Is Comey Right That The IG Report Exonerates Him & The FBI?

Comey and the left are claiming that the IG Report exonerates the FBI and DOJ.  He is wrong. That is not what the IG report says.

OIG Report ComeyIn the wake of the IG Report (and see the post below), the progressive left is doing its best to spin the results as “exoneration.”  The most shameless is FBI Director James Comey, who immediately took to the pages of WaPo with “James Comey: The truth is finally out. The FBI fulfilled its mission.”  According to Comey (Comey quotes in red; IG report quotes in blue):

[Comey Oped:]  For two years, the president of the United States and his followers have loudly declared that the FBI acted unlawfully in conducting a counterintelligence investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. . . .

. . . President Trump said the FBI’s actions were “treason.” The current attorney general even slimed his own organization by supporting Trump’s claims, asserting there had been “spying” on the campaign. Crimes had been committed, the Trump crowd said, and a whole bunch of former FBI leaders, including me, were likely going to jail.”

On Monday, we learned from a report by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, that the allegation of a criminal conspiracy was nonsense. There was no illegal wiretapping, there were no informants inserted into the campaign, there was no “spying” on the Trump campaign.

Perhaps Mr. Comey needs to read the report.

Let’s go down the list

[Comey Oped:] They repeatedly told the American people that the FBI had done all sorts of bad things, such as tapping Donald Trump’s wires during the campaign, . . . and inserting secret informants into the Trump campaign.

According to the IG, the FBI did get a FISA Warrant on Page.  Under the two hop rule, that would get the FBI to the President.  The IG never names the others spied upon under the Page warrant, so we do not know about that.  The IG says nothing about the way in which the FBI determined the falsity of the allegation that the “alfa” bank server was the Trump conduit for information. I do not see how that could have been done without some sort of electric monitoring.  And if so, who was caught up in the two hop rule there?  As to inserting secret informants, that in fact happened.  The IG states in his report,

[IG Report:]  [T]he Crossfire Hurricane team used more intrusive techniques, including CHSs [confidential human sources] to interact and consensually record multiple conversations with Page and Papadopoulos, both before and after they were working for the Trump campaign, as well as on one occasion with a high-level Trump campaign official who was not a subject of the investigation. We found that, under Department and FBI policy, although this CHS activity implicated First Amendment protected activity, the operations were permitted because . . .

The rest of the explanation is not germane.  Using confidential human sources was only permitted if the investigation itself was adequately predicated in the first instance.  As to that . . .

[Comey Oped:]  At the heart of the Russian attack on the election was the release of damaging emails stolen from organizations and individuals associated with the Democratic Party. The releases started in June 2016. In late July, the FBI learned that a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser named George Papadopoulos had been involved months earlier in conversations about a Russian government offer of “dirt” in the form of emails damaging to Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton.

The IG Report makes no mention of Comey’s failure to investigate the DNC’s allegation that it was hacked, and instead its surprisingly naive willingness to accept the “draft” report from Crowdstrike, a Ukrainian-connected organization that the DNC hired to examine its server. I find that inexplicable, but no matter. What the IG Report states is:

[IG Report]  As we describe in Chapter Three, the FBI opened Crossfire Hurricane on July 31, 2016, just days after its receipt of information from a Friendly Foreign Government (FFG) reporting that, in May 2016, during a meeting with the FFG, then Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos “suggested the Trump team had received some kind of suggestion from Russia that it could assist this process with the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Mrs. Clinton (and President Obama). . . . 

. . .

We did not find information in FBI or Department ECs, emails, or other documents, or through witness testimony, indicating that any information other than the FFG information was relied upon to predicate the opening of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.

The IG found that sufficient to meet the “low bar” for opening a full investigation.  Moreover, the IG states:

[IG Report]  Crossfire Hurricane was opened as a Full Investigation and all of the senior FBI officials who participated in discussions about whether to open a case told us the information warranted opening it.

That is stunning — not just to me, but also, apparently, to AG Barr and Asst. AG Durham as well.  Those two obviously know more facts than we do — and the IG as well — but Conservative Treehouse makes the point that the IG does not address whether Mifsud, who supposedly told Papadopoulos about the “dirt” Russia had on Clinton, was an American and not a Russian asset.  If the former is the case, then this was a sting.  Time will tell on that as we have no way of knowing at the moment.

