The inspector general’s findings were so significant that he recommended the FBI’s “entire chain of command” outlined in his report to the DOJ for “consideration of how to assess and address their performance failures.” According to Horowitz, these failures prevented the Office of Intelligence “from fully performing its gatekeeper function and deprived the decision makers the opportunity to make fully informed decisions.”
When asked if he would have submitted the Page Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) renewal applications using the information that the FBI employed, Horowitz responded, “I would not have submitted the one they put in. No doubt about it. It had no business going in.”
Horowitz stated in his report that all of the “factual misstatements and omissions,” when taken together, gave the impression that the information “supporting probable cause was stronger than was actually the case.”
The IG report was highly critical of the actions taken by the FBI during the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign and directly challenged the processes, oversight, and leadership within the FBI:
“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.”
The IG report also hinted at biases within the investigative FBI group, without specifically using the actual term:
“Failure to update Office of Intelligence on all significant case developments relevant to the FISA applications led us to conclude that the agents and supervisors did not give appropriate attention or treatment to the facts that cut against probable cause.”
Horowitz also was asked by Crapo about intentional versus grossly negligent conduct by the FBI. Crapo noted that it’s “mind-numbing to consider that it could be just accidental.” Horowitz responded with what can only be viewed as a condemnation of the FBI’s numerous errors, noting that he found much of the FBI’s conduct inexplicable, and testifying that he failed to receive satisfactory answers for many of the FBI’s actions.
“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 also directly contradicted assertions regarding his conclusion of FBI exoneration, noting, “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 also made a significant disclosure regarding the unique legal restrictions that he was operating under during his investigation, telling congressional members, “We’re the only IG that can’t review conduct of all the employees in our organization, including attorneys.”
The inability of Horowitz to review the conduct of attorneys is particularly surprising, given that he’s the inspector general for the Department of Justice and FBI—a government division that has an overabundance of lawyers within its employ.
Key Findings of Inspector General ReportThe IG’s report identified “at least 17 significant errors or omissions in the Page FISA applications, and many additional errors in the Woods Procedures. These errors and omissions resulted from case agents providing wrong or incomplete information to the OI (Office of Intelligence) and failing to flag important issues for discussion.”
The IG’s report also stated that, “While we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence of intentional misconduct on the part of the case agents who assisted OI in preparing the applications, or the agents and supervisors who performed the Woods Procedures, we also did not receive satisfactory explanations for the errors or problems we identified.”
Media organizations have widely reported that the IG didn’t find “documentary evidence” of intentional misconduct or bias on the part of the FBI, but have failed to note that Horowitz was unsatisfied and unconvinced with the answers he received for the multiple errors and problematic actions on the part of the FBI.
The IG also noted that some active members of the Crossfire Hurricane investigative team elected to utilize their own judgments, rather than presenting the evidence to the Office of Intelligence for a legal and procedural decision:
“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.”
While there has also been an ongoing narrative presented in the media regarding the IG’s finding that the FBI was within its rights in opening the initial July 31, 2016, counterintelligence investigation, the IG noted in his report that his focus wasn’t on the FBI’s decision to open that investigation:
“Our role in this review was not to second-guess discretionary judgments by Department personnel about whether to open an investigation.”
Horowitz noted in his report that the threshold for predication was “low” and specifically noted his concern that “Department and FBI policies do not require that a senior [Justice] Department official be notified prior to the opening of a particularly sensitive case such as this one.
“We were concerned to find that neither the AG [attorney general] Guidelines nor the DIOG [FBI’s Domestic Investigations Operations Guide] contain a provision requiring Department consultation before opening an investigation such as the one here involving the alleged conduct of individuals associated with a major party presidential campaign.”
The inspector general’s report stated that it concluded that the failures described in the report “represent serious performance failures by the supervisory and non-supervisory agents with responsibility over the FISA applications.”
Horowitz’s report noted that these failures prevented the Office of Intelligence “from fully performing its gatekeeper function and deprived the decision-makers the opportunity to make fully informed decisions.”
On Original Page FISA Application, the IG Found:
- The FBI omitted information from the FISA application that detailed work that Page had previously done for another U.S. government agency.
- The FBI mischaracterized former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele’s prior work for the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the FISA application.
- The FBI didn’t inform the FISA Court of certain material concerns regarding a key source that Steele used for his dossier: that Person 1 was a “boaster,” an “egoist,” and “may engage in some embellishment.”
- The FBI used a Sept. 23, 2016, article by Yahoo! News reporter Michael Isikoff as corroboration of Steele’s reporting. The FBI failed to inform the FISA Court that Steele was actually the source for Isikoff’s article.
