By Jason D. Meister
Democrats are hoping their impeachment hearings dominate this week’s news cycle and divert attention away from the devastating revelations contained in Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on the origins of the Russia probe.
The IG report, released Dec. 9, shows us why they’re so desperate for a distraction.
For two years, the Democrats denied that the repeatedly discredited Steele dossier—the one paid for by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee (DNC)—played much of a role in any investigation. In 2017, President Barack Obama’s CIA director, John Brennan, emphatically denied that the dossier played any part in the intelligence community assessment (ICA) that fueled three years of the “Russiagate” conspiracy theory.
In the report, we learned that those were both lies. The Steele dossier played a “central and essential” role in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) application to wiretap Trump aide Carter Page. The FBI couldn’t have gotten surveillance authorization from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) without the dossier. As the report stated, “Immediately after the Crossfire Hurricane team received Steele’s election reporting on September 19, the team reinitiated their … efforts to obtain FISA surveillance authority for Page.”
The FBI also apparently knew of the dossier’s links to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. “Steele’s handling agent told us that when Steele provided him with the first election reports in July 2016 and described his engagement with Fusion GPS, it was obvious to him that the request for the research was politically motivated,” Horowitz wrote.
And yet they neglected to mention the dossier’s political origins and unreliability in their FISA application. “FBI personnel fell far short of the requirement in FBI policy that they ensure that all factual statements in a FISA application are ‘scrupulously accurate,’” the report stated.
“We identified at least 17 significant errors or omissions in the Carter Page FISA applications,” Horowitz stated, calling these “serious performance failures by the supervisory and non-supervisory agents with responsibility over the FISA applications.”
The same flaw is present with the ICA. The report found that the “FBI, including Comey and McCabe, sought to include the reporting [from Steele] in the ICA,” despite their knowledge of where it came from.
The anti-Trump crowd on Capitol Hill and in the media didn’t want this report to be compiled. They have been working to undermine its legitimacy since they learned the investigation was complete. The Washington Post, for example, tried to insinuate a cover-up based on common-sense efforts to prevent leaks.
Seeing the final report, we can see exactly why they tried to preemptively discredit it.
The same people pushing impeachment have seized on Horowitz’s determination that the FBI had an “authorized purpose” to begin their investigation into Page and others. The FBI has extraordinarily broad discretion and authorization to investigate, so it would have been truly incredible for an inspector general to find that the FBI had violated the law in opening an investigation. The report itself references the “low threshold for predication” in the relevant DOJ regulations.
Meanwhile, DOJ official Bruce Ohr, who failed to inform his supervisors of his contacts with Steele and Fusion GPS, is being referred to the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
The Horowitz report is just an appetizer. The forthcoming results of U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation will prove even more enlightening. In fact, Durham has indicated that he is prepared to go much further than Horowitz with regard to the legality of the FBI’s investigation.
Democrats hope their impeachment circus will prevent the public from paying attention to the real bombshells. As everyone already knows, impeachment will die in the Senate. The investigations into systematic abuse of government power against the Trump campaign and the subsequent efforts to destroy his presidency, however, are only just getting started.
Jason D. Meister is an advisory board member of Donald J. Trump for President Inc. and managing director of Ackman-Ziff.