The Horowitz Report documents one of the worst political scandals in US history. Whether criminal complaints come out of it depends on who knew what & when.
This is the third post in a series evaluating the facts DOJ IG Michael Horowitz presented in the 400+ page DOJ IG Review of Four FISA Applications and Other Aspects of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane Investigation (the “IG Report”)
Having read the entire IG Report, it is fair to say that the facts IG Horowitz documents are damning. The biggest scandal that can be inferred from his report is that the FBI continued to investigate the Trump administration after January, 2017, by which time the FBI’s case had collapsed (pp. 241-247) and there was no longer any reasonable ground to suspect that Trump or anyone in his campaign or administration had conspired with Russia. Despite this incontrovertible knowledge, Comey manipulated things to ensure a special counsel and two more years of investigations. Beyond that, the IG documents multiple other instances of fraud and deceit relating to the FISA warrants that the DOJ/FBI obtained against Carter Page.
Some FBI conduct was outright fraud. For example, Kevin Clinesmith doctored an electronic communication from the CIA addressing Carter Page’s relationship with the CIA (p. 252). Another example is that “Case Agent 1” told the attorney drafting the FISA request that Steele’s Primary Sub-Source appeared honest and reliable and that his extensive interview supported the criminal allegations Steele made when, in fact, both statements were outright lies. (pp. 241-247) And yet another fraud occurred when Dana Boente, the Acting Attorney General, signed two FISA re-authorization requests knowing that neither accurately reflected the significant fact that the Clinton campaign had employed Steele (p. 229).
Horowitz raised several other errors that are arguably criminal, particularly the FBI’s refusal to ask questions that were easily within its ambit but as to which it did not wish to know the answers. One area the FBI assiduously avoided was Steele’s knowledge that he was working for the Clinton Campaign and his understanding that his research would be publicized and used to affect the 2016 election. This information, had it been presented, would have been critical to the FISA Court’s ability to evaluate Steele’s bias. A second area the FBI left untouched was asking Steele whether he had briefed the press and was the source of Michael Isikoff’s September 23, 2016, Yahoo article. The FBI preferred, instead, to state in all four FISA requests that the FBI “believed” that Steele was not the article’s source.
And still other — indeed, many — errors that Horowitz identified in his report showed either that the FBI, from leadership on down, was grossly negligent or that these same actors were committing criminal frauds against the court. The difference between those two conclusions depends whether (a) there is hard proof, or solid inferential proof, that the FBI, again from the leadership on down, intended its wrongful acts or (b) the FBI has just become a careless, slovenly, hack-ridden outfit which can’t be trusted to rescue cats from trees, let alone police American elections for corruption.
For an example of evidence the type of thing that Horowitz couldn’t definitively identify as either corruption or stupidity, when Case Agent 1 was asked about multiple items excluded from the FISA, all of which would have shown lack of probable cause, Case Agent 1 claimed that he was confused or just did not realize that the evidence was significant.
Really? You’re a top FBI agent investigating a matter that touches upon the future and then-actual President of the United States and this whole thing befuddled you? And when you were befuddled, you made no effort seek a way out of your befuddlement? Still, the IG did not assume that his mandate extended to making windows into men’s souls, so he simply summed up this issue at p. 378:
[W]e identified at least 17 significant errors and omissions in the Carter Page FISA applications, and many additional Woods related errors. These errors and omissions resulted from case agents providing wrong or incomplete information to 01 and failing to flag important issues for discussion, without any satisfactory explanations. Moreover, case agents and SSAs did not give equal attention or treatment to the relevant facts that did not support probable cause, or reassess the evidence supporting probable cause as the investigation progressed and the information gathered undercut the assertions in the FISA applications. Further, the agents and SSAs did not follow, or appear to even know, the requirements in the Woods Procedures to re-verify the factual assertions from previous applications that are repeated in renewal applications and verify source characterization statements with the CHS handling agent and document the verification in the Woods File. That so many basic and fundamental errors were made on four FISA applications by three separate, hand-picked teams, on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations that was briefed to the highest levels within the FBI and that FBI officials expected would eventually be subjected to close scrutiny, raised significant questions regarding the FBI chain of command’s management and supervision of the FISA process.
