Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz in a nearly 500-page report—combined with a nearly seven-hour congressional testimony—provided an in-depth and damning portrayal of the FBI’s actions in its surveillance of Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
While some media organizations have focused on statements revolving around Horowitz not having found political bias in the FBI’s opening of the probe, a fuller examination of Horowitz’s key statements portrays a more complete picture.
Horowitz found that these errors extended throughout the FBI’s chain of command, including “the managers and supervisors in the Crossfire Hurricane chain of command” and extended further to include the “FBI senior officials who were briefed as the investigation progressed.”
1. Horowitz Didn’t Receive Satisfactory Explanations for FBI Behavior
“Although we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence of intentional misconduct, we also did not receive satisfactory explanations for any of the errors or omissions we identified,” Horowitz said in Dec. 11 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
2. Horowitz Stated He Was ‘Deeply Concerned’ by FBI’s Numerous Errors
“We found, and, as we outlined here, 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, even though the information sought through the use of FISA authority related so closely to an ongoing presidential campaign, and even though those involved with the investigation knew that their actions would likely be subjected to close scrutiny. The circumstances reflect a failure, as we outlined in the report, not just by those who prepared the applications, but also by the managers and supervisors in the Crossfire Hurricane chain of command, including FBI senior officials who were briefed as the investigation progressed,” Horowitz said in his congressional testimony.
3. Horowitz Directly Questioned FBI Leadership’s Supervision of FISA Process
“That so many basic and fundamental errors were made on four FISA applications 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,” the inspector general report reads (Page 378).
4. Horowitz Found the FBI’s Conduct—Including Leadership—in the FISA Process to Be “Inexplicable”
“There is such a range of conduct here that is inexplicable,” he said, “and the answers we got were not satisfactory, that we’re left trying to understand how could all these errors have occurred over a nine-month period or so, among three teams—hand-picked—the highest-profile case in the FBI, going to the very top of the organization, involving a presidential campaign,” Horowitz said in his testimony (at 5:58:45 mark).
5. Horowitz Testified that Nobody at the FBI Who Was Involved in FISA Process Was Vindicated by His Report—Including Top FBI Leaders
When asked by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) if Horowitz’s report vindicated former FBI Director Comey, Horowitz responded that, “It doesn’t vindicate anyone at the FBI who touched this, including the leadership.”
Kennedy followed (at 6:06:30 mark) up by asking, “Does this vindicate Mr. [former FBI Deputy Director] McCabe.” Horowitz responded, “Same answer.”
6. Horowitz Noted that FBI Case Agents Substituted Personal Judgment for DOJ Oversight
“We believe that case agents may have improperly substituted their own judgments in place of the judgment of OI, or in place of the [FISA] court, to weigh the probative value of the information,” the inspector general report states (Page 377).
7. FBI Personnel Didn’t Appear to Understand the Basic Requirements of Woods Procedures
“The agents and SSAs also did not follow, or appear to even know, the requirements in the Woods Procedures to re-verify the factual assertions from previous applications that are repeated in renewal applications and verify source characterization statements with the CHS handling agent and document the verification in the Woods File,” the inspector general report states (Page 378).
8. Information Regarding the Reliability of Christopher Steele’s Reporting Provided Doubt as to Probable Cause but Wasn’t Questioned or Provided to the FISA Court
“We concluded that the information that was known to the managers, supervisors, and senior officials should have resulted in questions being raised regarding the reliability of the Steele reporting and the probable cause supporting the FISA applications, but did not,” the report states (Page xiv of the IG’s executive summary).
9. Horowitz’s Report Found Fault With the Entire FBI Chain of Command
The IG report noted (Page xiv of the IG’s executive summary) that “this was a failure of not only the operational team, but also of the managers and supervisors, including senior officials, in the chain of command.”
10. Horowitz Found That FBI Overstated Probable Cause in Their FISA Applications
“Although some of the factual misstatements and omissions we found in this review were arguably more significant than others, we believe that all of them taken together resulted in FISA applications that made it appear that the information supporting probable cause was stronger than was actually the case,” the inspector general report states (Page xiii of the IG’s executive summary).
