John Solomon Reports:
Next week Americans will finally get their most complete accounting to date of what the FBI did right and wrong in the Russia collusion investigation that probed President Trump’s campaign with a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant at the end of the 2016 election.
Predicted to span more than 500 pages and 100 witness interviews, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report Monday will provide a comprehensive catalog of what offenses, mistakes and oversights the FBI committed during one of the most politically polarizing investigations in recent history.
As such, it will serve as a non-partisan roadmap for a much longer process of holding the investigators to account, a process that now includes a criminal probe being led by U.S. Attorney John Durham and investigative hearings by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham.
In the evitable political bitterness that grips Washington, each political party will seek to score points by cherry-picking their favorite Horowitz findings. But there is a far weightier question than electoral politics to be resolved: Can the FBI be trusted going forward to adequately, fairly and honestly protect civil liberties of Americans while conducting counterintelligence, counterterrorism and criminal investigations.
With that bigger question in mind, here are the 10 revelations I believe will be most important in the Horowitz report.
The scope of failure and misconduct
Were there isolated mistakes, systemic cultural and procedural failures or intentional acts involved in the investigation, the pursuit of the FISA warrant against ex-Trump adviser Carter Page and the renewal of the FISA warrant for more than a year? I expect the Horowitz report to identify between six and 12 failures, mistakes and acts of misconduct. These will range from the serious offense of altering a government document to failures to provide the courts evidence and information required under the FISA process. The large number of problems, if confirmed, should be a wakeup call to the FBI and those who provide oversight of its activities.
Exculpatory evidence withheld
The issue of whether the FBI failed to tell the FISA judges, as required, about evidence of innocence concerning some of the Americans it targeted has been raised for more than a year by key members of Congress like Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Ca., and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. I expect the IG to identify exculpatory statements made by key figure George Papadopoulos to an undercover informant that were not properly disclosed to the court. A second revelation to watch is whether the FBI possessed similar evidence of innocence involving Page that was not disclosed.
Derogatory information about informant Christopher Steele
The FBI stated to the court in a footnote that it was unaware of any derogatory information about the former MI6 agent it was using as “confidential human source 1” in the Russia case. This claim could face a withering analysis in the report. Congressional sources have reported to me that during a recent unclassified meeting they were told the British government flagged concerns about Steele and his reliance on “sub-sources” of intelligence as early as 2015. Bruce Ohr testified he told FBI and DOJ officials early on that he suspected Steele’s intelligence was mostly raw and needed vetting, that Steele was working with Hillary Clinton’s campaign in some capacity and appeared desperate to defeat Trump in the 2016 election. And documents show State Department official Kathleen Kavalec alerted the FBI eight days before the first FISA warrant was obtained that Steele may have been peddling a now-debunked rumor that Trump and Vladimir Putin were secretly communicating through a Russian bank’s computer server. Most experts I talked with say each of these revelations might constitute derogatory information that should be disclosed to the court. On a related note, Horowitz just released a separate report that concluded the FBI is doing a poor job of vetting informants like Steele, suggesting there was a culture of withholding derogatory information from informants’ reliability and credibility validation reports. You can read about that here.