The DOJ inspector general report on allegations of corruption in the investigations into members of the Trump campaign in 2016 is due out on December 9. The report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz has been eagerly anticipated by both sides in the debate over the origins of the Russia investigation, but the early signs indicate that proponents of the Deep State conspiracy theory may be disappointed.
Over the weekend, CNN reported the IG found evidence that an FBI employee altered a document connected with the surveillance warrant application for Carter Page, a former Trump campaign advisor. The CNN report did not detail what changes were made to the document and it is not known what role the document played in obtaining the warrant, but the alterations were reportedly significant enough to change the meaning of the document. The Washington Post cited US officials who said that the employee falsely claimed he had supporting evidence to back up the changes.
On the surface, the report seemed damning for the FBI, but, reading beyond the headline, the incident is much less sinister than it first appeared. The employee in question was a low-level attorney rather than an FBI agent or manager and, after the deception was discovered, the employee was forced out of the bureau. The incident became public as Horowitz turned over evidence of the alteration to federal prosecutor John Durham.
The Post reported that Horowitz found that the incident did not undermine the legal and factual basis of the federal investigation into Carter Page. The finding that the incident did not compromise the probable cause for the investigation undermines Republican claims that the counterintelligence investigations into members of the Trump campaign were begun in bad faith. Sources with knowledge of the report say that Horowitz found the FBI’s work to be sloppy but not indicative of a Deep State conspiracy against Trump.
Several Republicans have raised expectations for the IG report in recent weeks. President Trump, who said that he is “waiting for the report like everybody else,” told Fox News several weeks ago, “I predict you will see things that you don’t even believe, the level of corruption — whether it’s [James] Comey; whether it’s [Peter] Strzok and his lover [Lisa] Page; whether it’s so many other people — [Andrew] McCabe; whether it’s President Obama himself. Let’s see whether or not it’s President Obama. Let’s see whether or not they put that in.”
Likewise, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) said, “It doesn’t take 500 pages to tell the inspector general that everything was done properly. The IG report is going to find that there were problems.”
The question is how big the problems were and whether there was intentional abuse. Some of the problems are discussed in an assessment by the IG released last week that found "numerous issues" with FBI handling of secret sources The Washington Times reported that that the issues including failing to vet sources in a timely manner and insufficiently clear guidance from FBI headquarters. The assessment made 16 recommendations which were reportedly being implemented by the FBI.
"Ineffective management and oversight of confidential sources can result in jeopardizing FBI operations and placing FBI agents, sources, subjects of investigation, and the public in harm's way," Horowitz said in a two-minute video accompanying release of the assessment.
In the wake of the assessment and revelation about the FBI lawyer, Carter Page is among those trying to tamp down expectations. In an interview with CNN’s Michael Smerconish over the weekend, Page said, “The keyword that you just said is sloppiness, right? And unfortunately, the way that this inspector general report has been assembled and completed over the last couple of years and particularly over the last few months, is completely sloppy. It’s only one side’s perspective.”
Indeed, the fact that the draft report was submitted to Attorney General Barr in September but the only hint of a prosecution is the unnamed former FBI lawyer is a strong indication that there was little unethical or criminal activity for Horowitz to find. The lack of criminal referrals to Durham or leaks trumpeting Obama-era FBI corruption is a strong hint that the conspiracy claims are duds.
While the report has not yet been released to the public, insiders say that the report paints an objective picture that is critical of the FBI but does not support the claim that there was a high-level conspiracy to undermine the Trump campaign. However, because the report does criticize the FBI, sources within the government say that it will give ammunition to both sides.
“You can see how the warring factions will seize on the various parts of this to advance their respective narratives,” a person familiar with the report told the Washington Post.
That will be particularly true for those who rely on cherry-picked passages cited by pundits without looking at the entire report.
Originally published on The Resurgent