The much anticipated IG report has been released and includes a sharp critique of the FBI’s handling of the surveillance process.
Per Politico, a highly anticipated Justice Department review of the origins of the federal investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia found no direct evidence of political bias in the launching of the probe, but identified an embarrassing slew of inaccuracies and omissions by the FBI that marred requests for court-ordered surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser.
“We are deeply concerned that so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate, hand-picked investigative teams; on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations; after the matter had been briefed to the highest levels within the FBI; even though the information sought through the use of FISA authority related so closely to an ongoing presidential campaign; and even though those involved with the investigation knew that their actions were likely to be subjected to close scrutiny,” Horowitz wrote.
“We believe this circumstance reflects a failure not just but those who prepared the FISA applications, but also by the managers and supervisors in the Crossfire Hurricane chain of command, including FBI senior officials who were briefed as the investigation progressed,” the inspector general added, referring to the bureau’s internal codename for the Russia investigation.
Attorney General Bill Barr endorsed Horowitz’s critique of the FBI’s handling of the surveillance process, but rejected the inspector general’s conclusion that the FBI had an adequate “predicate” for the decision to launch the investigation into the Trump campaign in July 2016.
“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,” Barr said in a statement. “It is also clear that, from its inception, the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory. Nevertheless, the investigation and surveillance was pushed forward for the duration of the campaign and deep into President Trump’s administration.”
Barr blasted the FBI’s actions in 2016 as “a clear abuse of the FISA process.”
From the IG Report
Our review found that FBI personnel fell far short of the requirement in FBI policy that they ensure that all factual statements in a FISA application are “scrupulously accurate.”
We identified multiple instances in which factual assertions relied upon in the first FISA application were inaccurate, incomplete, or unsupported by appropriate documentation, based upon information the FBI had in its possession at the time the application was filed.
We found that the problems we identified were primarily caused by the Crossfire Hurricane team failing to share all relevant information with OI and, consequently, the information was not considered by the Department decision makers who ultimately decided to support the applications.
As more fully described in Chapter Five, based upon the information known to the FBI in October 2016, the first application contained the following seven significant inaccuracies and omissions:
1. Omitted information the FBI had obtained from another U.S. government agency detailing its prior relationship wit h Page, including that Page had been approved as an “operational contact” for the other agency from 2008 to 2013, and that Page had provided information to the other agency concerning his prior contacts with certain Russian intelligence officers, one of which overlapped with facts asserted in the FISA application;
2. Included a source characterization statement asserting that Steele’s prior reporting had been “corroborated and used in criminal proceedings,”
which overstated the significance of Steele’s past reporting and was not approved by Steele’s handling agent, as req uired by the Woods Procedures;
3. Omitted information relevant to the reliability of Person 1, a key Steele sub-source (who was attributed with providing the information in Report 95 and some of the information in Reports 80 and 102 relied upon in the application), namely that (1) Steele himself told members of the Crossfire Hurricane team that Person 1 was a “boaster” and an “egoist” and “ma en a e in some embellishment” and (2)
4. Asserted that the FBI had assessed that Steele did not directly provide to the press information in the September 23 Yahoo News article based on the premise that Steele had told the FBI that he only shared his election-related research with the FBI and Fusion GPS, his client; this premise was incorrect and contradicted by documentation in the Woods File- Steele had told the FBI that he also gave his information to the State Department;
5. Omitted Papadopoulos’s consensually monitored statements to an FBI CHS in September 2016 denying that anyone associated with the Trump campaign was collaborating with Russia or with outside groups like Wikileaks in the release of emails;
6. Omitted Page’s consensually monitored statements to an FBI CHS in August 2016 that Page had “literally never met” or “said one word to” Paul Manafort and that Manafort had not responded to any of Page’s emails; if true, those statements were in tension with claims in Report 95 that Page was participating in a conspiracy with Russia by acting as an intermediary for Manafort on behalf of the Trump campaign; and
7. Included Page’s consensually monitored statements to an FBI CHS in October 2016 that the FBI believed supported its theory that Page was an agent of Russia but omitted other statements Page made that were inconsistent with its theory, including denying having met with Sechin and Divyekin, or even knowing who Divyekin was; if true, those statements contradicted t he claims in Report 94 that Page
Further, we were concerned by the FBI’s inaccurate assertion in the application that Steele’s prior reporting had been “corroborated and used in criminal proceedings,” which we were told was primarily a reference to Steele’s role in the FIFA corruption investigation.
We found that the team had speculated that Steele’s prior reporting had been corroborated and used in criminal proceedings without clearing the representation with Steele’s handling agent, as required by the Woods Procedures. According to the handling agent, he would not have approved the representation in the application because only “some” of Steele’s prior reporting had been corroborated-most of it had not and because Steele’s information was never used in a criminal proceeding.
We concluded that these failures created the inaccurate impression in the applications that at least some of Steele’s past reporting had been deemed sufficiently reliable by prosecutors to use in court, and that more of his information had been corroborated than was actually the case.
Read more here.