Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham was methodical in questioning Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz during Wednesday’s hearing before his panel, exposing just how tarnished the beginnings of the Trump campaign probe was.
Graham asked Horowitz if ex-British spy Christopher Steele, who produced the since-discredited Fusion-GPS dossier, had a personal bias against President Trump.
“There was a bias that needed to be disclosed to the court,” Horowitz said. “We heard from Mr. Ohr he was desperate to prevent Mr. Trump’s election.”
Graham noted that Steele was paid by the Democratic Party and his dossier, which the chairman called “a bunch of garbage,” was used to acquire the FISA warrant on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Horowitz testified that no exculpatory information was reported to the FISA court in the initial application.
When asked by Graham why, the inspector general said he could not say. He also said there was not “a clear record” on what former FBI director James Comey and former deputy director Andy McCabe were told of this process.
Asked how those involved described events to the court, Horowitz testified that they told the court they had interviewed Steele’s primary sub source “and that they found the primary sub source to be credible.”
“They did not tell the court or the department lawyers any of the information which would have allowed them to know that if you found the primary sub source credible you couldn’t have also found the Steele report credible,” he added.
“Did they mislead the court?” Graham asked.
“That was misleading to the court and the department,” Horowitz replied.
Graham asked of these agents “are these the best and brightest we have?”
“Certainly the FBI — the actions of the FBI agents on this were not to the standards of the FBI,” Horowitz answered.
He then moved on to explain exactly what took place leading up to an email being altered to effectively mask that Page was a CIA asset, while making him appear to be a Russian spy — Horowitz does not name the agency, though it has been reported to be the CIA.
Horowitz testified that a bureau lawyer “doctored” an email on this matter: “It flatly stated he was not a source.”
Again, he does not identify the lawyer, but it has already been reported that it was Kevin Clinesmith.
“I hope somebody pays a price for this whether you like Trump or not,” Graham said.
As the questioning continued, Graham offered a summary of what was learned,
“In January 2017 the whole foundation for surveilling Carter Page collapses,” he said. “Exculpatory is ignored. They lie to the court about what the interview was all about.”
Graham asked Horowitz if he felt Page was treated fairly by the Department of Justice and the FBI.
“I don’t think the Department of Justice fairly treated these FISAs and he was on the receiving end of them,” he replied.
It was also established that the effort began as a counterintelligence operation over concerns about Russian interference, and that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was made aware, but Trump was never briefed or protected from foreign influence.
Graham then moved into how the FBI effectively used a briefing as an excuse to extract information from Trump.
“Under the guise of protecting the campaign from Russian influence they never lift a finger to protect the campaign,” he said. “Every time they had information that the people they suspected were working for the Russians, it went the other way and they kept going. When they did generically brief candidate Trump, they sent an FBI agent in to do a 302. If this doesn’t bother you, you hate Trump way too much.”
While stopping short of saying Trump was being spied on, Horowitz offered, “So, the agent was actually doing the briefing but also using it for the purpose of investigation.”
He also said he would leave it to the courts to decide if the surveillance of Carter Page ever became unlawful.
Graham noted that the task at hand is to make sure that this sad chapter never occurs again.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a task at hand here to make sure this never happens again,” he said. “To hold people accountable, change our laws, save the FISA court if we can, and I hope this chapter in American history is never repeated.”
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