A little over a year after a damning inspector general’s report on the Trump-Russia “collusion” probe, it turns out the chickens have come home to roost.
In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray confirmed that every agent mentioned in the Horowitz report — a report from the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General that detailed the origins of the investigation into illusory links between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Kremlin — had been referred for discipline if he or she hadn’t already left, according to The Washington Times.
In fact, when asked by GOP Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana how many of the agents and employees mentioned in the report had been prosecuted or fired, Wray said most were no longer with the organization.
“Most of the people involved in the Horowitz report are former employees,” Wray said.
“Of the ones who are current, every single one of them, even if mentioned only in passing, has been referred to our Office of Professional Responsibility, which is our disciplinary arm,” he added.
Wray said the FBI continued to work with special counsel John Durham, who was appointed by Trump administration Attorney General William Barr to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe in 2016.
The FBI director said that “that piece of it, because we’re cooperating fully with Mr. Durham’s investigation, at his request, we had slowed that process down to allow his criminal investigation to proceed. So at the moment, that process is still underway in order to make sure that we’re being appropriately sensitive to the criminal investigation.”
While the Horowitz report didn’t find any particular evidence of partisan political targeting on the part of intelligence officials, it did find that to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against former Trump campaign staffer Carter Page, FBI employees either altered or withheld information from the courts.
In addition, the Horowitz report found 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” that it “raised significant questions regarding the FBI chain of command’s management and supervision of the FISA process.”
The first FISA application, the report found, “[o]mitted 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, and that Page had provided information to the other agency concerning his prior contacts with certain Russian intelligence officers, one of which overlapped with facts asserted in the FISA application.”
Then there were the assessments of Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence agent whose dossier on Trump — funded by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign — was used in large part to obtain the FISA warrant.
The FBI said Steele’s findings had been “corroborated and used in criminal proceedings” (untrue) and that Steele himself had warned the FBI that some of the sources may not be trustworthy.
The FISA application, the report found, “[o]mitted information relevant to the reliability of Person 1, a key Steele sub-source … namely that (1) Steele himself told members of the Crossfire Hurricane team that Person 1 was a ‘boaster’ and an ‘egoist'” and “‘may engage in some embellishment.'”
The report “concluded that 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” and identified “at least 17 significant errors or omissions in the Carter Page FISA applications.” (You may not be surprised all of those errors seemed to go the same way.)
In addition, it found the FBI did not follow “its own standards of accuracy and completeness.”
Alas, only one individual was charged in connection with the investigation into the mishandling of the investigation: former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who forged an email that helped keep the wiretapping warrants on Page flowing.
Clinesmith admitted to forging the email and prosecutors had sought jail time. However, at sentencing in January, Judge James E. Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said the “media hurricane” he’d been put through was bad enough.
“Anybody who has watched what Mr. Clinesmith has suffered is not someone who will readily act in that fashion,” Boasberg said, according to The New York Times.
The Durham investigation is still ongoing, thanks to Barr’s wise decision to appoint him as a special counsel. That said, we ought to be realistic; while I love surprises as much as anyone, substantive punishment that fits the abuses perpetrated at the outset of the Trump-Russia investigation is unlikely to be forthcoming.
At the very least, Wray has testified under oath that every individual mentioned in the Horowitz report still employed by the FBI has been referred for discipline — and presumably, some of them have met with consequences. It might not be the end we deserved, but it’s better than nothing.
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