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National News

Prosecutor Barr Picked Tells Inspector General He Can't Agree with GOP Theory About FBI Setup of Trump

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Prosecutor Barr Picked Tells Inspector General He Can't Agree with GOP Theory About FBI Setup of Trump

2019-12-06 17:24:29

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: William Barr (Image source: Public domain)

It was widely hyped earlier this year when Attorney General William Barr chose U.S. Attorney John Durham to lead a separate review of the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible coordination with Donald Trump's campaign. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is running a parallel investigation. 

This is following up on a theory that Donald Trump pushed for some time, that the FBI surveillance on his campaign was a setup. He referred back to FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page and their text messages to support this as well as the Steele dossier and the surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

But Durham is reportedly not finding the evidence that Barr expected him to and has shared that with the inspector general, according to people familiar with the matter.  

One of the questions Horowitz has been following up on was whether Joseph Mifsud, the Maltese professor who interacted with Carter Page, was really a United States intelligence asset. But intelligence agencies have said the professor is not one of their assets. Durham backed that up by saying he was not able to turn up any evidence to contradict that.

This interaction between Durham and Horowitz is in the inspector general's report on the Russia investigation that is due to be released on Monday. He concludes that the FBI had adequate cause to launch the Russia investigation, according to people familiar with the situation. The report is not finished yet, and it's unclear whether Durham shared all of his findings or whether this information was only due to being asked a specific question. 

Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement that Horowitz's investigation "is a credit to the Department of Justice." She added that "his excellent work has uncovered significant information that the American people will soon be able to read for themselves."

"Rather than speculating, people should read the report for themselves next week, watch the inspector general's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and draw their own conclusions about these important matters." 

People familiar with Horowitz's report have said that his report concludes that political bias did not play a part in the way top FBI officials handled the case. Yet, his investigation did turn up some misconduct on the part of the FBI that Trump and his allies are sure to hone in on instead of the other theories that are being debunked.

The inspector general's team found omissions in the FBI's applications to renew warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor Carter Page. These applications had relied at least in part on information from the dossier of Steele, a former British intelligence officer who was hired by an opposition research firm that was working with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. 

FBI agents found that Steele's information was not entirely reliable and was in need of further investigation. Horowitz reportedly discloses in the draft of his report that the FBI did not disclose this information in later applications to surveil Page. Yet, despite these omissions, Horowitz did not find them egregious enough to convince him to conclude that the renewal applications should have been rejected.

Additionally, Horowitz dug up that a low-level FBI attorney, Kevin Clinesmith, changed information on an email that was used in the warrant application process. Horowitz is now considering this as a possible crime. 

When looking at the predication for opening the Russia investigation, the FBI did so after the Australian government passed a tip to the U.S. that Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos had bragged about having dirt on Clinton. This was before it was publicly known that Russia hacked Democratic National Committee emails and stole information that could damage Clinton's campaign.

Reportedly, it was Mifsud who shared the information with Papadopoulos, who later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his communication with Mifsud. He has stated his belief that the professor is a Western intelligence asset who was setting him up. But both Horowitz and Durham have debunked this. 

Barr could object to Horowitz's claims in his report, but he cannot order him to change anything. He could also decline to offer any opinion yet publicly state his objections later. The Justice Department often offers a written response to inspector general conclusions, though that is usually when the inspector general is alleging misconduct and the DOJ is defending itself.

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