By most accounts, Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz did his job.
He conducted an expansive investigation into the FBI’s handling of the Russia probe, uncovering myriad “serious” errors in the process.
Specifically, Horowitz criticized multiple aspects of how the bureau went about surveilling Carter Page and took particular issue with the FBI’s reliance on the infamous Steele dossier. His conclusions span more than 430 pages, putting his tome on par with the Mueller report. Even Horowitz’s executive summary is nearly two-dozen pages long.
He uses harsh language to describe instances of gross incompetence and apparent dysfunction. There is absolutely no sense in which the report is flattering for the FBI.
And yet, for William Barr and Donald Trump, Horowitz came up short. The problem: He didn’t fabricate evidence of a politically-motivated, illegal conspiracy orchestrated by any nefarious “deep state” operatives.
Instead, he “merely” produced voluminous evidence to support the conclusion that the FBI’s procedures and protocol need a sweeping overhaul to ensure the protection of civil liberties. We put the word “merely” in scare quotes there because were this any other administration, that would be considered more than enough to constitute a pat on the back – Horowitz has done the nation a service.
And while he was praised on Capitol Hill Wednesday when he showed up to chat with the Senate Judiciary Committee about his work, it was clear that some Republicans wanted more. Specifically, they took issue with Horowitz’s conclusion that the FBI had an “authorized purpose” to open the investigation and did not find evidence to support Trump’s accusations of political bias.
As The New York Times wrote Wednesday evening, Horowitz was more than willing to say that although “he found no evidence that the errors and omissions in the surveillance materials were intentional… he was also unsatisfied with the explanations offered for why they happened”.
The problem, though, is that “he could not read people’s minds to learn their motivations”. That is unacceptable to Republicans, apparently.
Just to give you an idea of the extent to which Horowitz is not out to exonerate any of the people that Trump and Barr are quite clearly aiming to prosecute, consider this exchange:
Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.): Does your report vindicate Mr. Comey?
Horowitz: It doesn’t vindicate anyone at the FBI who touched this, including the leadership.
Kennedy: Does it vindicate Mr. McCabe?
Horowitz: Same answer.
If Horowitz is in on this “deep state” conspiracy, he sure has a funny way of showing it.
But Horowitz was steadfast in defending his findings. Asked by Dianne Feinstein whether John Durham (who is in charge of William Barr’s investigation into the origins of the Russia probe) had presented any evidence whatsoever that would prompt Horowitz to change his mind about the conclusion that, mistakes and gross incompetence aside, the FBI had a valid reason to open the investigation, Horowitz said “No. We stand by our findings”.
“You didn’t find evidence of a ‘deep state’ conspiracy against candidate or president Trump”, Feinstein asked. “As to the opening, we found no bias. No testimonial or documentary evidence on that”.
Again: There is no “deep state” in America and there was no “deep state” conspiracy against Donald Trump. There was just an investigation into a campaign and that investigation was valid. You may not like that conclusion, but it is the truth. And it isn’t a coincidence that accounts you might have read to the contrary likely appeared on web portals that have a history of being, at best, disreputable.
Horowitz told lawmakers that he and Durham discussed the IG’s findings last month, and that the two disagreed (and still do, obviously) about whether the FBI should have instigated a preliminary investigation instead of a full investigation.
“Under FBI standards, agents can open a preliminary investigation on ‘any allegation or information’ that indicates possible criminal activity or threats to national security [while] opening a full investigation requires ‘an articulable factual basis’ that ‘reasonably indicates’ that a crime or security threat exists”, the Times notes. A preliminary investigation also imposes limits on measures agents can take. Durham and Barr failed to provide Horowitz with any evidence to alter his conclusion that the bureau had sufficient cause for a full investigation.
Durham on Monday released an unusual statement, essentially undercutting Horowitz. Barr supported Durham’s assessment during an interview with NBC.
Asked on Wednesday whether he would concur with the president’s assessment (delivered during a campaign event on Tuesday evening in Hershey, Pa.) that the FBI is staffed by “scum”, Horowitz said simply, “I would not call people names like that”.
As ever, Democrats didn’t have a difficult time making their case. All they had to do was ask Horowitz if he agreed with reality.
For example, Chris Coons asked Horowitz the following question: “The president’s campaign manager, deputy campaign manager, national security adviser, foreign policy adviser, personal attorney and longtime strategist were all either convicted of crimes or pled guilty in federal courts. Is that correct?”
“Ahh, I think I followed the list”, Horowitz responded, smiling. “I won’t disagree with you”.