FBI Director Christopher Wray, with Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, left, testifies as the Senate Judiciary Committee examines the internal report of the FBI’s Clinton email probe and the role of former FBI Director James Comey’s actions during the 2016 presidential campaign, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, June 18, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Sometime later today, Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz will release his long-awaited report on alleged abuses of the FISA process in regards to obtaining a warrant for the surveillance of former Trump campaign aides and several extensions of that warrant that continued well after Donald Trump was inaugurated.
We don’t know what all will be covered in that report and we suspect that most of the other people commenting on it are doing little more than regurgitating the spin they received from the legal teams representing many of the key principals involved in the affair.
Here are some key points to keep in mind. Much is being made of Horowitz being “non-partisan.” This may very well be true but he seems to clearly be an institutionalist who is just as focused on protecting the brand of the Department of Justice as he is on revealing the truth to his employers, that would be you and me, the taxpayers. To that end, I would be shocked if he found anything really wrong anywhere rather than focusing on screw-ups and malfeasance of individuals and giving the benefit of the doubt to the actions of DOJ’s National Security Division which managed the investigation of the Trump campaign. Having said that, keep in mind that we haven’t heard Robert Mueller referred to as a nonpartisan war hero since he dropped his report. So, who knows, by close of business today we may be told that there are images of Horowitz in a MAGA hat.
Expect the FBI to be largely exonerated other than findings of bad acts by rogue actors or well-intentioned over-zealousness. I’ve read that Horowitz may not find any partisan motive in the actions of Strzok and Page and would not be shocked as it may well be possible to say that their actions were justified by the facts available to them despite their political bias. This, I think, is the clear canary in the coal mine test for the entire report. A finding of no bias in the most egregious cases and a treating of all other malfeasance, like the forging of a court document, as an individual factoid rather than as part of a fact pattern is a clear sign that the objective is to protect the Department of Justice and protect the FBI.
There will be a lot of talk about debunking this and that. When the left talks about “debunking” they are simply trying to discredit information they don’t want you to hear and can’t refute. The same goes for their use of “conspiracy theory” as a slur. I expect one of the debunked stories will be that President Trump was personally subject to surveillance (I won’t use his term wiretapped because electronic surveillance is a lot more sophisticated than that and wiretapping calls up images of myopic fellows in a dark room listening on earphones). That will be true as far as it goes. Keep in mind that a FISA warrant permits what is called “two hops” or “three hops.” What that means is that if Carter Page was the subject of a FISA warrant, everyone he talked to is subject to surveillance (one hop), everyone they talked to is subject to surveillance (two hops) and, potentially, everyone the second person talked to is subject to surveillance (three hops). So while Trump, himself, may not have been a direct target, with two hops he and all of his senior campaign staff were almost certainly under direct surveillance. See this from NBC:
These documents also tell us the FISC routinely includes authorization in their warrants for the government to surveil people in contact with their target, and people in contact with the contact; in a scheme referred to as “chaining,” these authorizations will include 2 or 3 “hops.” While the text of the Carter Page warrant application, and court approval, remain a secret, one shudders to think this authority was used to spy upon other members of the Trump campaign team who were in contact with Page. (The memo of the House intelligence committee’s Democrats about the warrant suggests that some unknown number of Trump campaign advisors were the subject of FBI “sub-inquiries.”)
The report should clear up the extent to which the Steele Dossier was used to undertake an unprecedented investigation of a major party candidate for president and how that fraudulent document was laundered.
There is a claim being made everywhere on the left that the FISA warrant issued concerning Carter Page would have been justified without the Steele Dossier and without an FBI attorney falsifying a court document. If so, we need to know what that evidence was and why Carter Page has not been charged with either lying to Congress, lying to federal agents, or with violating FARA. If the threshold for justifying such an intrusive warrant is possible against a demonstrably and proven innocent American, then the whole system is flawed beyond redemption. We also need to understand why Rod Rosenstein continued a warrant that probably allowed surveillance of the President of the United States.
We should learn more about the role of people such as Joseph Mifsud, Stephan Halper, Alexander Downer, and Azra Turk, I suspect the press will continue to push the line that Mifsud’s connection to the FBI has been debunked mostly because that is a smokescreen. No one, so far as I know, believes Mifsud was an FBI asset. A lot of us believe that he was an asset operated by a friendly intelligence service, probably Italy, and loaned to the US. Because Horowitz has no brief to interrogate CIA employees, we will not learn about the degree to which John Brennan’s CIA was involved in this affair. We also won’t learn about what current CIA Director Gina Haspel knew as CIA station chief in London, which is where most of the action took place, and when she knew it.
There have been stories that Attorney General William Barr is not satisfied with Horowitz’s findings. I don’t know if that is true and I certainly haven’t seen it reported by anyone who hasn’t been up to their eyebrows pushing Russia Hoax crap and Fusion GPS spank material for three years. I suspect that Barr might well disagree with some of Horowitz’s findings because his man, Connecticut US Attorney John Durham, is conducting a criminal probe over multiple agencies and has access to much more information than does Horowitz. You need to look at these stories as being a repeat of the disinformation pushed by the press that Barr’s summary of Mueller’s report reflected Barr’s intentions to protect the President and misrepresented Mueller’s report. If he doesn’t buy all of Horowitz’s findings, then they will simply say, “here he goes again.” Or that Durham is investigating “debunked’ “conspiracy theories.”
The salient question is this: If the FBI did have reason to suspect that the Trump campaign contained one or more people in senior positions who were actively working with a foreign government that was not Ukraine, then why was Donald Trump, the candidate, never briefed on the problematic staffer and given the chance to fire him but rather subjected to a degree of political espionage by the federal government that the US has not known since the break-in at the Watergate in 1972?