That said, and wholly without regard to that, the Friendly Foreign Government (“FFG”) information provided to the FBI does not provide sufficient information to show suspicion of a crime by Trump or anyone in his administration.  It refers to Russia having Clinton e-mails, but we know for a fact that both Strzok and Comey believed (along with most of America) that foreign intelligence had likely hacked Clinton’s private server.

The failure to acknowledge the generally accepted fact that myriad entities could have, and probably did, hack Hillary’s server, and to ask how the FBI attempted to identify precisely to which emails Papadopolous was referring — Hillary’s State Dept. emails or emails allegedly hacked from the DNC — is a spectacular failure.  This was not a properly predicated investigation on that basis alone, and that is all the more so when you find that the FBI waited more than six months after it opened the investigation before it looked into that specific issue — AND THEN the FBI did not establish that Papadopolous was referring to the DNC e-mails, something never admitted in the FISA Applications.  No police organization in this country gets to open up a targeted investigation of an individual or organization without a factual basis — and that is true no matter how many of the people being investigated claim to the contrary.

[Comey Oped:]  The investigation included electronic surveillance of one person, Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser with a long relationship with Russia and a history of contacts with Russian intelligence. The surveillance began with a court order shortly before the election. The order was renewed three times by federal judges. And the FBI kept it secret. Nothing was leaked to damage the Trump campaign.

Nothing was leaked?  Holy smokes is that pure b.s.  Goebbels would be proud of that claim.  Regardless, the IG did not address leaks to the press beyond noting on page 308 that Bill Priestap stated that the FBI was trying to limit leaks.  Moreover, he does not address Comey’s announcement, made in conjunction with the then-acting AG, in March, 2017, to publicly confirm the investigation of the Trump administration for conspiring with Russia to swing the 2016 election.  That was one rather HUGE leak.

[Comey Oped:] The Russia investigation was complicated — not surprisingly, the inspector general found mistakes, 17 of them, things the FBI should have done differently, or better. That’s always unfortunate, but human beings make mistakes. Inspector-general reports are valuable because they offer the chance to learn. Horowitz also concluded that a low-level FBI lawyer doctored an email as part of the administrative process leading to the renewal of the application for electronic surveillance of the former campaign adviser. Although it is not clear what difference that made, it is still potentially serious wrongdoing and does not reflect the FBI culture of compliance and candor.

The IG did not address criminal conduct.  The “mistakes” the Inspector General found were not minor.  They went directly to the whole basis for the entire investigation — and in the larger scheme of things, the entire Mueller Special Counsel probe.  And while the IG chooses the word “mistakes,” there is no way in hell any one or group of professionals could have committed this group of errors.  The fact that no one has admitted to criminal wrongdoing is apparently why the IG lists them as “mistakes.”  Here is the IG’s list of “mistakes:”

[IG Report]  As more fully described in Chapter Five, based upon the information known to the FBI in October 2016, the first application contained the following seven significant inaccuracies and omissions:

1. Omitted information the FBI had obtained from another U.S. government agency detailing its prior relationship with Page, including that Page had been approved as an “operational contact” for the other agency from 2008 to 2013, and that Page had provided information to the other agency concerning his prior contacts with certain Russian intelligence officers, one of which overlapped with facts asserted in the FISA application;

2. Included a source characterization statement asserting that Steele’s prior reporting had been “corroborated and used in criminal proceedings” which overstated the significance of Steele’s past reporting and was not approved by Steele’s handling agent, as required by the Woods Procedures;

3. Omitted information relevant to the reliability of . . . a key Steele sub-source . . ., namely that (1) Steele himself told members of the Crossfire Hurricane team that Person 1 was a “boaster” and an “egoist” and “may engage in some embellishment” . . . 

