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'Sloppy at Best, Criminal at Worst': Senator Points to 'Massive Criminal Conspiracy' in FBI's Russia-Trump Probe

12-12-2019
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WASHINGTON, DC - The man charged with heading up the probe into the origins of the Russia investigation unleashed blockbuster testimony Wednesday.

Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz detailed a failure in the FBI chain of command while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Horowitz carefully tried to have his testimony only reflect what is contained in the 400-page report about the Russia investigation dubbed "Operation Crossfire Hurricane".  

But he could not deny charges about FBI methods that some are calling sloppy at best, criminal at worst.

The IG's report, released Monday, essentially found just cause to initiate the Russia investigation, something Horowitz reiterated at the very beginning of his testimony. "We found that Operation Crossfire Hurricane was opened for an authorized investigative purpose and with sufficient factual predication," Horowitz said.

But he quickly followed that statement with acknowledgement that investigators did not follow proper rules and procedures along the way. This included omitting or changing information on FISA applications that would allow surveillance of Trump campaign aide Carter Page - information like the fact that the infamous Steele dossier, which was a big consideration in approving the applications, had been funded by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign.  Horowitz said the FISA court approved the surveillance applications multiple times based on incomplete information even though investigators knew better.

"The circumstances reflect a failure, as we outline in the report, not just by those who prepared the applications but also by the managers and supervisors in the Crossfire Hurricane chain of command including FBI senior officials who were briefed as the investigation progressed," Horowitz said.

The Inspector General went on to explain an overall lack of oversight within the FBI.

"Where time and again during our OIG interviews FBI managers, supervisors and senior officials displayed a lack of understanding or awareness of important information concerning many of the problems we identified," Horowitz said. "It's pretty bad."

Still, Horowitz underscored finding no political bias during his investigation, a claim Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) rebuffed.

"What has been described as a few irregularities becomes a massive criminal conspiracy over time to defraud the FISA court, to illegally surveil an American citizen and to keep an investigation open against a sitting president of the United States," Graham said.

Graham read aloud several text messages by some of those at the highest levels of Operation Crossfire Hurricane.

Graham quoted one message that said: "I'm all riled up, Trump is an f-ing idiot who can't provide coherent answer."

Another stated: "Just went to a southern Virginia Walmart, I could smell the Trump support."

Horowitz maintained those messages did not indicate the investigation was authorized improperly. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) echoed that.

"I believe strongly that it's time to move on from the false claims of political bias," Feinstein said. "And those who show great interest in politically motivated investigations against President Trump should show the same concern about politically motivated investigations requested by the President or his Attorney General."

Attorney General Bill Barr has been very outspoken about his disagreement with Horowitz that the investigation was opened for proper reasons.  US Attorney John Durham has been as well.  Durham is still conducting a criminal investigation on the matter whereas the IG's report only recommends internal disciplinary action against several of those involved in making sure the Russia probe got off the ground.

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