Given his limited powers, Horowitz did an exceptional job ferreting out all possible facts. But there were several things he did not do, either because the information was not available to him or because he deferred questions about prosecuting to Assistant Attorney General John Durham, whose own investigation is far broader in scope and involves the power to compel testimony. This lack of information or deference means that, first, the IG did not fully establish exactly the relevant chains of command (Comey and McCabe at the FBI; Yates, Boente and Rosenstein at the DOJ); and second, he did not pin down what the players knew and when they knew it.
Some of this information vacuum occurred because several players in the FBI’s crime drama (such as Comey), refused to cooperate with the IG. What they knew or should have known and when they knew it will be key questions that need to be answered. Bottom line, the IG’s Report is itself damning, but it is not the final word.
I think it fair at this point to call DOJ’s and FBI’s role in the fake Russia collusion scam one of the most serious scandals in American history. During Trump’s administration, not only our nation’s republican government but also the votes of those who elected him, have been under continuous and wrongful attack for years. Whether this will be remembered as the worst scandal in our political history will depend to a great extent on John Durham’s more comprehensive investigation. Regardless, at this point, Glenn Greenwald accurately sums up the situation:
[T]he FBI’s gross abuse of its power – its serial deceit – is so grave and manifest that it requires little effort to demonstrate it. In sum, the IG Report documents multiple instances in which the FBI – in order to convince a FISA court to allow it spy on former Trump campaign operative Carter Page during the 2016 election – manipulated documents, concealed crucial exonerating evidence, and touted what it knew were unreliable if not outright false claims.
If you don’t consider FBI lying, concealment of evidence, and manipulation of documents in order to spy on a U.S. citizen in the middle of a presidential campaign to be a major scandal, what is? But none of this is aberrational: the FBI still has its headquarters in a building named after J. Edgar Hoover – who constantly blackmailed elected officials with dossiers and tried to blackmail Martin Luther King into killing himself – because that’s what these security state agencies are. They are out-of-control, virtually unlimited police state factions that lie, abuse their spying and law enforcement powers, and subvert democracy and civic and political freedoms as a matter of course.
In this case, no rational person should allow standard partisan bickering to distort or hide this severe FBI corruption. The IG Report leaves no doubt about it. It’s brimming with proof of FBI subterfuge and deceit, all in service of persuading a FISA court of something that was not true: that U.S. citizen and former Trump campaign official Carter Page was an agent of the Russian government and therefore needed to have his communications surveilled. . . .
Since I wrote the above, but before publishing, I pause here to add two related items. The first is that the Chief Judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), the Court that hears ex parte the applications of the intelligence agencies for surveillance warrants, has responded to the IG Report. Judge Rosemary Collyer, the FISC’s presiding judge and the judge who signed the first FISA warrant on Carter Page, stated:
The FISC’s assessment of probable cause can serve those purposes effectively only if the applicant agency fully and accurately provides information in its possession that is material to whether probable cause exists. Accordingly, “the government … has a heightened duty of candor to the [FISC] in ex parte proceedings,” that is, ones in which the government does not face an adverse party, such as proceedings on electronic surveillance applications. The FISC “expects the government to comply with its heightened duty of candor in ex parte proceedings at all times. Candor is fundamental to this Court’s effective operation …. “
She goes on to say that “FBI’s handling of the Carter Page applications, as portrayed in the OIG report, was antithetical to the heightened duty of candor . . .” Clearly she is not amused, but it is not yet clear what she intends to do about it. Personally, I think some of the red flags in the four FISA Requests, such as the FBI “speculating” about the conduct of THEIR confidential human source, Christopher Steele, were red flags to everyone who signed the FISA applications and to the Judges who approved them. The judges each share in the failures on this.
Secondly, a name that doesn’t appear in the IG Report directly, but who figures prominently in all of the FBI shenanigans, from the Carter Page FISA Applications, to interviewing Michael Flynn, to interviewing Bruce Ohr and more, was agent Joe Pientka. If there are buried skeletons, he probably knows them. So I found it of more than passing interest today to read that he may well have been flipped by Durham. Here’s a cleaned up version of the tweet thread:
Biggest sign that only 1 of two narratives can be correct:
that there’s either a massive cover up still underway by the Deep State or airtight operational security to protect ongoing investigations.
It’s Joseph Pientka.
He’s the clearest, most obvious example.
Here is a guy who’s sat right in the center of the beating heart of BOTH the the plot frame Flynn AND the use of Steele’s fake Trump/Russia allegations to drive counterintelligence investigations of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election and afterwards.
Pientka’s name first surfaced almost 2 years ago, and today…he’s still the same blank portrait he was back then.
I’ve seen ONE picture that purports to be Pientka, and I’m still not sure that’s actually him.
While Strzok fought every step of the way and was dragged out at last for a VERY contentious public hearing after which he was tossed ass-first out of the FBI….
I’m struggling to convey the sheer VASTNESS of the contrast between how Strzok was handled and how Pientka continues to be handled.
One became a national figure, his picture now well known.
The other remains to this day a GHOST.
And following the release of the IG report last Monday, we discover that Pientka is up to his neck in the shenanigans surrounding the bogus FISA warrant on Carter Page.
And it’s looking increasingly likely that Pientka was Strzok’s direct junior partner in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, and someone directly under Strzok was the ‘affiant’ of the Carter Page warrant & it’s renewals, that means Pientka is the ‘affiant’.
There is not one official document where Pientka’s name is unredacted.
It’s redacted in the supplemental discovery in the Flynn case.
It’s redacted all throughout the DOJ IG FISA Abuse report.
And Fox reporter @gregg_re says the FBI called him up and vigorously complained to him for “revealing” Pientka’s name.
Based on a very angry phone call I got yesterday, the FBI would disagree with you!
· Dec 14
Replying to @Cyclingat50 @Techno_Fog and @MZHemingway
I was asked angrily for ten minutes why Fox felt the need to name Pientka or “any agent”. That it endangered operational security and they risk their lives. This call came 8 hours after I requested comment and 10 minutes after I got a no comment.
So it appears at this late date, the DOJ/FBI does NOT WANT ANYBODY calling attention to this guy.
So there’s only 2 real options I can see to explain why DOJ/FBI is demanding a complete and total blackout about FBI SSA Joeseph Pientka.
1. This guy is being protected to make sure he ESCAPES ACCOUNTABILITY. A massive cover up is underway, and
Barr and Horowitz and Wray are all in on it. For some reason this guy needs to walk.
2. This guy FLIPPED LONG AGO and is now a material witness because he literally had a front row seat to how all of this went down. As a material witness in ongoing investigations, they have to keep him to lowest profile possible.
I’m leaning #2 and I’ll tell you why.
To believe a massive cover up is underway to protect this ONE GUY after most of the stuff Comey, McCabe, Strzok and about half a dozen others did was completely exposed doesn’t make much sense to me.
Strzok never cooperated, he fought to the bitter bitter end convinced he could ride it out and actually KEEP his FBI job.
If Pientka cooperated, he’s a key material witness present in the center of the beating heart of the BIGGEST POLITICAL SCANDAL in US history.
This means he would need an incredibly high level of protection against
against leaks of what he knows
where he is is and what he is doing.
It’s like he’s literally in a witness protection program, if you will.
I had limited expectations for the IG Report, but I will admit, Horowitz did a good a job as possible given his strictures. I have much greater hopes for the Durham investigation.