investigating the investigators
December 10, 2019

President Trump and his allies have hinged their "witch hunt" narrative in part on private text messages the Trump administration released between FBI lawyer Lisa Page and FBI agent Peter Strzok, both of whom have since left the FBI. Some of the text messages suggested the pair would have preferred that Hillary Clinton, not Trump, win the 2016 election.

The report Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released Monday on the FBI's handling of the Trump-Russia investigation found no "documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation" influenced the decision to investigate members of Trump's 2016 campaign, including from Page — who played no role in those decisions — or Strzok.

Horowitz's report did, interestingly, include some text messages between two FBI agents and a special supervisory agent (SSA) with an evident pro-Trump, anti-Clinton bias.

In Nov. 9, 2016, text messages, the supervisory agent said he "was so elated with the election" and volunteered to investigate the Clinton Foundation "if you hear talk of a special prosecutor." When confronted with his texts, the SSA explained it was "just energizing to me to see" Clinton lose because "I didn't want a criminal to be in the White House."

In Horowitz's previous report on the FBI and the 2016 election, he detailed how FBI and Justice Department leaders were so concerned about anti-Clinton leaks from the FBI's New York field office — former Attorney General Loretta Lynch told Horowitz it was "clear to me that there is a cadre of senior people in New York who have a deep and visceral hatred of Secretary Clinton" — they decided they had to publicly disclose that the FBI was briefly reopening the Clinton email investigation in late October 2016.

"It played as a stunning piece of news, a fresh gust of scandal 11 days before the election," The New York Times recounted Sunday. Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, then a top campaign surrogate, had teased this "surprise," citing FBI agents, showing yet again "that working with virtually nothing, he could cultivate the mere existence of investigations to his political benefit." Peter Weber

November 22, 2019

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz did uncover a flaw in the FBI's initial application to surveil Trump campaign aide Carter Page in 2016, CNN and The Washington Post report, and Horowitz will include it in his final report on the origins of the investigation of Russian campaign interference and President Trump's campaign. Horowitz is expected to release his report Dec. 9 and testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee two days later.

A low-level FBI lawyer may have made "substantive change to an investigative document" used to secure a FISA court warrant to monitor Page's communications, and "the alterations were significant enough to have shifted the document's meaning," CNN reports. But, the Post adds, the line lawyer's "conduct did not alter Horowitz’s finding that the surveillance application" had "a proper legal and factual basis." In fact, Trump campaign officials have "corroborated Special Counsel Robert Mueller's finding that the Trump campaign planned some of its strategy around the Russian hacks, and had multiple contacts with Kremlin-linked individuals in 2016," CNN notes.

The unidentified FBI lawyer "altered an email to back up" an erroneous claim about having purported documentation, the Post reports, and "the employee was forced out of the FBI after the incident was discovered." Horowitz reportedly shared this information with U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is conducting a parallel investigation of the origins of the Russia probe, "and Durham is expected to pursue the allegation surrounding the altered document to see whether it constitutes a crime," the Post reports. Peter Weber

November 13, 2019

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz appears to be nearing the release of his findings on the origins of the FBI's Russia investigation. Horowitz told Congress last month that his final report was being reviewed, he did not anticipate a lengthy review process, and he expects to release his report with minimal redactions.

In recent days, Horowitz has invited some of the dozens of witnesses his team interviewed and their lawyers to review their testimony over the next two weeks, The Associated Press and The Washington Post report. The witnesses will be able to suggest revisions to the portions of the report that concern their testimony. Horowitz provided a draft of his report to Attorney General William Barr in September, and Barr and other Justice Department officials have been working to clear legal and classification hurdles to the report's release.

Horowitz's review covers the early stages of what later became Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and any role the Trump campaign played. It is one of three investigations of the Russia probe that Trump's Justice Department launched. Barr has been very actively involved in the investigation he assigned to U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is now reportedly considering unknown criminal charges.

Trump and his allies are hoping that the investigations will cast doubt on the legitimacy of the origins of the Russia investigations, which, under Mueller, led to criminal convictions of Trump's former campaign chairman and vice chairman, national security adviser, and other campaign aides. If Horowitz's investigation does not come out next week, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) tweeted Tuesday, "I will be very disappointed & left to wonder WHAT THE GAME IS?? Is someone at FBI or DOJ tying IGs hands??" Peter Weber

January 30, 2018

For several months, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe has been the subject of an internal investigation by the Department of Justice, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. The DOJ's inspector general is reportedly examining McCabe's role in the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server.

At issue, the Post says, is how McCabe handled the emails that were found on the laptop of former congressman Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin, during an unrelated FBI investigation. Agents in the FBI's office in New York reportedly told McCabe about the existence of the emails on Weiner's computer in "late September or early October," the Post reports, or roughly three to four weeks before then-FBI Director James Comey wrote a letter to Congress revealing the findings.

Some FBI officials apparently believe McCabe intentionally sat on the email revelation in an effort to delay investigating them until after the election. The new emails prompted Comey to reopen the investigation via the letter to Congress, only to close it again soon after because they were determined to contain no new information. Eleven days after Comey sent his letter, Donald Trump was elected president.

"It is unclear whether the inspector general has reached any conclusions" on whether McCabe intentionally delayed reporting the Weiner email findings because the election was approaching, the Post says. McCabe resigned from the FBI on Monday. Read more about the internal investigation at The Washington Post. Kelly O'Meara Morales

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