The twin reports from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz and US Attorney John Durham have been eagerly awaited by both sides in the debate over whether members of the Trump campaign were baited by intelligence and law enforcement agencies in an effort to establish a probable cause to begin an investigation. A few weeks ago, we reported that Horowitz’s report would not contain bombshells about Deep State conspiracies that had been unearthed and now it seems that Durham will not give conspiracy theorists any Christmas gifts either.
The Washington Post reports that Horowitz had submitted a number of questions to Durham, who was handpicked by Attorney General Barr to investigate and prosecute misconduct in the DOJ relating to the Russia investigation. Among the questions was whether Durham had evidence that Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor, was a government asset who was used to entrap members of the Trump campaign. The Post’s sources, who have seen a draft copy of the Horowitz report, say that Durham has no evidence to contradict government denials that Mifsud was an asset.
The inspector general’s office, the Durham investigation, and the DOJ all declined to comment on the report.
Sources indicate that the Horowitz report will find that there was adequate cause for the FBI to initiate the Russia investigation but will also find fault with FBI handling of the case. In particular, Horowitz will criticize later renewals of the FISA application for Carter Page, which failed to convey that information from Christopher Steele was not as reliable as previously believed. Nevertheless, the report will apparently not conclude that the omissions were significant enough to have compromised the integrity of the entire renewal.
Horowitz will also find fault with Kevin Clinesmith, the FBI lawyer who altered an email that related to the FISA application against Page. Clinesmith was forced out of the FBI after his deception was discovered and may be indicted by Durham. Again, Horowitz will say that the action did not compromise the integrity of the investigation.
Clinesmith, who spoke with the Post, also sent emails and text messages with anti-Trump comments. Clinesmith said that such messages were jokes and that his political views did not affect his work.
The Horowitz report will also address the origin of the Russia investigation. As was commonly believed, the investigation was based upon comments made by Trump advisor George Papadopoulos to the Australian ambassador in May 2016. Even though the DNC hack was not public knowledge until July, Papadopoulos told Greek and Australian diplomats in May that Russia was in possession of stolen emails relating to Hillary Clinton. Papadopoulos got his information from Mifsud, who he now claims was an agent for some western intelligence agency.
The full IG report has not yet been released to the public, but Barr, who has seen drafts of the report, has disputed Horowitz’s conclusions that there was no conspiracy of DOJ officials who were biased against President Trump and worked to undermine his presidency. The Washington Post reported recently that Barr has praised Horowitz’s work but believes privately that the IG does not have access to enough information to draw firm conclusions. With the DOJ exonerated, Barr has indicated that he believes the key to the conspiracy may lie with other agencies such as the CIA or with foreign governments.
Without being specific, Barr told CBS News last May, “I assumed I’d get answers when I went in and I have not gotten answers that are well satisfactory, and in fact probably have more questions… Some of the facts that … I’ve learned don’t hang together with the official explanations of what happened.”
It is not known whether Horowitz has contacted the CIA and other intelligence agencies to look into possible ties to Mifsud, but Barr and Durham have reportedly reached out to foreign governments. Horowitz’s questions to Durham involved whether he might have found additional information that the IG was not privy to and that would change his conclusions. Durham’s answer seems to have been negative.
At this point, it seems that the Horowitz and Durham investigations will undercut years of conspiratorial talking points from the Trump Administration and Republican pundits. However, don’t expect the sunlight of facts to dispel the myth that moles within the government were out to get Donald Trump. A characteristic of conspiracy theories is that layers can be added to the conspiracy to deny information that contradicts the narrative. Years of breathless-but-wrong revelations of DOJ wrongdoing won’t be easily overcome.
To paraphrase a favorite Ronald Reagan aphorism, it isn’t that the Deep State believers are ignorant, it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.
Originally published on The Resurgent