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IG report notes serious problems in FISA warrant process — but no evidence of 'political bias' — in origins of FBI Trump-Russia probe

Another investigator has already disagreed with his conclusion.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

After months of anticipation, the Department of Justice Inspector General's office released its report on its investigation into the origin of the FBI's investigation of the Trump campaign in 2016.

In short, the 476-page document report says that Horowitz's team did not find evidence of political bias in the decision to open investigations into the Trump campaign, but did find some serious problems with how FBI personnel went about obtaining warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, also known as FISA, in the process of conducting the investigation.

Here are some of the report's findings:

  • It says that the decision to open the FBI investigation into possible coordination between Russian officials and members of the Trump campaign — codenamed "Crossfire Hurricane" — was ultimately made by former FBI counterintelligence official Bill Priestap and that investigators "did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced his decision."
  • Investigators also did not find "documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the decisions" to open the four subsequent individual investigations into former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, former national security adviser Mike Flynn or former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort back in 2016.
  • The investigation did, however, find that employees of the FBI "fell far short" of a bureau policy that requires they "ensure that all factual statements in a FISA application are 'scrupulously accurate.'" In fact, inspectors found "numerous serious factual errors and omissions in the applications."
  • The report also notes "17 significant errors" in the Carter Page FISA applications and "many additional errors" in the procedures that guide the FISA process. "These errors and omissions resulted from case agents providing wrong or incomplete information to OI [the Office of Intelligence] and failing to flag important issues for discussion," the report notes.
  • The report calls the various FISA problems described to be "serious performance failures by the supervisory and non-supervisory agents with responsibility over the FISA applications," which "resulted in FISA applications that made it appear that the information supporting probable cause was stronger than was actually the case."
  • FBI personnel on the Crossfire Hurricane team also "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" and that "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."
  • While Horowitz's team "did not find documentary or testimonial evidence of intentional misconduct" on the part of the FBI agents involved in the FISA process, they "also did not receive satisfactory explanations for the errors and problems we identified."
  • The Crossfire Hurricane team was also "unable to corroborate any of the specific substantive allegations regarding Carter Page contained in [former British spy Christopher] Steele's election reporting which the FBI relied on for FISA applications."
  • Furthermore, After the CIA expressed concern about Steele's reporting, FBI officials still wanted to include it in an interagency effort to assess the Russian government's actions in the 2016 presidential elections in December 2016.
Reactions to the report from public officials have been mixed.

"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," Attorney General William Barr said in a statement sent out shortly after the report's release:

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. In the rush to obtain and maintain FISA surveillance of Trump campaign associates, FBI officials misled the FISA court, omitted critical exculpatory facts from their filings, and suppressed or ignored information negating the reliability of their principal source. The Inspector General found the explanations given for these actions unsatisfactory. 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 General's report reflects a clear abuse of the FISA process.

Democratic Senate Judiciary Committee member Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) said that the report "completely demolishes Trump's false claims & right-wing conspiracy theories that the Russia investigation involved political bias or other improper motive."

U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is conducting his own investigation into the origins of the FBI investigation, responded to the release of the report with a statement that took issue with Horowitz's conclusions.

"Our investigation has included developing information from other persons and entities, both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S," Durham said. "Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, 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 FBI case was opened."

After the report's release, House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said after the release that "there are many lingering questions" and called on Democratic House leaders to "convene hearings with Inspector General Horowitz as soon as possible."

The report is the subject of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled to take place Wednesday.

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