Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz detailed how the FBI made “at least 17 significant errors or omissions” in its FISA application to surveil Trump-campaign adviser Carter Page, including the application’s reliance on the unverified Steele dossier.
The inspector general found no evidence that the Russia probe was launched for political reasons but did conclude that the FBI’s FISA process fell “far short of the requirement in FBI policy that they ensure that all factual statements in a FISA application are ‘scrupulously accurate,’” according to the extensive report.
“The Crossfire Hurricane team failed to inform Department officials of significant information that was available to the team at the time that the FISA applications were drafted and filed,” the report asserts. “Much of that information was inconsistent with, or undercut, the assertions contained in the FISA applications that were used to support probable cause and, in some instances, resulted in inaccurate information being included in the applications.”
The FBI knowingly omitted details of Steele’s prior working relationship with the CIA, as well as numerous potentially exculpatory statements he made to other sources that undercut central allegations included in the Steele dossier.
The report also confirms that a top FBI national security lawyer doctored an email that explained that Page was “a source” for the CIA in order to give the opposite impression to the federal spy court.
“We identified multiple instances in which factual assertions relied upon in the first FISA application were inaccurate, incomplete, or unsupported by appropriate documentation, based upon information the FBI had in its possession at the time the application was filed,” the report states.
Before submitting their FISA application, which FBI officials resumed drafting on the same day they received the Steele information, the bureau “did not have information corroborating the specific allegations against Carter Page in Steele’s reporting,” but pushed ahead with the application anyways. To corroborate Steele’s claim, the FBI cited Steele’s credentials as a former British intelligence officer and his work as a FBI source, claims that were “overstated and had not been approved by Steele’s handling agent, as required by the Woods Procedures.”
The report also details how “FBI officials at every level” — including former deputy director Andrew McCabe and former director James Comey — agreed that Steele was reliable in illustrating that Page was a Russian asset, despite overhead concerns that Steele could have a partisan agenda given that he was being paid by the Democratic National Committee through the research firm Fusion GPS.
The report contrasts the FBI’s view to that of the CIA, which “believed that the Steele election reporting was not completely vetted and did not merit inclusion in the body of the” 2017 intelligence community assessment of Russian interference, and “viewed it as ‘internet rumor.’”
Following the release of the report, attorney general William Barr released a statement calling the FBI’s basis for launching the investigation “the thinnest of suspicions.”
“While most of the misconduct identified by the Inspector General was committed in 2016 and 2017 by a small group of now-former FBI officials, the malfeasance and misfeasance detailed in the Inspector General’s report reflects a clear abuse of the FISA process,” Barr said in his statement.
U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is running a separate investigation under Barr’s authority into the FBI probe of the Trump campaign, said in a statement Monday that he disagreed with that IG finding in how the investigation was opened.