Finally, we have a real, 100%, honest-to-goodness, big fat nothing burger for Donald Trump and the Republican Party to choke on.
The Justice Department's inspector general report, released Monday, finds that the FBI's Russia probe was both justified and unbiased — completely debunking Trump's accusations that political bias was behind the probe and that former bureau leaders conspired to sabotage him.
In the 434-page report, Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz determined that investigators uncovered several procedural errors but overall no "documentary or testimonial evidence" that political bias affected how officials conducted the investigation. The report validates that the FBI had sufficient evidence in July 2016 to lawfully open its investigation, known as Crossfire Hurricane.
And what about "Deep State" theories? Additionally, the report found that officials followed procedures in using informants to approach campaign aides. In fact, the report notes that the IG found " ... no evidence that the FBI attempted to place any CHSs [confidential human sources or informants] within the Trump Campaign ... "
The IG's report is based on more than 1 million documents from the Justice Department and the FBI and interviews with more than 100 witnesses. It examined the procedures for — and mistakes in — obtaining the 90-day surveillance warrant and renewals of that warrant for Carter Page, a Trump campaign aide.
Additionally, Horowitz probed the use of the Steele dossier as justification, and found it fine. He further found just as much or more evidence for FBI pro-Trump leanings as the GOP claims in its rhetoric about anti-Trump leanings among FBI agents (think Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, whose text exchanges lit up Republican conspiracy theories).
Clearly, Trump supporters nonetheless will seize on the procedural errors found, specifically within the Crossfire Hurricane team's failure to ensure that the Carter Page FISA applications were "scrupulously accurate."
FISA is shorthand for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the applications meant investigators wanted to surveil him. These applications were not scrupulously accurate, and Horowitz made a criminal referral for investigation on a now-former FBI lawyer who was involved in what seems a deliberate omission of exculpatory evidence regarding Carter Page.
Specifically, Carter Page had for some time been providing information to the Central Intelligence Agency about his prior contacts with Russian intelligence officials, including an encounter cited in the application as a reason to be suspicious of him. His exchanges with the CIA would have made his history less suspicious, Horowitz suggested in his report. In turn, a FISA renewal application regarding Carter Page might have been rejected. FBI Director Chris Wray told The Associated Press that the IG's report identified problems that are "unacceptable and unrepresentative of who we are as an institution," and he accepted the report's recommendations for strengthening FBI policies and procedures.
Already, Trump Attorney General William Barr has challenged the IG's findings.
"The Inspector General's report 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.
This from the guy who also misled about the findings of the Mueller Report. But the GOP isn't done raining smokescreens.
We also still await yet another Trump-leaner's report — that of U.S. Attorney John Durham, the leader of a separate review of the FBI's investigation. Durham, too, on Monday questioned the IG's conclusions.
"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 his own statement.
Meanwhile, the IG report came on the same day House Democrats moved forward with their impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
The lawyer for the Judiciary Committee testified to the House committee members that the president's dealings with Ukraine were "so brazen" that there was no question he had abused his power to advance his own political interests over the country's. That lawyer, Daniel Goldman, called Trump "a clear and present danger" to the country.
The lawyer for Republicans, Stephen R. Castor, called impeachment "baloney" and said Democrats had failed to make a compelling case. He called Trump-appointed ambassador Gordon Sondland an unreliable witness. (You remember Sondland, he's the one who told Congress he was acting on Trump's orders to get the new Ukrainian president to say Ukraine would investigate Biden.)
Ahh. Just another day in Trump's Washington. Hopefully those days are numbered.