The DOJ inspector general report on allegations of
corruption in the investigations into members of the Trump campaign in 2016 is
due out on December 9. The report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz has
been eagerly anticipated by both sides in the debate over the origins of the
Russia investigation, but the early signs indicate that proponents of the Deep State
conspiracy theory may be disappointed.
Over the weekend, CNN reported the IG found evidence that an FBI employee altered a document
connected with the surveillance warrant application for Carter Page, a former
Trump campaign advisor. The CNN report did not detail what changes were made to
the document and it is not known what role the document played in obtaining the
warrant, but the alterations were reportedly significant enough to change the
meaning of the document. The Washington
Post cited US officials who said that the employee falsely claimed he had supporting
evidence to back up the changes.
On the surface, the report seemed damning for the FBI, but,
reading beyond the headline, the incident is much less sinister than it first
appeared. The employee in question was a low-level attorney rather than an FBI
agent or manager and, after the deception was discovered, the employee was forced
out of the bureau. The incident became public as Horowitz turned over evidence of
the alteration to federal prosecutor John Durham.
The Post reported that Horowitz found that the incident did
not undermine the legal and factual basis of the federal investigation into
Carter Page. The finding that the incident did not compromise the probable
cause for the investigation undermines Republican claims that the counterintelligence
investigations into members of the Trump campaign were begun in bad faith.
Sources with knowledge of the report say that Horowitz found the FBI’s work to
be sloppy but not indicative of a Deep State conspiracy against Trump.
Several Republicans have raised expectations for the IG
report in recent weeks. President Trump, who said that he is “waiting for the
report like everybody else,” told Fox
News several weeks ago, “I predict you will see things that you don’t even
believe, the level of corruption — whether it’s [James] Comey; whether it’s
[Peter] Strzok and his lover [Lisa] Page; whether it’s so many other people —
[Andrew] McCabe; whether it’s President Obama himself. Let’s see whether or not
it’s President Obama. Let’s see whether or not they put that in.”
Likewise, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) said, “It doesn’t
take 500 pages to tell the inspector general that everything was done properly.
The IG report is going to find that there were problems.”
The question is how big the problems were and whether there
was intentional abuse. Some of the problems are discussed in an assessment by
the IG released last week that found “numerous issues” with FBI
handling of secret sources The Washington
Times reported that that the issues including failing to vet sources in a
timely manner and insufficiently clear guidance from FBI headquarters. The assessment
made 16 recommendations which were reportedly being implemented by the FBI.
“Ineffective management and oversight of confidential
sources can result in jeopardizing FBI operations and placing FBI agents,
sources, subjects of investigation, and the public in harm’s way,”
Horowitz said in a two-minute video accompanying release of the assessment.
In the wake of the assessment and revelation about the FBI
lawyer, Carter Page is among those trying to tamp down expectations. In an interview
with CNN’s Michael Smerconish over the weekend, Page said, “The keyword
that you just said is sloppiness, right? And unfortunately, the way that this
inspector general report has been assembled and completed over the last couple
of years and particularly over the last few months, is completely sloppy. It’s
only one side’s perspective.”
Indeed, the fact that the draft report was submitted to
Attorney General Barr in September but the only hint of a prosecution is the
unnamed former FBI lawyer is a strong indication that there was little unethical
or criminal activity for Horowitz to find. The lack of criminal referrals to
Durham or leaks trumpeting Obama-era FBI corruption is a strong hint that the
conspiracy claims are duds.
While the report has not yet been released to the public,
insiders say that the report paints an objective picture that is critical of
the FBI but does not support the claim that there was a high-level conspiracy
to undermine the Trump campaign. However, because the report does criticize the
FBI, sources within the government say that it will give ammunition to both
“You can see how the warring factions will seize on the
various parts of this to advance their respective narratives,” a person
familiar with the report told the Washington
That will be particularly true for those who rely on
cherry-picked passages cited by pundits without looking at the entire report.