- The FBI failed to provide the FISA Court with a statement by Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos to a confidential human source (CHS) in September 2016—presumably FBI informant Stefan Halper—in which Papadopoulos denied that anyone from the Trump campaign was collaborating with Russia.
- The FBI also omitted a statement from Page denying that he ever met former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. This denial was important as Steele claimed that Page was acting as an intermediary to Russia on behalf of Manafort.
- Finally, the FBI “cherry-picked” statements made by Page to an FBI confidential human source that served to support obtaining a FISA on Page, while, at the same time, excluding statements from Page that weren’t supportive of such an action.
On the Page FISA Renewals, the IG Found:
- All of Steele’s sourcing for his dossier came from second- and third-hand sources. The FBI presented Steele’s single and primary sub-source as being credible to the FISA Court but omitted statements and information that Steele’s primary sub-source ”had made statements in January 2017 raising significant questions about the reliability of allegations included in the FISA applications.”
- The FBI failed to inform the FISA Court of Page’s “prior relationship with another U.S. government agency, despite being reminded by the other agency in June 2017, prior to the filing of the final renewal application, about Page’s past status with that agency.”
- The FBI presented Steele as a former intelligence official whose work was held in high standing by not only the FBI, but also other government departments. But the FBI failed to provide the FISA Court with available information that was derogatory or unflattering regarding Steele from persons who previously had professional contacts with Steele or had direct knowledge of his work-related performance. Criticisms hidden from the FISA Court included statements that Steele demonstrated “lack of self-awareness,” “poor judgment,” “pursued people with political risk but no intelligence value,” and claims that Steele “didn’t always exercise great judgment, and it ‘was not clear what he would have done to validate’ his reporting.”
- The FBI also hid from the FISA Court that Steele’s information was being sent to other politically motivated individuals and the media, while playing down Steele’s personal biases against then-candidate Trump. Notes made by Steele stated that as early as the start of July 2016, Hillary Clinton was personally aware of his work. Following a July 5, 2016, meeting with his FBI handling agent, Michael Gaeta, Steele wrote that he “told Handling Agent 1 that Steele was aware that “Democratic Party associates” were paying for Fusion GPS’s research, the “ultimate client” was the leadership of the Clinton presidential campaign, and “the candidate” was aware of Steele’s reporting.” Steele told Horowitz “that he was “pretty candid” with handling agent 1. He also said it was clear that Fusion GPS was backed by Clinton supporters and senior Democrats who were supporting her.” Horowitz “found that the FBI was aware of the potential for political influences on Steele’s reporting from the outset of receiving it in July 2016.”
- The FBI failed to update the FISA Court with new information regarding the veracity of Steele’s work as new information came into the FBI’s possession, including a failure “to update the description of Steele after information became known to the Crossfire Hurricane team, from Ohr and others, that provided greater clarity on the political origins and connections of Steele’s reporting including that Simpson was hired by someone associated with the Democratic Party and/or the DNC.”
- Even after the FBI had conclusive knowledge that Steele had been the source for Isikoff’s article in Yahoo! News, they failed to provide the FISA Court with this information during any of the FISA renewals. Notably, the FBI had told the FISA Court that they “did not believe that Steele directly provided information to the reporter who wrote the September 23 Yahoo News article” in the original FISA application.
- The FBI overstated Steele’s credentials and past contributions to prior investigations. Steele’s work was presented to the FISA Court as having been used in criminal proceedings when they had, in fact, never been utilized in criminal proceedings. The FBI also omitted a finding that Steele’s past contributions to the FBI’s criminal program had been only “minimally corroborated.”
- The FBI continued to omit statements that Papadopoulos made to the FBI’s CHS, whereby Papadopoulos continued to deny “that the Trump campaign was involved in the circumstances of the DNC email hack.”
- The FBI omitted denials from Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud that he “supplied Papadopoulos with the information that Papadopoulos shared with the FFG [Friendly Foreign Government] (suggesting that the campaign received an offer or suggestion of assistance from Russia).”
- The FBI “omitted information indicating that Page played no role in the Republican platform change on Russia’s annexation of Ukraine as alleged in the Report 95, which was inconsistent with a factual assertion relied upon to support probable cause in all four FISA applications.”
This issue was material enough that Stuart Evans, the National Security Division’s then-deputy assistant attorney general, claimed that “had OI been made aware of the information, such discussions might have included the possibility of foregoing the renewal request altogether.”
Horowitz summed up the accumulation of material errors concerning the Page FISA application and the three renewals by noting that “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.”
Spying on Trump Campaign Began Earlier Than Previously KnownThe IG report also noted that spying on the Trump campaign didn’t begin when the FBI opened its counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign on July 31, 2016, but had, in fact, begun much earlier.
