The Justice Department’s inspector general (IG) report states the FBI possessed an “authorized purpose” to investigate the 2016 Trump campaign, but says the bureau committed a series of wrongdoings in its handling of the operation.
The over 400-page report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz criticizes the FBI for “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the bureau’s applications to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, stating agents “failed to meet the basic obligation” to make sure their applications were accurate.
“We do not speculate whether the correction of any particular misstatement or omissions, or some combination thereof, would have resulted in a different outcome,” the report said. “Nevertheless, the department’s decision-makers and the court should have been given complete and accurate information so that they could meaningfully evaluate probable cause before authorizing the surveillance of a US person associated with a presidential campaign.”
It specified 17 inaccuracies involving three applications filed under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which may have inflated the bureau’s justification for surveillance against Page, the report said.
Despite the errors, the report concluded the FBI did not act improperly in its activities.
The report concludes a review Horowitz promised in March 2018 to examine the conduct of federal authorities to determine if the FBI broke or abused any rules in investigating the Trump campaign.
The president has repeatedly accused the bureau, under former President Barack Obama, of spying on him and trying to ruin his campaign. Some Republicans have claimed the bureau abused its authority when it was investigating Page. Other accusations say the FBI improperly relied on a “dossier” from a former British spy to receive legal approval for spying on Page.
In his report, Horowitz said the FBI’s efforts were “in compliance with department and FBI policies,” and added that he didn’t find “documentary or testimonial evidence” that showed the bureau acted with political bias or improper motivation.
Democrats have argued that the bureau acted entirely within its authority and properly examined figures in the Trump campaign.
The former spy, Christopher Steele, was a key part of the case because Republicans argued he was hired to aid the 2016 campaign of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Therefore, they said, the FBI was working in step with the Democrats in an effort to defeat Trump.
The report concludes that FBI officials overseeing the Trump-Russia investigation were not tainted by political bias and their information was “sufficient to satisfy the low threshhold” required to launch the probe.
Attorney General William Barr issued a statement on the report, saying it confirms “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.”
“It is also clear that, from its inception, the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory. Nevertheless, the investigation and surveillance was pushed forward for the duration of the campaign and deep into President Trump’s administration,” Barr added.
U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is leading the DOJ’s review of the origins of the Russia investigation, said he does “not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened.”