Jus­tice De­part­ment In­spec­tor Gen­eral Horowitz cites FBI mis­steps in in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Trump ad­viser.

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Matt Zapo­to­sky

WASHINGTON — Jus­tice De­part­ment In­spec­tor Gen­eral Michael Horowitz tes­ti­fied Wed­nes­day that he was con­cerned the FBI did not reeval­u­ate whether to con­tinue in­ves­ti­gat­ing a former Trump cam­paign ad­viser as agents failed to un­cover ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing in late 2016, and the FBI’s mis­steps in that case might in­di­cate a broader prob­lem.

Tes­ti­fy­ing at a Se­nate Home­land Se­cu­rity and Gov­ern­men­tal Af­fairs Com­mit­tee hear­ing, Horowitz crit­i­cized how the FBI han­dled its probe of former Trump cam­paign ad­viser Carter Page, as­sert­ing that agents used in­ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion to ob­tain For­eign In­tel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Court or­ders to surveil Page, even as they dis­cussed among them­selves that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was com­ing up empty.

While Horowitz said he did not see ev­i­dence of those prob­lems “in­fect­ing” the rest of the FBI’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether the Trump cam­paign co­or­di­nated with Rus­sia to in­flu­ence the 2016 elec­tion, he as­serted he was so alarmed that he launched a broader re­view of the FBI’s use of the For­eign In­tel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Court.

“The con­cern here is this is such a high pro­file, im­por­tant case,” Horowitz tes­ti­fied. “If it hap­pened here, is this in­dica­tive of a wider prob­lem?”

The hear­ing is the sec­ond time Horowitz has dis­cussed his assess­ment of the FBI’s 2016 in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Trump cam­paign. As with his last ap­pear­ance be­fore the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, his re­marks of­fered fod­der for Democrats and Repub­li­cans to val­i­date their di­ver­gent views of the po­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive probe, which was ul­ti­mately taken over by spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller.

Horowitz said that the bureau was jus­ti­fied in open­ing the po­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tion, though he noted the thresh­old for do­ing so was low. He also said he found no ev­i­dence of po­lit­i­cal bias af­fect­ing the in­quiry.

But Horowitz said, too, that as the in­ves­ti­ga­tion went along and the FBI ap­plied to sur­rep­ti­tiously mon­i­tor Page, the bureau in­cluded “sig­nif­i­cant in­ac­cu­ra­cies” and omit­ted im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion in its bids to do so. He said he found ev­i­dence that agents dis­cussed “not find­ing any­thing with re­gards” to Page, but pressed ahead any­way, in­stead of re­assess­ing whether the probe was worth­while.

“We’ve got agents talk­ing with one another about why is Page even a sub­ject any­more,” Horowitz said.

That as­ser­tion is im­por­tant, as Repub­li­cans have sug­gested even if the FBI’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion was opened le­git­i­mately, it should have been shut down long be­fore Mueller was ap­pointed.

Sen. Ron John­son, RWis., chair of the Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee, said in his open­ing state­ment he be­lieves the in­spec­tor gen­eral re­port shows that the FBI’s Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion should have been shut down “within the first few months of 2017.” In­stead, he said, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion was “was tor­mented for over two years ... all based on a false nar­ra­tive.”

The probe was opened in the sum­mer of 2016; Mueller sub­mit­ted his fi­nal re­port to the at­tor­ney gen­eral in March.

Un­der ques­tion­ing from Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., Horowitz noted he found no ev­i­dence that the mis­steps in the Page case sul­lied the FBI’s other work.

The FBI’s open­ing of the um­brella in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­volv­ing the Trump cam­paign was based not on Page, but a dif­fer­ent Trump cam­paign ad­viser, Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los, whose boasts to an Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial about the Rus­sians po­ten­tially hav­ing dirt on Hil­lary Clin­ton sparked the bureau’s in­ter­est.

Horowitz said he was un­able to get sat­is­fac­tory ex­pla­na­tions for some of the FBI’s mis­con­duct, and cer­tain wit­nesses only agreed to co­op­er­ate late in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Con­ser­va­tives have also noted that Horowitz’s re­port is not the last word. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr tapped the top fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor in Con­necti­cut, U.S. At­tor­ney John Durham, to do a sim­i­lar re­view of the Rus­sia case.

SA­MUEL CO­RUM/GETTY

Michael Horowitz is sworn in be­fore tes­ti­fy­ing be­fore a Se­nate panel Wed­nes­day.

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