It’s not a conspiracy if they really are out to get you. A new report shows FBI officials repeatedly violated internal policy and misled the FISA court in their investigation of President Donald Trump’s campaign.
On Monday, FBI Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a 476-page review of the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign. The FBI opened a probe in July 2016 to determine if Trump or anyone in his campaign were working for the Russians. In August 2016, the FBI wanted to use electronic surveillance on Carter Page. Page was a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign whom the FBI suspected was working for Russia. The FBI needed a court order to collect information under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or FISA.
In August 2016, FBI officials determined “more information was needed to support a probable cause finding that Page was an agent of a foreign power.” In September, the FBI received that information from ex-British spy Christopher Steele. The Hillary Clinton campaign had been paying Steele to dig up dirt on Trump. The FBI used the Steele dossier to get four FISA orders that allowed it to use electronic surveillance on Page from October 2016 to September 2017.
In summary, the FBI relied on unfounded rumors paid for by the Clinton campaign to spy on the Trump campaign.
That sounds extremely bad, but it is potentially justifiable. The FBI can’t be choosy about where it gets its information. It does, however, have an obligation to handle potentially false information carefully. That’s where the FBI butchered it repeatedly — and always in ways that cut against Trump’s campaign.
“We identified multiple instances in which factual assertions relied upon in the first FISA application were inaccurate, incomplete or unsupported by appropriate documentation, based upon information the FBI had in its possession at the time the application was filed,” the report reads.
In total, the inspector general found 17 errors on the four FISA applications. The FBI also used an “inaccurate assertion” to bolster the credibility of Steele as a source. An FBI interview with one of Steele’s sources produced inconsistencies with what Steele had put in the dossier. The FBI continued to rely on Steele’s information anyway.
The combined missteps “resulted in FISA applications that made it appear that the information supporting probable cause was stronger than was actually the case.” That qualifies as the understatement of the year. The IG report excoriates “managers, supervisors and senior officials” for not raising questions about the shoddy evidence. The findings were so far-reaching that FBI Director Christopher Wray ordered 40 corrective actions.
The report found that officials met the “low threshold” of evidence needed to open the investigation. It also didn’t find evidence of political bias. All that means is that most FBI officials are smart enough not to trash Trump on bureau cellphones when texting their lovers.
Hello, Peter Strzok.
Whether you think this was a coup attempt or bureaucratic incompetence, one thing is clear: Officials at the highest levels of the FBI repeatedly erred in order to spy on Trump’s campaign.