Support Intelligent, In-Depth, Trustworthy Journalism.
The origins of the Russia investigation were under the microscope on Capitol Hill Wednesday. Michael Horowitz, inspector general for the Department of Justice, sat for a day-long hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee about his recent report examining accusations of political bias in the FBI and how the bureau conducted itself in the early months of the probe. William Brangham reports.
The origins of the investigation into President Trump's campaign and Russia were under the microscope today on Capitol Hill.
The inspector general for the Department of Justice sat for a daylong hearing about his recent report examining accusations of political bias in the FBI and how the bureau conducted itself in the early months of the probe.
William Brangham reports.
Before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, diametrically opposed views about one of the most controversial and sensitive FBI investigations in recent history.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:
There is no deep state. Simply put, the FBI investigation was motivated by facts, not bias.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.:
The system failed. People at the highest level of our government took the law into their own hands.
The sole witness today was Michael Horowitz, the Department of Justice's inspector general. He detailed the findings of his over 400-page examination of Crossfire Hurricane, the initial FBI investigation into Russian election meddling and what role the Trump campaign may have been playing.
Horowitz quickly dispelled one of President Trump's main theories: that the FBI launched the probe to derail his campaign.
We didn't find any documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the FBI's decision to conduct those CHS operations.
Horowitz also said that text messages from Peter Strzok, a key FBI official in the probe who repeatedly wrote derogatory things about candidate Trump, also had no bearing.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein:
Based on your investigation, personal political views expressed in text messages didn't motivate the opening of the investigation of ties between Trump campaign advisers and Russia; is that correct?
Ultimately, we concluded that those texts messages, which we found last year were entirely inappropriate, didn't ultimately play the role in Mr. Priestap's decision to open an investigation.
But Horowitz went on to detail numerous cases of errors and omissions by FBI officials, particularly with regards to so-called FISA warrants used to surveil Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
Nevertheless, we found that investigators failed to meet their basic obligations of ensuring that the FISA applications were scrupulous — scrupulously accurate.
We identified significant inaccuracies and omissions in each of the four applications, seven in the first application, seven in the first application and a total of 17 by the final renewal application.
Horowitz testified that these applications relied heavily on the controversial Steele dossier, a set of unproven allegations compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, and paid for, in part, by lawyers working for Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Horowitz said his investigation showed that FBI agents had evidence that Steele's information was questionable, but they hid those findings.
We are deeply concerned that so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate handpicked investigative teams on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations.
The circumstances reflect a failure, we outlined in the report, not just by those who prepared the 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.
Sen. Lindsey Graham:
Former FBI Director James Comey said this week that your report vindicates him. Is that a fair assessment of your report?
I think the activities we found here don't vindicate anybody who touched this.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah:
Every American really should be terrified by this report.
Republicans continually portrayed Horowitz's investigation as a deeper, damning indictment of the FBI and the DOJ.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas:
These are not typos. These are not small, inadvertent errors. These are grotesque abuse of power.
But Democrats stressed that these actions didn't betray a larger culture within the agency, and that the broader Russia investigation did find extensive wrongdoing.
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.:
I just thought it was worth repeating that the Mueller investigation produced 37 indictments, guilty pleas and convictions, and none of those are called into question by your report; is that correct?
We don't address that at all.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.:
I didn't find any conclusion that the FBI meddled or interfered in the election to affect the outcome.
We didn't reach that conclusion.
Given that there's a separate ongoing investigation into the Russia probe being run by U.S. attorney John Durham, it's clear that the scrutiny of the FBI is nowhere near over.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham.
Watch the Full Episode
William Brangham is a correspondent and producer for PBS NewsHour in Washington, D.C. He joined the flagship PBS program in 2015, after spending two years with PBS NewsHour Weekend in New York City.
Support Provided By:
Support PBS NewsHour:
Subscribe to Here’s the Deal, our politics newsletter for analysis you won’t find anywhere else.
Thank you. Please check your inbox to confirm.