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Watchdog Has Good News, Bad News for Trump on FBI

Russia investigation seen as justified, but agency is ripped for serious errors
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 9, 2019 1:00 PM CST
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz.   (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

(Newser) – A report by the Justice Department's inspector general about the FBI's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump 2016 campaign and Russia delivers both good and bad news for the president. Key findings from the report (read it in full here) by IG Michael Horowitz:

  • Justified: Horowitz found that the FBI was justified in opening the original investigation. The agency had an "authorized purpose" in investigating a possible crime and did not act out of political bias, says the report, per the Washington Post. This undercuts the claims of Trump and his supporters to the contrary.
  • Problems: However, the report also called out the FBI for serious missteps in how it handled the investigation, reports ABC News. Specifically, the report cited 17 "significant inaccuracies or omissions" in applications for a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor the communications of former Trump adviser Carter Page, per the AP. These errors resulted in "applications that made it appear that the information supporting probable cause was stronger than was actually the case."
  • More specifically: While ABC News notes the report found the so-called Steele dossier was not used to open the FBI investigation, the AP reports British spy Christopher Steele's reports were used to support the surveillance of Page. But the watchdog found the FBI left out things like Steele's comment that one source "may engage in some embellishment."
  • More on that: A related quote from the report, per the Wall Street Journal: "That so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate, hand-picked teams on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations that was briefed to the highest levels within the FBI, and that FBI officials expected would eventually be subjected to close scrutiny, raised significant questions regarding the FBI chain of command’s management and supervision of the FISA process."
  • Quick analysis: The report's "nuanced conclusions deny a clear-cut vindication for Trump's supporters or critics," per an analysis at the AP. "It rejects theories and criticism spread by Trump and his supporters while also finding errors and misjudgments likely to be exploited by Republican allies as the president faces a probable impeachment vote this month."
(This is not the final say on the matter: Attorney General William Barr has a separate criminal investigation of the FBI probe underway.)

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