The IG Report — The Good, The Bad, & The Questionable

The OIG Report finds evidence of FBI and DOJ malfeasance but makes no recommendation for or against criminal charges.

OIG ReportBefore getting to the IG Report, please note that, at the same time the IG released his report, Asst. Attorney General Durham, tasked with conducting his own investigation, held a rare press conference:

“I have the utmost respect for the mission of the Office of Inspector General and the comprehensive work that went into the report prepared by Mr. Horowitz and his staff,” stated Durham. “However, our investigation is not limited to developing information from within component parts of the Justice Department. Our investigation has included developing information from other persons and entities, both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S. 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.”

In other words, he’s politely saying that Horowitz’s frame of reference is so small that one cannot give too much credence to Horowitz’s conclusions. There’s clearly much more to follow.

Attorney General Barr’s statement, also released today, is far stronger, stating in relevant part:

. . .  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.  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.

FISA is an essential tool for the protection of the safety of the American people.  The Department of Justice and the FBI are committed to taking whatever steps are necessary to rectify the abuses that occurred and to ensure the integrity of the FISA process going forward. . . .

Barr and Durham make clear that the OIG Report is not the final word.  Good, because the IG report is thin gruel indeed.  Having reviewed the report’s 20 page executive summary — I haven’t yet had the time to parse the body of the document, but I will do so and post on it over the coming days — my conclusions (tentative and subject to revision) are as follows:

–  The IG seems to have done a good job of developing the facts within his limitations and given that some of the most relevant evidence, such as the briefing notes from the Crossfire Hurricane Team to Comey and McCabe and minutes of those meetings, were mysteriously missing.  At least a few of the facts he raises in his IG Report seem to conflict with testimony provided to Congress, such as Bruce Ohr’s sworn testimony regarding his initial briefing to Peter Strzok about the Steele allegations in July, which was contemporaneous with Strzok’s opening the Crossfire Hurricane Investigation.

–  Glenn Simpson and Jonathan Weiner, the founders of Fusion GPS, refused to be interviewed by the IG.  Comey was unable to answer the IG’s questions because of memory loss and the lack of a security clearance to review documents.  Moreover, the IG Report never addresses the decision of the FBI to take as true the factual assertions of Crowdstrike without the FBI examining the servers and hardware involved.

–  The IG makes clear that the Steele Dossier was in fact at the heart of the Page FISA warrants and that none of the criminal allegations therein were ever verified.  The IG actually highlights most of the points I already raised about the deficiencies of those warrants. Moroever, the IG found that, without question, there was ample evidence to question those criminal allegations as to the three FISA renewals.  Again, I find myself in disagreement with the IG about whether the FBI was required to corroborate at least some of those allegations prior to the initial issuance of the FISA warrant.

–  The IG found “no testimonial or documentary evidence” of political bias in the investigation.  He makes much of the fact that others were involved in the decision making besides simply Strzok and Page, for whom documentation of bias exists, but he ignores the bias of Yates, McCabe, Comey and others who were centrally and critically involved in the group decision making.

–  The IG found that some of the people involved were justified in certain actions, including opening investigations and sending confidential informants against Page and Papadopolous.  I, and apparently Atty. Gen. Durham, disagree with whether there was sufficient information to open this investigation.

–  The IG conversely found many individuals who failed in their duties and who lied either by omission or commission, though he made no recommendations for or against criminal charges.

–  The IG largely cleared Yates, Rosenstein, Comey and McCabe for signing off on the FISA warrants on the basis that the lower level agents making up the Crossfire Hurricane Team withheld relevant information.  The IG makes no assessment of what, if anything, any of managerial individuals did to discharge their oversight responsibilities.

More to follow.