Dec 11, 2019

Axios PM

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 500 words, a 2-minute read.

1 big thing: The other report blowing up D.C.

Michael Horowitz, inspector general for the Justice Department, arrives for testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The inspector general report on the FBI's handling of the Russia probe is creating quite a mess in Washington, Axios' Zachary Basu notes.

  • For Republicans, the investigation into the origins of the 2016 Russia probe provided an account of an out-of-control FBI that 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 latched onto 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 James Comey op-ed in the Washington Post.

Bonus: Pic du jour
Photo: TIME

Greta Thunberg has become the youngest person to be selected as TIME's Person of the Year.

2. What you missed
  1. WeWork's largest rival in China filed to raise $100 million via an IPO on the NYSE. Go deeper.
  2. China imprisoned at least 48 journalists in 2019, more than any other country in the world. Go deeper.
  3. Infrastructure, housing and climate change are among the top issues mayors want Democratic 2020 presidential candidates to address. Go deeper.
  4. Dozens of Harvey Weinstein's accusers have reached a tentative $25 million payout deal with the movie mogul and his studio board, the New York Times reports.
  5. The Federal Reserve will keep the benchmark interest rate at its current range of 1.5%–1.75%. Go deeper.
3. 1 fun thing

Employees of the Maryland real estate firm St. John Properties at the company holiday party. Photo: Wendy Hickok Photography via AP

Baltimore-based commercial real estate developer St. John Properties is paying out a $10 million bonus to its 198 employees, WTOP reports.

  • "The amount each employee gets is based on tenure, but the average bonus was $50,000."

The big picture: Corporate America has talked a big game in 2019 about how it must do a better job of serving all stakeholders, not just investors, reports Axios' Dan Primack.

  • "This is an example of a company putting its money where its mouth is, serving as a welcome rebuke to skeptics like me," says Dan.