4. Asserted that the FBI had assessed that Steele did not directly provide to the press information in the September 23 Yahoo News article based on the premise that Steele had told the FBI that he only shared his election-related research with the FBI and Fusion GPS, his client; this premise was incorrect and contradicted by documentation in the Woods File- Steele had told the FBI that he also gave his information to the State Department;

5. Omitted Papadopoulos’s consensually monitored statements to an FBI CHS in September 2016 denying that anyone associated with the Trump campaign was collaborating with Russia or with outside groups like Wikileaks in the release of emails;

6. Omitted Page’s consensually monitored statements to an FBI CHS in August 2016 that Page had “literally never met” or “said one word to” Paul Manafort and that Manafort had not responded to any of Page’s emails; if true, those statements were in tension with claims in Report 95 that Page was participating in a conspiracy with Russia by acting as an intermediary for Manafort on behalf of the Trump campaign; and

7. Included Page’s consensually monitored statements to an FBI CHS in October 2016 that the FBI believed supported its theory that Page was an agent of Russia but omitted other statements Page made that were inconsistent with its theory, including denying having met with Sechin and Divyekin, or even knowing who Divyekin was; if true, those statements contradicted t he claims in Report 94 that Page had met secretly with Sechin and Divyekin about future cooperat ion with Russia and shared derogatory information about candidate Clinton.

None of these inaccuracies and omissions were brought to the attention of OI before the last FISA application was filed in June 2017. Consequently, these failures were repeated in all three renewal applications.

These are “mistakes” only if the FBI had abandoned even the most minimal standards in connection with an investigation of the utmost seriousness and delicacy. Even assuming solely for the sake of argument that they were just such mistakes, Comey’s cavalier response helps explain why an FBI under his aegis was a criminally irresponsible, amateur outfit.

That’s just the First Warrant.  Several of those omissions are so glaring and relevant that they could easily be prosecuted as falsehoods.  Now for the rest of the “mistakes” in the other three FISA warrants:

[IG Report]  8. Omitted the fact that Steele’s Primary Subsource, who the FBI found credible, had made statements in January 2017 raising significant questions about the reliability of allegations included in the FISA applications, including , for example, that he/she had no discussion with Person 1 concerning WikiLeaks and there was “nothing bad” about the communications between the Kremlin and the Trump team, and that he/she did not report to Steele in July 2016 that Page had met with Sechin;

9. Omitted Page’s prior relationship with another U.S. government agency, despite being reminded by the other agency in June 2017, prior to the filing of the final renewal application, about Page’s past status with that other agency; instead of including this information in the final renewal application, the OGC Attorney altered an email from the other agency so that the email stated that Page was “not a source” for the other agency, which the FBI affiant relied upon in signing the final renewal application;

10. Omitted information from persons who previously had professional contacts with Steele or had direct knowledge of his work-re lated performance, including statements that Steele had no history of reporting in bad faith but “[dlemonstrates lack of self-awareness, poor judgment,” “pursued people with political risk but no intelligence value,” “didn’t always exercise great judgment,” and it was “not clear what he would have done to validate” his reporting;

11. Omitted information obtained from Ohr about Steele and his election reporting, including that (1) Steele’s reporting was going to Clinton’s presidential campaign and others, (2) Simpson was paying Steele to discuss his reporting with the media, and (3) Steele was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being the U.S. President”;

12. Failed to update the description of Steele after information became known to the Crossfire Hurricane team, from Ohr and others, that provided greater clarity on the political origins and connections of Steele’s reporting, including that Simpson was hired by someone associated with the Democratic Party and/or the DNC;

13. Failed to correct the assertion in the first FISA application that the FBI did not believe that Steele directly provided information to the reporter who wrote the September 23 Yahoo News article, even though there was no information in the Woods File to support this claim and even after certain Crossfire Hurricane officials learned in 2017, before the third renewal application, of an admission that Steele made in a court filing about his interactions with the news media in the late summer and early fall of 2016;

14. Omitted the finding from a FBI source validation report that Steele was suitable for continued operation but that his past contributions to the FBI’s criminal program had been ” minimally corroborated,” and instead continued to assert in the source characterization statement that Steele’s prior reporting had been “corroborated and used in criminal proceedings”;

15. Omitted Papadopoulos’s statements to an FBI CHS in late October 2016 denying that the Trump campaign was involved in the circumstances of the DNC email hack;

16. Omitted Joseph Mifsud’s denials to the FBI that he supplied Papadopoulos with the information Papadopoulos shared with the FFG (suggesting that the campaign received an offer or suggestion of assistance from Russia); and 17.

17. Omitted information indicating that Page played no role in the Republican platform change on Russia’s annexation of Ukraine as alleged in the Report 95, which was inconsistent with a factual assertion relied upon to support probable cause in all four FISA applications.

