Watch­dog: ‘Ba­sic and fun­da­men­tal er­rors’ in Rus­sia probe

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Eric Tucker and Michael Bal­samo

WASHINGTON >> The Jus­tice De­part­ment’s in­ter­nal watch­dog told Congress on Wed­nes­day that he is con­cerned that “so many ba­sic and fun­da­men­tal er­rors” were made by the FBI as it in­ves­ti­gated ties be­tween the Trump cam­paign and Rus­sia.

In­spec­tor Gen­eral Michael Horowitz’s tes­ti­mony before the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee comes two days af­ter the re­lease of a re­port that iden­ti­fied sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems with ap­pli­ca­tions to re­ceive and re­new war­rants to eaves­drop on a for­mer Trump cam­paign aide in 2016 and 2017. De­spite those prob­lems, the re­port also found that the FBI’s ac­tions were not mo­ti­vated by par­ti­san bias and that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was opened for a proper cause.

“I think the ac­tiv­i­ties we found don’t vin­di­cate any­body who touched” the war­rant ap­pli­ca­tions, Horowitz said.

The par­ti­san re­sponses to his re­port were on dis­play from the out­set of the hear­ing. The Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can lead­ers of the com­mit­tee high­lighted the find­ings they found most fa­vor­able to the points they wanted to make.

Democrats have seized on the in­spec­tor gen­eral’s con­clu­sion that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was not tainted by po­lit­i­cal mo­ti­va­tions. But Repub­li­cans say the find­ings show the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was fa­tally flawed. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr, a vo­cal de­fender of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, said the FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion was based on a “bo­gus

nar­ra­tive” and he de­clined to rule out that agents may have acted in bad faith.

Horowitz told sen­a­tors that the FBI failed to fol­low its own stan­dards for ac­cu­racy and com­plete­ness when it sought a war­rant from the se­cre­tive For­eign In­tel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Court to mon­i­tor the com­mu­ni­ca­tions of ex-cam­paign aide Carter Page.

The re­port de­tailed 17 er­rors and omis­sions dur­ing those wire­tap ap­pli­ca­tions, in­clud­ing fail­ing to tell the court when ques­tions about raised about the re­li­a­bil­ity of some of the in­for­ma­tion that it had pre­sented to re­ceive the war­rants.

“We are deeply con­cerned that so many ba­sic and fun­da­men­tal er­rors were made by three sep­a­rate, hand­picked in­ves­tiga­tive teams, on one of the most sen­si­tive FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tions, af­ter the mat­ter had been briefed to the high­est lev­els within the FBI,” Horowitz said.

Those prob­lems were es­pe­cially alarm­ing be­cause the war­rant to mon­i­tor Page “re­lated so closely to an on­go­ing pres­i­den­tial cam­paign” and “even though those in­volved with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion knew that their ac­tions were likely to be sub­jected to close scru­tiny.”

The com­mit­tee chair­man, GOP Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Carolina, echoed that sen­ti­ment in his open­ing state­ment. He said the code name for the FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion, “Cross­fire Hur­ri­cane,” was an apt ti­tle “be­cause that’s what we ended up with — a ‘Cross­fire Hur­ri­cane.’”

“What hap­pened here is the sys­tem failed. Peo­ple in the high­est lev­els of govern­ment took the law into their own hands,” said Gra­ham, a close Trump ally.

Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein of Cal­i­for­nia, the top Demo­crat on the com­mit­tee, said, “I be­lieve strongly that it’s time to move on from the false claims of po­lit­i­cal bias.”

Horowitz’s open­ing state­ment was over­whelm­ingly crit­i­cal of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, fo­cus­ing more on the flaws that his re­port iden­ti­fied than his find­ing about the ab­sence of par­ti­san bias.

Be­sides the er­rors in the war­rant ap­pli­ca­tion process, he point­edly noted that the FBI had not con­sulted with the Jus­tice De­part­ment before us­ing in­for­mants to in­ter­act with Trump cam­paign aides dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, though he also said no pol­icy re­quired it to do so.

“We there­fore be­lieve that cur­rent De­part­ment and FBI poli­cies are not suf­fi­cient to en­sure ap­pro­pri­ate over­sight and ac­count­abil­ity when such op­er­a­tions po­ten­tially im­pli­cate sen­si­tive, con­sti­tu­tion­ally pro­tected ac­tiv­ity, and that re­quir­ing De­part­ment con­sul­ta­tion, at a min­i­mum, would be ap­pro­pri­ate,” Horowitz said.

Copy­right 2019 The As­so­ci­ated Press. All rights re­served. This ma­te­rial may not be pub­lished, broad­cast, rewrit­ten or re­dis­tributed.

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