WASHINGTON — A hotly anticipated report on the origins of the investigation into President Trump’s ties to Russia debunked Trump’s oft-repeated claim that the whole thing began as a politically motivated conspiracy to take him down.
In a report issued Monday, the DOJ’s inspector general found that the FBI had sufficient evidence to lawfully open the inquiry that eventually led to special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the Russian government’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election.
Naturally, Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, disputed that overall finding, suggesting that another review led by Barr’s own hand-picked investigator will ultimately vindicate Trump. The discord presents a rare and unlikely spectacle of a sitting AG taking issue with the findings of his own department’s inspector general and criticizing the FBI.
Barr didn’t just take issue with the report’s findings; he released a statement attempting to spin them in a direction more favorable to Trump, declaring that the report “makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken.”
Barr’s skepticism was echoed in a rare statement by John Durham, the prosecutor Barr tapped for a special criminal inquiry into many of the same events covered by the IG’s report. Durham said his office told the inspector general that “we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions” about “how the FBI case was opened.”
Durham’s investigation is still underway, and he didn’t further explain what he meant.
The IG report did find numerous shortcomings and flaws in applications to surveil former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, including “significant inaccuracies and omissions” and a failure by investigators to ensure their submissions were “scrupulously accurate.”
But IG Michael Horowitz found “no documentary or testimonial evidence” that political bias sparked the probe originally code-named “Crossfire Hurricane.”
“The FBI had an authorized purpose when it opened Crossfire Hurricane to obtain information about, or protect against, a national security threat or federal crime,” the report reads.
Here are the other major takeaways from the inspector general’s report on the Russia probe:
The FBI didn’t rely on the Steele Dossier
The IG report faulted investigators for failing to flag information suggesting that the findings of former British spy Christopher Steele, which were used to buttress applications to surveil Page, weren’t as reliable as originally thought.
But the investigation wasn’t opened purely on Steele’s findings, or what’s become known as the infamous “Steele Dossier.” Rather, it was launched on a tip from an Australian official who heard troubling comments about Russia from a former low-level Trump campaign official, George Papadopolous.
The report also quotes Steele as denying any bias toward Trump, and claiming to have "been friendly" with members of Trump’s family, including Ivanka Trump.
“If anything, he was ‘favorably predisposed’ towards the Trump family before he began his research,” the report recounted Steele saying.
The report found no evidence that probe was launched as a result of anti-Trump bias, despite messages shared by some investigators revealing how much they personally disliked Trump. Those FBI officials, Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, didn’t have ultimate decision-making authority over the decision to launch the investigation, the report noted.
In fact, the report also includes messages from Trump-supporting FBI agents.
Page was the only wiretap
Investigators obtained an order to wiretap Carter Page but not other Trump officials who later pleaded guilty to lying to investigators, including Papadopolous, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
“We are aware of no information indicating that the Crossfire Hurricane team requested or seriously considered FISA surveillance of Manafort or Flynn,” the report reads, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Over 1 million documents and 100 witnesses
The IG investigators pored over more than 1 million documents, and spoke with more than 100 witnesses. They included former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former FBI Director James Comey, as well as former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
Manafort was already in trouble
Manafort was already on the FBI’s radar for money laundering and tax evasion by the time the Russia probe began, the IG report finds.
Manafort is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence after being found guilty on charges of bank and tax fraud in connection with the tens of millions he earned for his previous political consulting work in Ukraine.
Read the full report here .
Cover: President Donald Trump speaks while signing an executive order during the International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Conference and Exposition, at the McCormick Place Convention Center Chicago, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, in Chicago, as Attorney General William Barr looks on, right. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)