If the above is not criminal, but rather a form of almost malignantly negligent exoneration as Comey claims, then our nation is in deep trouble.  The FBI and DOJ are under legal requirement to provide full and accurate information.  These are mistakes directly relevant to the validity of the warrants.  Most of these are not even individually explicable as simple negligence, let alone all in toto.

Moreover, the IG’s statement elsewhere exonerating several of the higher up in the FBI and DOJ because they point fingers at the Crossfire Hurricane Group and say it was they who did not provide the relevant information is pure bullshit.  Every one of those FISA Applications provides clues that a supervisor, in the exercise of due diligence, should have answered.

The most glaring is the claim that the FBI “speculates” that Steele was not the source of the Isikoff article prominently mentioned in the applications in the section where the FBI was supposed to establish probable cause.  If the people signing off on that application did not ask why the FBI was speculating, rather than asking their PAID INFORMANT STEELE whether he was the source, then they can and should be held criminally liable.

[Comey Oped:] But most important, Horowitz’s report found that the investigation was opened and conducted according to the rules, finding no “evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced [the] decision” to start it or how to run it. Those of us who knew that truth had to remain silent while a torrent of smears and falsehoods flowed from the White House, from some congressional committee chairmen, the attorney general and Fox News personalities. The FBI’s work was perceived as a threat to the president, and many Republicans apparently believe that all threats to Trump must be destroyed, no matter the cost to the nation.

This is a joke.  What Horowitz did was assert that, so long as there was not direct “testimonial or documentary” evidence of bias, then none can be assumed from the facts.  That is not how investigators do their job.  Indeed, they — and juries — are required to make reasonable assumptions based on the facts.  The above 17 mistakes, taken in totality, could allow a reasonable person to infer bias and malice among everyone involved in the decision making process who did not raise objections and questions documented in the record.  Moreover, there seems to be more than enough direct evidence of bias on the part of Comey, McCabe, Yates and others, but Horowitz does not address any of that.

[Comey Oped:]The painful part is that millions of good people believed what they heard. My 89-year-old mother-in-law, watching Fox News in her Iowa assisted-living facility, became convinced that I was going to jail. I repeatedly assured her that there was zero percent chance of that. “It’s all made up,” I would tell her. But I couldn’t say that publicly because the investigation wasn’t done yet. Like the others accused of treason by the president, I respected the process and cooperated with the inspector general.

No, the s.o.b. did not cooperate with the inspector general.  According to the IG

[W]e . . . found no evidence that Corney had been made aware of these issues at the time he certified the application, as discussed in our analysis in Chapter Eleven, multiple factors made it difficult for us to precisely determine the extent of FBI leadership’s knowledge as to each fact that was not shared with 0I and not included, or inaccurately stated, in the FISA applications.

These factors included, among other things, limited recollections, the inability to question Corney or refresh his recollection with relevant, classified documentation because of his lack of a security clearance, and the absence of meeting minutes that would show the specific details shared with Corney and McCabe during briefings they received, beyond the more general investigative updates that we know they were provided.

So Comey claimed amnesia, he refused to accept a limited clearance for the purpose of the investigation, the meeting notes are mysteriously all missing, and it does not appear that the IG even attempted to identify the personnel who briefed Comey, McCabe, and others, to investigate their recollections, and their personal briefing notes.  Does that sound like cooperation by Comey — or a reasonable investigation by the IG — to you?

Lastly, Comey does a victory dance:

Well, the wait is over, and those who smeared the FBI are due for an accounting. In particular, Attorney General William P. Barr owes the institution he leads, and the American people, an acknowledgment of the truth.

Unfortunately, it appears that Barr will continue his practice of deriding the Justice Department when the facts don’t agree with Trump’s fiction. Pointing to his personally commissioned “review” of the FBI’s case-opening, Barr has declared it is too soon to conclude that the FBI was right to start an investigation. If his goal is simply to support the president’s conspiracy theories, it will always be too soon to acknowledge the facts.

As the leader of an institution that is supposed to be devoted to truth, Barr needs to stop acting like a Trump spokesperson. In the words of the nation’s Founders, the Justice Department’s inspector general has “Let Facts be submitted to a candid world.” The FBI fulfilled its mission — protecting the American people and upholding the U.S. Constitution. Now those who attacked the FBI for two years should admit they were wrong.

I am willing to bet his little jig is premature.