(Bloomberg) -- Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a long-anticipated report Monday into the FBI’s investigation in 2016 of people associated with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
The report provides a rare, extensive view into the FBI’s investigative work, from deciding to open the investigation in the first place to using confidential informants and obtaining secret warrants to conduct surveillance.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the investigation, which lasted almost two years and culminated in a 434-page report.
No Anti-Trump Bias
The FBI followed appropriate rules and there was no political bias when it opened the investigation, dubbed Crossfire Hurricane, into four people associated with the campaign: George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn. The report undercuts allegations that Trump and his allies have been promoting for years.
“We concluded that the quantum of information articulated by the FBI to open the individual investigations on Papadopoulos, Page, Flynn, and Manafort in August 2016 was sufficient to satisfy the low threshold established by the Department and the FBI,” according to the report. “We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the decisions to open the four individual investigations.”
Major FISA Failures
The inspector general found “at least 17 significant errors or omissions” concerning FBI efforts to obtain secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against Page, which started in October 2016 after he had left the Trump campaign.
The mistakes included failing to convey to the Justice Department or the FISA court information that cast doubt on a dossier complied by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, as well as material that was exculpatory for Page. The report recommends that all FBI officials involved in the case work have their actions administratively reviewed.
Passing on Page
The report reveals that Carter Page had been under a continuous FBI counterintelligence investigation for years and was at one point an asset for another U.S. agency, which is presumably the CIA. The FBI’s New York field office had an active investigation into Page when agents at FBI headquarters in Washington opened the probe into Trump campaign officials. The Page investigation was folded into that bigger probe.
However, FBI officials in Washington soon realized that Page didn’t really have any information that contributed to their investigation. Yet they persisted.
Agents “believed at the time they approached the decision point on a second FISA renewal that, based upon the evidence already collected, Carter Page was a distraction in the investigation, not a key player in the Trump campaign, and was not critical to the overarching investigation,” according to the report.
No Trump Infiltration
Contrary to Trump’s claims, the inspector general found no evidence the FBI used confidential informants or other investigative techniques on members of the Trump campaign before opening the investigation in July 2016.
There’s also no evidence the FBI placed any informants within the Trump campaign or assigned any informants to report on the campaign after the investigation was opened, according to the report.
No Warning to Trump
The report also answers an outstanding question as to why the FBI didn’t give the Trump campaign a defensive briefing in the summer of 2016 to warn them about Russian interference. Multiple officials weighed whether to provide the campaign such a briefing, including then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
However, the head of the FBI’s counterintelligence division at the time, E. W. Priestap, ultimately decided against doing so due to the risk of compromising the investigation.
According to the report, Priestap said, “If someone on the campaign was engaged with the Russians, he/she would very likely change his/her tactics and/or otherwise seek to cover-up his/her activities, thereby preventing us from finding the truth.”
The inspector general said there was no FBI policy requiring a defensive briefing and not doing so was a judgment call.
Barr and Durham Push Back
Attorney General William Barr slammed the key conclusion of the watchdog’s report, saying he thinks the study made clear “that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken.”
The top U.S. law enforcement officer has long pointed to a separate and continuing investigation into the origins of the FBI probe that he commissioned from U.S. Attorney John Durham. In his own statement Monday, Durham praised Horowitz’s office and its work but said his probe will be more comprehensive.
“Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened,” Durham said.
Dossier Author Steele
Former British spy Christopher Steele, the author of an unverified and in part salacious dossier of material on Trump, told the inspector general’s office he wasn’t biased against the president. In fact, he said he had a friendly, personal relationship with a member of the Trump family, and “once gifted a family tartan from Scotland to the family member.” ABC News reported the family member is Ivanka Trump.
Trump allies contend the Steele dossier formed the basis of the initial FBI probe, but the inspector general’s report rejected that outright.
The FBI paid Steele about $95,000 for his work over several years, but not for anything related to the Trump probe, according to the inspector general’s report. And it said FBI officials found discrepancies in his dossier.
“The FBI discovered discrepancies between Steele’s reporting and statements sub-sources made to the FBI, which raised doubts about the reliability of some of Steele’s reports,” the report said.
The Mifsud Mystery
The report also debunks a conspiracy theory that the FBI used a mysterious Maltese professor named Joseph Mifsud to interact with Papadopoulos.
The inspector general “searched the FBI’s database of Confidential Human Sources (CHSs) and did not find any records indicating that Mifsud was an FBI CHS, or that Mifsud’s discussions with Papadopoulos were part of an FBI operation,” according to the report.
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