, questioned Monday why the FBI did not provide a defensive briefing on its investigation at the time.

The report addresses that criticism. Former FBI official Bill Priestap said the bureau considered briefing the Trump campaign before launching Crossfire Hurricane, but decided against it out of concern that it could tip off any individual who was in fact working with the Russians and impede the investigation, according to the inspector generals report.

The Horowitz report was released during a Judiciary Committee hearing where lawmakers debated evidence collected during the ongoing impeachment inquiry into Trumps dealings with Ukraine. Some Democrats sought to tie the inspector generals findings to the need to investigate the administration.

Reps. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerJudiciary members battle over whether GOP treated fairly in impeachment hearings Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay House passes bill that would give legal status to thousands of undocumented farmworkers MORE (D-N.Y.) and Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneySupreme Court takes up fight over Trump financial records Congressional investigation finds Coast Guard leadership fell short on handling bullying Republicans push back on expanding paid family leave beyond federal workers MORE (D-N.Y.), the leaders of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, respectively, said in a joint statement that the inspector generals findings validated the basis of former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay Trump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts MOREs report.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Trump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn Seven years after Sandy Hook, the politics of guns has changed MORE is a continuing threat to our elections and the sanctity of our democracy, the two lawmakers said.

Other Democrats declared that Horowitzs findings shredded any claims that the FBI had investigated Trump based on political bias.

It was never a witch hunt. It was the men and women of federal law enforcement doing their jobs, tweeted Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Watchdog report finds FBI not motivated by political bias in Trump probe Ex-Rep. Scott Taylor to seek old Virginia seat MORE (Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Trumps Republican allies were quick to harp on Horowitzs findings about the FBIs handling of the application to monitor Page, however, calling it a stunning abuse of power and portraying it as evidence of deep-rooted bias against the president.

"It is deeply disturbing. Some former FBI and DOJ officials are about to have some serious explaining to do," tweeted Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's 12:30 Report Presented by UANI Sparks fly as House Judiciary debates impeachment articles Democrats object to Meadows passing note to Jordan from dais Meadows says he's advocating for Trump to add Alan Dershowitz to impeachment defense team MORE (R-N.C.).

The report is also critical of the FBI over its handling of information from Steele, an ex-FBI informant who has been a flashpoint in Republican criticism of the FBI.

Steele was hired by research firm Fusion GPS to compile the dossier, which includes salacious and unverified allegations about Trump and his ties to Moscow andwas funded in part by Democrats. Republicans have hammered the FBI for not adequately disclosing Steeles link to Democrats in the application for the Page warrant.

The inspector general report states that [t]he fact that the FBI believed Steele had been retained to conduct political opposition research did not require the FBI, under either DOJ or FBI policy, to ignore his reporting, noting that the bureau often receives information from drug traffickers, felons and others who could have biases.

But the report says that when the FBI received informationthat raised significant questions about the reliability of Steeles data, the bureau did not reassess his reporting used in the FISA application nor did it advise relevant officials of the new information.

We also found that the FBI did not aggressively seek to obtain certain potentially important information from Steele. For example, the FBI did not press Steele for information about the actual funding source for his election reporting work, the report states.

Updated at 4:53 p.m.

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Watchdog report finds FBI not motivated by political bias in Trump probe | TheHill - The Hill

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December 14th, 2019 at 10:42 pm

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