By Chuck Ross
The Justice Department’s office of the inspector general found “significant inaccuracies” in the FBI’s applications for warrants to conduct surveillance against a Trump campaign adviser, according to a report released Monday.
Michael Horowitz, the inspector general, laid out a lengthy list of FBI officials’ missteps in the Trump-Russia investigation. Most of those involved the FBI’s handling of information used in applications to obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide.
Attorney General William Barr issued a statement shortly before the release of the report, saying the 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.”
Horowitz opened the investigation March 28, 2018, focusing narrowly on the FBI’s applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against forer Trump campaign aide Carter Page. The investigation expanded to focus on the FBI’s activities leading to the opening of the counterintelligence investigation into four Trump campaign associates in late July 2016.
FBI officials relied on information from Christopher Steele, a former British spy who worked for Democrats, as part of the FISA applications against Page. The bureau alleged there was probable cause to believe Page was working as an agent of Russia.
The special counsel’s report severely undermined those conspiracy theories. It said there was no evidence that Trump associates conspired with Russia, or that any served as Russian agents.
Republicans have asserted the FBI misled FISA judges by relying on Steele’s unverified allegations about Page.
Steele Dossier played ‘central and essential role’ in FBI decision to apply for surveillance warrants
The unverified Steele dossier played a “central and essential role” in the FBI’s decision to apply for surveillance warrants against Trump campaign aide Carter Page, according to the Justice Department inspector general, whose findings undercut a key claim made by Democrats who have defended the bureau’s investigation of the Trump campaign.
“We determined that the Crossfire Hurricane team’s receipt of Steele’s election reporting on September 19, 2016 played a central and essential role in the FBI’s and Department’s decision to seek the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] order,” the Justice Department’s inspector general (IG) said in the report.
The report says that FBI investigators working on the Trump-Russia investigation sought a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) order against Page in August 2016, shortly after the probe began.
Lawyers with the FBI’s office of general counsel rejected the proposal, saying that more information was needed to support claims that Page was acting as an agent of Russia.
But the tide turned after Sept. 19, 2016, the day that former British spy Christopher Steele provided six memos from his now-infamous dossier to the FBI. After receiving the reports, the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane team contacted the bureau’s lawyers again seeking a FISA order against Page.
The FBI team “specifically focused on Steele’s reporting in drafting the FISA request,” the IG report says.
Two days later, the unit chief of the FBI’s office of general counsel contacted the Justice Department’s national security division to say that the bureau was prepared to formally submit a FISA application against Page.
An attorney was assigned “almost immediately” to begin preparing the application, the IG report says.
Not only did Michael Horowitz, the IG, find that the FBI relied heavily on the Steele dossier, the watchdog also discovered “significant questions about the reliability” of Steele’s information.
In his dossier, Steele alleged that Page was part of a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” involving the Trump campaign and Russian government.
Steele, who was working for Democrats, alleged that it was Page’s idea to release hacked DNC emails through WikiLeaks. The former spy also asserted that Page met secretly with two Kremlin insiders in Moscow in July 2016 to discuss ways to help the Trump campaign, while relaxing U.S. sanctions against Russia.
The special counsel’s report all but debunked those allegations. Robert Mueller, the special counsel, said that there was no evidence that Trump associates conspired with Russia or that any worked as Russian agents.
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