Trump Slams FBI Director After Release of Watchdog Report on Russia Probe
10 December 2019, 18:12
U.S. President Donald Trump criticized FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday, one day after the U.S. Justice Department’s independent inspector general said it did not uncover any evidence of political partisanship when the FBI started investigating communications between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia in 2016, VOA news reports.
Wray said in an ABC News interview on Monday that the inspector general found the investigation “was opened with appropriate predication and authorization,” but noted the inspector general found the FBI made numerous mistakes during its inquiry.
Trump attacked Wray early Tuesday, tweeting, “I don’t know what report the current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was reading, but I’m sure it wasn’t the one given to me.”
Trump added: “With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken despite having some of the greatest men & women working there!”
The Justice Department’s inspector general said in the report the FBI was justified in opening an investigation in 2016 into suspected ties between Trump’s election campaign and Russia, saying officials had enough evidence to authorize an inquiry.
The long-anticipated report contradicted some of Trump’s and his Republican allies’ most damning assertions about the investigation, such as the charge that senior FBI officials were motivated by political bias against Trump. The FBI investigation — dubbed Crossfire Hurricane — was subsequently taken over by special counsel Robert Mueller.
But the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, also sharply criticized the FBI for a series of “significant errors” in obtaining authorization from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to surveil Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser suspected of ties to Russian intelligence.
In one crucial omission, the FBI failed to disclose from the court and the Justice Department that Page had been approved as an “operational contact” for the CIA and had told the spy agency about his contacts with Russian intelligence officers, according to the report. However, the report said that the disclosure would not have prompted the court to reject the application.
Regardless, the investigation was launched months before the Page surveillance began and was based on well-founded suspicion about links between Trump campaign operatives and Russia, according to the report. The other Trump campaign associates investigated by the FBI were campaign chairman Paul Manafort, national security adviser Mike Flynn and foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.
“We … concluded that … 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, even though the investigation also had the potential to impact constitutionally protected activity,” Horowitz wrote in the 400-plus-page report.
The findings amount to a rejection of Trump’s repeated claim that the FBI investigation was a political witch hunt to undo his presidency.
Trump nonetheless asserted at the White House that the report confirmed an “attempted overthrow” of the government far worse than he had ever thought possible. “It is an embarrassment to our country, it is dishonest, it is everything that a lot of people thought it would be except far worse,” he said.
The report also pitted the inspector general against Attorney General William Barr to whom he reports.
Barr, who has been highly critical of the Russia investigation and ordered a separate internal probe into its origins, rejected the IG’s finding that there was sufficient basis for opening the investigation. Barr put a different spin on the report’s findings.
“The inspector general’s conclusion now 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 said in a statement.
John Durham, the U.S. attorney leading the internal Justice Department probe, said he did not agree with the inspector general’s conclusion about the legal basis of opening the investigation.
“Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened,” Durham said in a statement.
FBI Director Wray ordered a series of more than 40 corrective steps in response to the inspector general report.
“The FBI has some work to do and we are committed to building on the lessons we learn today to make sure that we can do better tomorrow,” an FBI spokesperson said in a statement.
The FBI launched its investigation in July 2016 after receiving a tip that the Russian government was considering helping the Trump campaign by releasing damaging information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee.