By Ronn Blitzer, Brooke Singman | Fox News
The Justice Department’s inspector general on Monday released the long-awaited internal review concerning the origins of the Russia investigation.
The report concluded that investigators found no intentional misconduct or political bias surrounding efforts to seek a highly controversial Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to monitor former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in the early months of the Russia investigation — but also faulted the FBI over numerous “omissions” and “inaccuracies” in the application process.
The IG probe identified at least 17 “significant” errors in the Page applications and said they would launch a new audit into the FISA process.
At the same time, the report said key officials including former FBI bosses James Comey and Andrew McCabe did not act with political bias and extended a similar finding to the overall surveillance efforts targeting Page.
“We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the FBI’s decision to seek FISA authority on Carter Page,” the report said.
IG Michael Horowitz and his investigators probed how the unverified anti-Trump dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele was used to secure the original FISA warrant for Page in October 2016, as well as other decisions at the outset of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of Russian election interference and the Trump campaign.
The release comes as Washington has been consumed with the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. The House Judiciary Committee was holding the inquiry’s latest hearing Monday, days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats are moving forward with plans to bring articles of impeachment against the president over his dealings with Ukraine.
But the FISA report is sure to become a political football of its own, alongside the impeachment probe.
Republicans, led by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., have contested the FISA warrant and its subsequent renewal applications, claiming that the FBI misrepresented key evidence and omitted exculpatory information.
Nunes blasted the FBI for not revealing that evidence used to support the warrant application came from an unverified dossier compiled by Steele as opposition research for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Democrats have pointed to a footnote in the warrant application that gave a general characterization of the nature of the information and how the FBI believed that it was part of an effort to get information to discredit Trump’s campaign, though it did not specifically mention Clinton or the Democratic National Committee.
Horowitz’s team has questioned why the FBI considered Steele a credible source, and why the bureau seemed to use news reports to bolster Steele’s credibility.
The inspector general has said his team has “reviewed over one million records and conducted over 100 interviews, including several witnesses who only recently agreed to be interviewed.” Page, who has been vocal about his belief that he was unjustly targeted, has expressed frustration over not being interviewed for Horowitz’s investigation. Page was never charged with a crime as a result of the surveillance.
Trump and his Republican allies have long questioned the Justice Department’s efforts to secure the surveillance warrants. Earlier this year, Attorney General Bill Barr said “spying” did occur against the Trump campaign during the campaign. But critics pushed back: James Comey, who was FBI director at the time, dismissed Barr’s claims, saying he “never thought of” electronic surveillance as “spying.”
Next, Horowitz is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday morning to answer questions about his probe.
The Horowitz findings come amid another, broader inquiry related to the 2016 election: Barr has assigned John Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, to conduct an inquiry into alleged misconduct and alleged improper government surveillance on the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election. That investigation is criminal in nature, and Republicans may look to it to uncover wrongdoing that the inspector general wasn’t examining.
Ahead of the release, some of the people who worked at the FBI at the time attempted to get ahead of the report to defend their actions. Lisa Page, the ex-FBI lawyer who carried on an extramarital affair with former FBI head of counterintelligence Peter Strzok as the two exchanged anti-Trump text messages during the investigation, recently granted an interview for a sympathetic piece at The Daily Beast, saying “there’s no fathomable way that I have committed any crime at all.”
Meanwhile, a key FBI player during the time frame, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, has been facing the prospect of federal charges after Horowitz faulted him in a separate inquiry over statements he made during a Hillary Clinton-related investigation. The review found that McCabe “lacked candor” when talking with investigators, but the former FBI official has denied wrongdoing. McCabe has not been indicted.
Fox News’ Alex Pappas contributed to this report.