11. Horowitz Testified That He Was Not Ruling Out Intentionality on the Part of the FBI
“It’s unclear what the motivations [of the FBI] were. On the one hand, gross incompetence, negligence? On the other hand, intentionality, and where in between? We weren’t in a position—with the evidence we had—to make that conclusion. But I’m not ruling it out,” Horowitz said in his testimony.
12. Steele Dossier Was Central to FBI’s Ability to Obtain a FISA on Carter Page
“We concluded that the Steele reporting played a central and essential role in the decision to seek a FISA order,” Horowitz said in his testimony.
Horowitz also said: “I would not have submitted the one [FISA] they put in. No doubt about it. It had no business going in.”
13. FBI Failed to Inform FISA Court of Material Inconsistencies in Steele’s Reporting
The inspector general report noted (Page xii of the IG’s executive summary) that “among the most serious of the 10 additional errors we found in the renewal applications was the FBI’s failure to advise OI [Office of Intelligence] or the [FISA] court of the inconsistencies … between Steele and his Primary Sub-source on the reporting relied upon in the FISA applications.”
14. The FBI’s Interviews of Steele’s Sole Source Revealed Material Misstatements by Steele’s Reporting
The inspector general’s report (page 186) notes that the FBI conducted three interviews of the Primary Sub-source in January, March, and May 2017 “that raised significant questions about the reliability of the Steele election reporting.”
“In addition to the lack of corroboration, we found that the FBI’s interviews of Steele, the Primary Sub-source, and a second sub-source, and other investigative activity, revealed potentially serious problems with Steele’s description of information in his election reports,” the report states (Page 384).
15. FBI Deliberately Omitted Information Regarding Work That Page Had Done for Another Governmental Agency in the FISA Application
The inspector general’s report (Page 413) noted that the Page FISA “omitted information the FBI had obtained from another U.S. government agency detailing its prior relationship with Page, including that Page had been approved as an ‘operational contact’ for the other agency from 2008 to 2013.”
16. FBI Misrepresented Steele’s Prior Work to the FISA Court
“We were concerned by the FBI’s inaccurate assertion in the application that Steele’s prior reporting had been “corroborated and used in criminal proceedings,” which we were told was primarily a reference to Steele’s role in the FIFA corruption investigation,” the inspector general report states (Page ix-x of the IG’s executive summary).
17. The FBI Knew of Steele’s Political Biases in July 2016 but Failed to Fully Disclose These to FISA Court
“We found that the FBI was aware of the potential for political bias in the Steele election reporting from the outset of obtaining it. Handling Agent 1 told us that when Steele provided him with Report 80 in July 2016 and described his engagement with Fusion GPS, it was obvious to Handling Agent 1 that the request for the research was politically motivated,” the inspector general report stated (Page 382).
“The Supervisory Intel Analyst explained that he also was aware of the potential for political influence on the Steele election reporting when it became available to the Crossfire Hurricane team in September 2016,” the report stated.
18. FBI Improperly Failed to Inform the Office of Intelligence of Material Information Within Their Possession
“The failures described above and in this report represent serious performance failures by the supervisory and non-supervisory agents with responsibility over the FISA applications. These failures prevented OI from fully performing its gatekeeper function and deprived the decision makers the opportunity to make fully informed decisions,” the inspector general report stated (Page xiii of the IG’s Executive Summary).
19. Despite the Damning Findings, Horowitz Has Only Limited Oversight of DOJ/FBI Personnel
Inspector General Horowitz noted in his testimony that, “We’re the only IG that can’t review conduct of all the employees in our organization, including attorneys.”
20. Horowitz Announced That Based on His Investigation, He Was Initiating an Ongoing Audit Related to FISA Procedures at FBI
“Additionally, in light of the significant concerns we identified, the OIG announced this week that we were initiating an audit that will further examine the FBI’s compliance with the Wood’s procedures in FISA applications that target U.S. persons, not only in counter-intelligence investigations, but also importantly in counter-terrorism investigations,” Horowitz said in his testimony.
21. Horowitz’s Final Recommendation Was to Refer Entire FBI Chain of Command for Review
“Our final recommendation was to refer the entire chain of command that we outline here to the FBI and the Department for consideration of how to assess and address their performance failures,” Horowitz said in his testimony.