The Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, has released his long-awaited report to the public. As an overview, in my opinion, it contains some conclusions that support both Dems and the GOP, both Trump haters and Trump supporters. Huh, you say? How can that be? Read on, and you will see what I mean.
I have not read the full report, nor do I intend to wade through some 450 pages of gobbledygook and “lawyer-speak.” After all, I am writing a 1,000 word blog, not a 1,000 page book. But I have parsed through various news articles and cable news programs and opinions and have ascertained what I believe to be the salient points of the report. Below please find the highlights (or lowlights).
- First, a brief background. As far back as 2016, the Trump campaign has been maintaining that the FBI was conducting an “improper” and “illegal” investigation of it motivated by political bias. Mr. Trump has characterized it as a “witch hunt.” In March 2018, at the direction of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and various GOP lawmakers, Horowitz launched his investigation of these allegations. This Report is the culmination of the investigation. It is an extensive and comprehensive document, the product of in excess of one million documents and 170 interviews.
- As reported in the “Washington Post,” “Politics USA,” “USA Today,” and elsewhere, the Report denoted that the FBI was justified from a legal point of view in initiating an inquiry into alleged Russian interference of the 2016 presidential election. Horowitz characterized it as having a valid “legal purpose.” Conversely, the Report cited several “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the FISA warrant applications the FBI filed to continue its probe. Those sentences neatly summarize the situation, and give everyone something to “hang their hat” on. Indeed, the Post reported that both Dems and Republicans “declared victory.”
- The FBI has received widespread criticism for its conduct, not only from the Report, itself, but also from others. For example, as reported in “USA Today,” the report was particularly critical of the FBI’s handling of the surveillance of Carter Page and its reliance on information supplied by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele. You may recall that it was Steele who authored the infamous “dossier” that, according to Rep Jim Jordan, was funded by the Clinton campaign and formed the key basis for the FISA warrants. Rep. Mark Meadows labeled the Report “deeply disturbing.” He added that “some former FBI and DOJ officials are about to have some serious explaining to do.” Additionally, AG William Barr opined it was “clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a US presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken.” Barr’s opinion is significant since he is overseeing a separate investigation, to be led by US Attorney John Durham, into the whole Russian matter. This investigation will have a far wider purview than the IG Report. For example, it will include foreign sources that the IG report was not authorized to tap..
- The Post, although declaring that the report “rebutted” assertions that certain FBI officials were driven by “political bias,” opined that it disclosed “broad and serious performance failures requiring major changes.”
- I am particularly concerned about the issue of the FISA warrants as should all private citizens. They formed the justification for spying on Trump campaign officials and were the basis for all that followed – the investigation of Russian collusion, the Mueller investigation, impeachment hearings and the articles of impeachment, themselves. The Report asserted the FBI’s applications, particularly the three renewals, which were signed by Jim Comey, were riddled with errors, omissions, and outright lies. They contained “at least 17 significant inaccuracies and omissions” that misled the judges who signed off on the warrants. US Attorney John Durham stated bluntly that “we [the DOJ] do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as predication and how the FBI case was opened.” “USA Today” reported that the report described the FISA warrant process followed as “so dysfunctional as to call into question the protocol for taking such a crucial investigative step – wiretapping a campaign operative – in a case involving a presidential election.” Despite the foregoing, “PBS News Hour ” stated the Report “does not claim that intentional misconduct occurred.” Huh? In my opinion, the blatant abuse of the FISA warrant process is the most serious problem disclosed as there is supposed to be a high legal standard for approving FISA warrants to wiretap US citizens. Comey should be ashamed of himself. Hopefully, he will face legal action.
- The Post reported that Horowitz has commenced a broader audit of FISA procedures. He may find extensive abuses of power.
- Even those who hate Trump should be concerned as the next victim could be you. Former Trump campaign official, Carter Page, was particularly victimized by these irregularities, or, perhaps, illegalities. I believe he is now vindicated to the extent that he may pursue legal action against those individuals and media outlets responsible for perpetrating and/or publicizing these falsehoods.
- Horowitz placed culpability on various FBI officials including “senior officials in the chain of command.”
- The IG recommended that, prospectively, highly sensitive investigations, such as those of major presidential campaigns, should be closely supervised by the Justice Department. I agree. In my view, there is a good chance that the FISA process is routinely abused, but that’s a subject for another blog on another day..
- FBI Director, Christopher Wray, told the Post he feels the FBI’s “credibility and brand are central to fulfilling [its] mission.” Therefore, he accepted the IG’s findings and has already commenced to review and update the FBI’s procedures. He declared, “I have already ordered more than 40 corrective steps to address the report’s recommendations.” Uh huh.
- Some additional quotes:
a. Ted Cruz – A “stunning abuse of power [by the FBI].”
b. ” USA Today” – “The FBI wiretap of Trump campaign aide was riddled with errors, but [the] Russia probe was legally justified and free from bias.”
c. President Trump – The IG Report was “an attempted overthrow” of the government and “a lot of people were in on it, and they got caught.”
d. US Attorney John Durham – “We do not agree with some of the Report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened.”
In my opinion, the Report is but another step in the sordid post-2016 election affair. The Post predicted that the report will not be “the last word.” I concur. To wit:
- We still have the aforementioned Barr report to come.
- The House Dems are proceeding with impeachment. Indeed, yesterday they announced they are drafting two articles of impeachment – for “abuse of power” and “obstruction.” Those articles are so vague that they could apply to virtually any action taken by any president, but that is a topic for another blog on another day. Apparently, they have decided to drop a third article for “bribery.”
- Assuming the House succeeds in impeaching the president, we will likely go through a contentious, but futile, trial in the Senate where he will almost certainly be acquitted.
- The whole matter will certainly be a major issue in the 2020 election.
- If Mr. Trump were to win re-election this national nightmare will likely extend until 2024.
It appears that we are far from done with this. And who are the ultimate losers? Not the Dems. Not Mr. Trump. The American people.