Inspector General Michael Horowitz, in his first public remarks after releasing a report on the FBI’s FISA investigation, blamed top officials in the FBI for failure in overseeing a flawed effort to get authority to surveil Carter Page, an American foreign policy adviser who worked on President Donald Trump’s 2016 election effort.
“We are deeply concerned that so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate, hand-picked 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 use of FISA authority related so closely to an ongoing presidential campaign; and even though those involved with the investigation knew that their actions were likely to be subjected to close scrutiny,” Horowitz said in his opening remarks.
Horowitz’s report was released Monday as Democrats in the House ramped up their impeachment effort against Trump.
Horowitz concluded that the errors amounted to a failure that implicated the chain of command at the FBI responsible for handling the FISA applications, including senior officials.
“We believe this circumstance reflects a failure not just by those who prepared the FISA 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 testified. “Especially in the FBl’s most sensitive and high-priority matters, and especially when seeking court permission to use an intrusive tool such as a FISA order, it is incumbent upon the entire chain of command, including senior officials, to take the necessary steps to ensure that they are sufficiently familiar with the facts and circumstances supporting and potentially undermining a FISA application in order to provide effective oversight consistent with their level of supervisory responsibility.”
Attorney General William Barr, following the release of the report, told NBC News that the FBI under Director James Comey may had been acting in “bad faith” when it opened the probe.
“I think probably from a civil liberties standpoint, the greatest danger to our free system is that the incumbent government use the apparatus of the state, principally, the law enforcement agencies and the intelligence agencies, both to spy on political opponents. But as to use them in a way that could affect the outcome of the election,” he said Tuesday. “As far as I’m aware, this is the first time in history that this has been done to a presidential campaign.”
The United States was “turned on its head for three years” due to a false narrative propagated by legacy news outlets, he said.
“I think there were gross abuses … and inexplicable behavior that is intolerable in the FBI. I think that leaves open the possibility that there was bad faith,” he told the broadcaster.
Horowitz’s comments on Wednesday came after Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) launched a salvo at the FBI and Department of Justice.
The report didn’t just show “a few irregularities,” he said. “What happened here is the system failed. People at the highest level of government took the law in their own hands.” He added of the media’s coverage: “You clearly didn’t read it. If that’s your takeaway that this thing was lawfully predicated, and that’s the main point, you miss the entire report.”
“The first thing I want you to know is how the cake is baked here and my goal is to make sure…you look at this as more than a few irregularities, because if this becomes a few irregularities in America, then God help us all,” the chairman said.
The 476-page IG report released Monday said Horowitz found no political bias or intentional misconduct surrounding the FBI’s launch of the FISA probe, which has been disputed by Barr, Trump, and U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is carrying out a related criminal investigation.
Horowitz’s report identified at least 17 “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the application and renewals for Page’s FISA warrant.
Graham, in his public statement, noted there were biased text messages between FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page, who both showed significant animosity toward Trump and his supporters. They also talked about stopping him from being elected, talked about a so-called “insurance policy” in the event that he was elected, and spoke about “impeachment” when they joined special counsel Robert Mueller’s team.