That’s highlighted in Footnote 193 of the report, which states that “in April 2016, NYFO [New York Field Office] prepared summaries of the information that ultimately led NYFO to open a counterintelligence investigation on Carter Page on April 6, 2016, and provided them to CD [Counterintelligence Division] officials at Headquarters to be used for a ‘Director’s note’ and a separate ‘Director’s Brief’ to be held on April 27, 2016.”
This same footnote also noted that the inspector general was unable to interview former FBI Director Comey in relation to “classified details,” because “Comey chose not to have his security clearances reinstated for our interview.”
In another material revelation, the IG report noted that then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch testified that she was actually briefed in the spring of 2016 by both Comey and Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe regarding Page:
“According to Lynch, Corney and McCabe provided her with information indicating that Russian intelligence reportedly planned to use Page for information and to develop other contacts in the United States, and that they were interested in his affiliation with the campaign.”
Lynch told Horowitz that she “believed they [Comey & McCabe] learned [this information] from another member of the Intelligence Community.
Given Page’s revelation that he was a CIA asset, one is left to wonder if the “member of the intelligence community” that Lynch referred to related to a leadership official within the CIA.
Worth noting is the fact that the spring of 2016 is the same period in which then-CIA Director John Brennan began passing unofficial foreign intelligence relating to the Trump campaign to the FBI.
“I was aware of intelligence and information about contacts between Russian officials and U.S. persons that raised concerns in my mind about whether or not those individuals were cooperating with the Russians, either in a witting or unwitting fashion, and it served as the basis for the FBI investigation to determine whether such collusion [or] cooperation occurred.”
The Email Fabrication by OGC Attorney ClinesmithA material email fabrication by attorney Kevin Clinesmith of the FBI’s Office of the General Counsel was used in a crucial part of the Page FISA renewals. Clinesmith’s email alteration deliberately deleted the fact that Page had “a prior relationship” with another governmental agency, and Clinesmith has reportedly been referred for criminal prosecution by Horowitz for his actions.
The IG report noted that “In an email from the liaison to the OGC [Office of General Counsel] Attorney [Clinesmith], the liaison provided written guidance, including that it was the liaison’s recollection that Page had or continued to have a relationship with the other agency.”
The liaison directed Clinesmith to “review the information that the other agency had provided to the FBI in August 2016.” The IG report noted that the “August 2016 information stated that Page did, in fact, have a prior relationship with that other agency.”
However, when Clinesmith subsequently sent the liaison’s email to “SSA 2,” who was to be the affiant for the third and final FISA renewal, Clinesmith “altered the liaison’s email by inserting the words ‘not a source’ into it, thus making it appear that the liaison said that Page was ‘not a source’ for the other agency.”
As the IG Report notes, “Relying upon this altered email, SSA 2 signed the third renewal application that again failed to disclose Page’s past relationship with the other agency.”
Steele Dossier Was Primary Evidence in FISA ApplicationsThe IG report noted that the FBI had first attempted to obtain a FISA on Page in August 2016 but was denied by the Office of Intelligence and/or the Office of the General Counsel because of insufficient evidence or proof that Page was “an agent of a foreign power” as claimed by the FBI:
“When the team first sought to pursue a FISA order for Page in August 2016, a decision was made by OGC [Office of General Counsel], OI, or both that more information was needed to support a probable cause finding that Page was an agent of a foreign power.”
In other words, the Steele dossier was effectively the only evidence the FBI had that Page was somehow “an agent of a foreign power.” And this evidence ran contrary to the documented work that Page had done for another governmental agency, including the fact that Page had “been approved as an ‘operational contact’ for the other agency from 2008 to 2013.”
The IG report noted that the Crossfire Hurricane team was “unable to corroborate any substantive allegations regarding Carter Page contained in Steele’s election reporting which the FBI relied upon in the FISA applications.” The FBI’s inability to verify Steele’s information was not relayed to the Office of Intelligence or the FISA court in any of the Page FISA applications as noted by the IG report:
“We believe it was the obligation of the agents who were aware of this information to ensure that OI and the decision makers had the opportunity to consider it, both for their own assessment of probable cause and for consideration of whether to include the information in the applications so that the FISC received a complete and accurate recitation of the relevant facts.”
“What I understand by verified is we then try to replicate the source information, so that it becomes FBI investigation and our conclusions rather than a reliable source’s. That’s what I understand it, the difference to be.
“And that work wasn’t completed by the time I left in May of 2017, to my knowledge.”
