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DOJ Inspector General Reverses Decision to Not Allow Written Feedback of Russia Investigation Report

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DOJ Inspector General Reverses Decision to Not Allow Written Feedback of Russia Investigation Report

2019-11-15 12:23:071 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Michael Horowitz (Image source: Public domain)

A number of witnesses will finally be cleared to read the report on the FBI investigation of the 2016 Donald Trump campaign, but the Justice Department inspector general, Michael Horowitz, initially issued instructions informing them they could not offer written feedback to the draft sections. Later on the decision was reversed after The Washington Post published his directions.

Many, many people have wanted to get their hands on the final report, just as they have former special counsel Robert Mueller's final report that has been held under tight reigns and much secrecy under the direction of Attorney General William Barr, who only offered up a heavily-redacted report. 

The Post first published an article about Horowitz's directions early Thursday evening. Later that same night, spokeswoman Stephanie Logan issued a statement loosening up those rules.

"As part of our factual accuracy review and consistent with our usual practice, we are providing witnesses with the opportunity to review portions of the report that relate to them," said Logan. 

"Also consistent with our practice, we undertake every effort to ensure witnesses can provide their comments, and we are clarifying to witnesses that they will be able to provide written comments, consistent with rules to protect classified information."

Initially it was reported that witnesses were being invited to review portions of the report, but while they would be allowed to offer comments and corrections, unlike usual circumstances, they were informed the comments must only be shared verbally, according to people familiar with the matter.  

Barr and other officials have been working to set what should be redacted from the report, just as he did with the Mueller report, yet people familiar with this said the entire draft document is marked "Top Secret." This means anyone who discusses it outside the designed area could be committing a crime.

The witnesses were being asked to sign nondisclosure agreements and have been told they won't be allowed to remove any notes they make about the report, according to witnesses. This left some of the witnesses concerned that their objections to the report may not be recorded and incorporated into the inspector general's findings. They also had concerns the process would be giving him complete control of characterizing the comments and leaving them with limited paper trail to show that the process may have have been inaccurate. 

Republicans have alleged that there were many mistakes made during the investigation that Mueller later took over the following year and have referred to it as an attempted "coup." Democrats are hopeful that the inspector general will be able to disprove the many floated conspiracy theories about the Russia investigation.

It will be interesting to see how this affects the parallel investigation launched by U.S. Attorney John Durham at the direction of Barr earlier this year, as he examines whether intelligence was lawful in the way it dealt with Donald Trump's campaign. 

Barr said earlier this week that the inspector general's report is "imminent," and people familiar with the process have said having witnesses review drafts and offer feedback is often the last step before the report becomes public.

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