No political bias but FBI made mistakes in probe of Trump 2016 campaign: watchdog
10 December, 2019, 12:00 pm
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department’s internal watchdog said it found numerous errors but no evidence of political bias by the FBI when it opened an investigation into contacts between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia in 2016.
The report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz gave ammunition to both Trump’s supporters and his Democratic critics in the debate about the legitimacy of an investigation that clouded the first two years of his presidency.
It will not be the last word on the subject.
Federal prosecutor John Durham, who is running a separate criminal investigation on the origins of the Russia probe, said he did not agree with some of the report’s conclusions.
Attorney General William Barr, who ordered the Durham investigation, said the report showed that the FBI launched its investigation “on the thinnest of suspicions.”
Horowitz found that the FBI had a legal “authorized purpose” to ask for court approval to begin surveillance of Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser.
But Horowitz also found a total of 17 “basic and fundamental” errors and omissions in the original application and all subsequent renewals to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA). Those errors made the case appear stronger than it was, Horowitz said.
In particular, the report singled out an FBI lawyer who altered an email contained in a renewal of the application which claimed that Page was “not a source” to another U.S. government agency.
In truth, Page served from 2008 to 2013 as a “operational contact” to another agency, which was not identified in the report.
The lawyer was previously identified by Republican Representative Mark Meadows as Kevin Clinesmith, who is no longer with the agency. Clinesmith, former FBI attorney Lisa Page and former special agent Peter Strzok were among a group of FBI employees found by Horowitz last year to have exchanged text messages critical of Trump.