Dec 11, 2019

The other report blowing up D.C.

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz's testimony on Capitol Hill today painted a vivid illustration of how political actors frequently cherry-pick facts for their own partisan gain.

Why it matters: The dueling narratives aren't mutually exclusive, but it takes some nuance to sort through the partisan hyperbole.

  • For Republicans, Horowitz's investigation into the origins of the 2016 Russia probe provided a bombshell account of how an out-of-control FBI lied to a surveillance court in order to spy on a presidential campaign.
  • For Democrats, the report debunked the conspiracy that President Trump and his allies have promoted for years — that the Russia investigation was a "deep state" hoax designed to take down his presidency.

The big picture: Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz made clear in testimony today that both sides have a point, within limits.

  • Horowitz determined the FBI was justified in opening a counterintelligence investigation after receiving a tip that Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had told Australian diplomats that Russia had Hillary Clinton's emails.
  • Horowitz found no evidence of political bias in the FBI's subsequent scrutiny of Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, and no evidence of a "deep state conspiracy" to take down Trump.
  • But Horowitz also counted at least 17 errors in Carter Page's FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) application, including the omission of information that may have helped refute allegations that he was an agent of the Russian government.

What he's saying: Horowitz was "surprised" that U.S. Attorney John Durham, tasked by Attorney General Bill Barr with conducting a more expansive investigation into the origins of the Russia probe, issued a statement disputing the conclusion that the opening of the investigation was properly predicated.

  • The rare intervention has set off concerns that the investigation is being micromanaged by Barr, who attacked the Russia investigation as "a completely bogus narrative" in an interview yesterday with NBC News.

The bottom line: "I think the activities we found here don't vindicate anybody who touched this," Horowitz told the Senate Judiciary Committee, referencing a celebratory James Comey op-ed in the Washington Post.

What to watch: Looking past the short-term political implications of the report, the FISA process — which sees 98% of all surveillance applications approved — could finally face a reckoning.

Go deeper: Read Horowitz's full report

Go deeper

DOJ inspector general: No one who touched FISA process should feel "vindicated"

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said at a hearing Wednesday that the irregularities uncovered in his investigation of surveillance activities during the FBI's Russia probe do not "vindicate" anyone, as former FBI Director James Comey and others claimed upon release of his report.

Go deeperArrowDec 11, 2019

Read DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz's opening statement at FISA hearing

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz summarized his 400+ page report on the origins of the 2016 Russia investigations in an opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

The big picture: Horowitz's investigation found serious irregularities and inaccuracies in the FBI's applications for court-approved surveillance of Trump campaign aide Carter Page. Ultimately, however, Horowitz did not find evidence that the Russia investigation was politically motivated and determined that it was adequately predicated — a conclusion that Attorney General Bill Barr disputes.

Go deeperArrowDec 11, 2019

Trump casts doubt on Horowitz's credibility, despite celebrating his findings

Photo: Michael Brochstein/Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

President Trump questioned Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz's credibility in a tweet on Sunday, labeling Horowitz an Obama appointee in response to a report that found that the FBI's Russia investigation was not politically motivated:

"As bad as the I.G. Report is for the FBI and others, and it is really bad, remember that I.G. Horowitz was appointed by Obama. There was tremendous bias and guilt exposed, so obvious, but Horowitz couldn’t get himself to say it. Big credibility loss. Obama knew everything!"

Why it matters: Trump is attacking Horowitz for his conclusions that the probe was not fueled by bias, while simultaneously celebrating the inspector general's findings of serious wrongdoing in the FBI's surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

Go deeperArrowDec 15, 2019