This lack of corroboration was further noted by the IG report which concluded that Woods Procedures—which include the file of evidence underlying a FISA application—were not properly followed by Crossfire Hurricane FBI personnel:
IG Findings Relating to SteeleThe IG report noted that in early 2017, the FBI’s Validation Management Unit (VMU) found that Steele’s past criminal reporting was only “minimally corroborated.” And while this information was provided to the Crossfire Hurricane team, it didn’t provide it to the FISA court.
The IG’s report noted that this information “was in tension with the source characterization statement included in the initial FISA application, which represented that Steele’s prior reporting had been ‘corroborated and used in criminal proceedings.’”
The IG noted that “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.”
Steele’s handling agent, Michael Gaeta, told the IG that “he would not have approved the representation in the application because only ‘some’ of Steele’s prior reporting had been corroborated.” According to the IG report, most of Steele’s information had not been corroborated and his information was never used in a criminal proceeding.
The IG noted that this failure in providing full disclosure to the FISA Court “created the inaccurate impression in the applications that at least some of Steele’s past reporting had been deemed sufficiently reliable by prosecutors to use in court, and that more of his information had been corroborated than was actually the case.”
As previously noted in the discussion relating to the Page FISA renewals, Steele had only one source—referred to as the primary sub-source in the IG’s report. In other words, contrary to popular belief, Steele didn’t have a network of direct sources that he worked with. In fact, he only had a singular source as noted in the IG report:
“Steele relied on a primary sub-source (Primary Sub-source) for information, and this Primary Sub-Source used a network of sub-sources to gather the information that was relayed to Steele; Steele himself was not the originating source of any of the factual information in his reporting.”
In other words, all of Steele’s information was second or third-hand—none of it was direct knowledge or intelligence from Steele himself. But this was not the only issue with the information contained in the Steele dossier.
When the FBI finally got around to interviewing Steele’s primary sub-source in January 2017, the FBI encountered some material credibility problems with Steele’s reporting as specified in the IG report.
The FBI conducted three interviews of the Primary Sub-Source in January, March, and May 2017, and as the IG report notes, these interviews “raised significant questions about the reliability of the Steele election reporting.”
During the initial January 2017 interview with the primary sub-source, the IG noted that the primary sub-source specifically told the FBI “that he/she had not seen Steele’s reports until they became public that month, and that he/she made statements indicating that Steele misstated or exaggerated the primary sub-source’s statements in multiple sections of the reporting.”
The timing of this initial interview is particularly important because it means that the FBI received this information from Steele’s singular source of information “shortly after the FBI filed the Carter Page FISA Renewal Application No. 1 and months prior to Renewal Application No. 2” but failed to inform the FISA Court of this highly relevant information.
“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.
Horowitz determined that, despite repeated assurances by members of the Intelligence Community to the contrary, “unverified information from Steele’s dossier was used “in an interagency assessment of Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 elections.”
Surprisingly, Horowitz noted that the CIA was reluctant to include Steele’s reporting in their assessments but that “the FBI, including [Director James] Comey and [Deputy Director Andrew] McCabe, sought to include the reporting in the ICA [intelligence community assessment].”
IG RecommendationsHorowitz provided a specific recommendation “that the FBI review the performance of the employees who had responsibility for the preparation, Woods review, or approval of the FISA applications as well as the managers and supervisors in the chain of command of the Carter Page investigation, including senior officials, and take any action deemed appropriate.”
But Horowitz didn’t leave the future compliance of the FBI in its own hands, noting, “We believe that additional OIG oversight work is required to assess the FBI’s compliance with Department and FBI FISA-related policies that seek to protect the civil liberties of U.S. persons.”
Horowitz announced that there would be an ongoing compliance audit and oversight process of the FBI from the Office of Inspector General:
Statement from Attorney General William BarrImmediately following the release of the IG Report, Attorney General William Barr issued a statement of his own in which he made clear his displeasure over the actions taken by the FBI in 2016 and early 2017 and that he believed that FBI officials had, indeed, misled the FISA Court:
Statement from US Attorney John DurhamFollowing Barr’s press release, U.S. Attorney John Durham issued a statement of his own, noting that unlike the Horowitz investigation, “our investigation is not limited to developing information from within component parts of the Justice Department.”
Durham also noted that his investigation was more inclusive and “included developing information from other persons and entities, both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S.”
Durham noted that his investigation had expanded its parameters to include “developing information from other persons and entities, both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S.” Both Durham and Barr have reportedly spoken with officials from the UK and Australia, in addition to Italian officials, as part of their ongoing investigation. Durham also recently elevated his investigation from an administrative review to a criminal investigation.
Durham concluded his statement by noting that:
“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’s last known visit to Italy was made in late September 2019, indicating that his advisement to Horowitz was made in the weeks immediately following Durham’s Italy trip.