December 11, 2019
Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today spoke about the key findings in the Justice Department inspector general’s report on the FBI Russia investigation.
Video of the remarks is available here.
“Last year, this inspector general pledged to Congress that he would examine whether political bias played a role in the FBI’s decision to investigate ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
The inspector general kept his promise. His office conducted a 19-month investigation. They interviewed more than 100 witnesses, reviewed more than a million documents, and issued this 434 page report that contains several important findings.
First, on the key question of bias, Inspector General Horowitz found no evidence that political or anti-Trump bias was at play.
According to the IG’s report, the FBI complied with existing department and FBI policies in opening the investigation. And the IG “did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced [this] decision” or any specific investigative steps taken by the FBI.
This is important. In public statements last spring, the attorney general expressed his belief that senior government officials may have “put a thumb on the scale” because of political bias against Trump.
His comments echoed the president, who has repeatedly alleged that there is a “deep state” within the government against him. He has used this to dismiss the entire Russia investigation as a “witch hunt” and a “hoax.”
The IG’s report conclusively refutes these claims. This was not a politically-motivated investigation. There is no “deep state.” Simply put, the FBI investigation was motivated by facts, not bias.
Second, the Inspector General confirmed that there was an “adequate predicate” – meaning a legitimate factual and legal basis – to investigate.
The basis was not, as some have claimed, the so-called “Steele Dossier.” In fact, reporting from Mr. Steele played no role in opening the investigation.
Instead, this report confirms that the FBI opened the investigation after being told by Australia, a trusted foreign ally, that Trump advisor George Papadopoulos had learned in April 2016 that Russia had – and was willing to release – “information during the campaign that would be damaging to candidate Clinton.”
The IG report found that “this information provided the FBI with a factual basis that, if true, “indicated activity constituting either a federal crime or a threat to national security, or both, may have occurred or may be occurring.”
The IG also found that, when the FBI learned this in late July 2016, the bureau was already “aware of Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 elections,” including Russian hacking of Democratic campaign computers.
Materials stolen by Russia had been released online, including by WikiLeaks. And the U.S. Intelligence Community assessed in August 2016 that “Russia was considering further intelligence operations to impact or disrupt the elections.”
Against this backdrop, the FBI was “obligated” to investigate possible ties to the Trump campaign, according to Bill Priestap, the FBI assistant director who authorized opening the investigation.
Other officials conveyed a similar obligation – and sense of urgency – to investigate.
David Laufman, a National Security Division Chief, said it would have been “a dereliction of duty and responsibility of the highest order not to commit the appropriate resources as urgently as possible to run these facts to the ground, and find out what was going on.”
The decision to open the investigation was unanimous – not a single official disagreed.
As a result, America ultimately learned extensive details about Russia’s “sweeping and systematic” attack on the 2016 election, including that the Trump campaign knew about, welcomed, and “expected it would benefit electorally” from Russia’s efforts.
The inspector general’s report also identifies several errors made by FBI and Justice Department line personnel when seeking warrants for surveillance on Carter Page from the FISA Court.
FBI Director Wray submitted a written response accepting the IG’s findings, including the key finding that the FBI had sufficient cause to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
Director Wray also said that the IG’s findings of FISA errors are “constructive criticism that will make us stronger as an organization,” and that he has already taken action to address the IG’s recommendations.
By contrast, Attorney General Barr issued a press release that continues to criticize the FBI for investigating the Trump campaign. It’s really extraordinary that the attorney general continues to make unsupported attacks on the agency that he is responsible for leading.
It’s time to move on from the false claims of political bias against the Trump campaign.
And those who showed great interest in the question of politically motivated investigations against President Trump should show the same concern about politically motivated investigations requested by the president or his attorney general.
Inspector General Horowitz, I want to thank you and your staff for the hard work.”
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