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Lawmakers Question DOJ Inspector General on Russia Probe. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired December 11, 2019 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:30:00:]

MICHAEL HOROWITZ, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT INSPECTOR GENERAL: Well, if it's a -- the threat outlined in the friendly foreign government information, you would be looking to protect the election process --

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Right.

HOROWITZ: -- which would include --

GRAHAM: The candidate.

HOROWITZ: -- on the campaign, the candidate, and the American people.

GRAHAM: OK. So did they ever brief Hillary Clinton about efforts to -- foreign influence involving her campaign, do you know?

HOROWITZ: I've heard that. But I don't know for a fact.

GRAHAM: They did. Good for them, and they stopped it.

Was there ever a defensive briefing given by the FBI, the Department of Justice to Donald Trump about the concerns?

HOROWITZ: There was not.

GRAHAM: What would you call a counterintelligence investigation that never had a protective element?

HOROWITZ: I'm not sure, sorry, Mr. Chairman?

GRAHAM: OK, if without eventually trying to protect the entity being influenced, is it legitimate?

HOROWITZ: It would depend on each fact and circumstance.

GRAHAM: Here's what I'm trying to tell you.

HOROWITZ: Yeah?

GRAHAM: If you open up a counterintelligence investigation to protect somebody, you should do it. Did they ever try to protect Donald Trump from foreign influence?

HOROWITZ: They did not brief him, and we lay out on page 55... GRAHAM: As a matter of fact, when they went in and gave a vanilla briefing -- the Russians are out there, you better beware -- didn't they have an FBI agent do a 302 on the defensive briefing itself?

HOROWITZ: They sent one of the supervisory agents from the Crossfire Hurricane team to the briefing and that agent prepared a report to the file of the briefing.

GRAHAM: About what Trump said?

HOROWITZ: About what Mr. Trump said, and what Mr. Flynn said.

GRAHAM: OK. So when we get defensively briefed tomorrow, would it be OK for FBI agents to open up 302s on what we said?

HOROWITZ: We have very significant concerns about that, and I would note that in Director Wray's response...

GRAHAM: So...

HOROWITZ: ... he underlined that that would not occur going forward.

GRAHAM: To -- to -- to those who can set aside how you feel about Trump for a minute, under the guise of protecting the campaign from Russian influence they never lift a finger to protect the campaign. 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.

Was that FBI agent spying on Donald Trump when he went in there?

HOROWITZ: It was -- it was a pretext meeting that I'm not going to -- the process by which they -- they have to do these meetings and take meetings...

GRAHAM: If you don't have a foundation for a warrant and you can take...

(UNKNOWN): Let me ask a question.

GRAHAM: I'm sorry. Go ahead. Were you -- do -- do you need to say anything else?

HOROWITZ: I'm sorry.

GRAHAM: There's no -- OK.

HOROWITZ: The -- the -- the incident, the event, the meeting was a briefing, and the FBI considered and decided to send that agent there to do the briefing. So the agent was actually doing the briefing, but also using it for the purpose of investigation.

GRAHAM: OK, and I hope that doesn't happen to us tomorrow. I'll be really pissed if it does. OK, so let's -- let's play this out. They never told Trump about the concerns. Is it fair to say there came a point to where surveilling Carter Page became unlawful?

HOROWITZ: I will let the court decide that. The court has this report and will make that decision. (inaudible)...

GRAHAM: Let's put it this way: If you don't have a legal foundation to surveille somebody and you keep doing it, is that bad?

HOROWITZ: Absolutely.

GRAHAM: Is that spying?

HOROWITZ: It's -- it's not -- it's illegal surveillance. It's not court-authorized surveillance under FISA.

GRAHAM: It -- whatever illegal surveillance means, they did it. So all this stuff that they didn't illegally surveille Trump's campaign, they did, because they had no legal basis after the January 2017 data dump by the -- the Russian guy to believe that the dossier was reliable. They alter exculpatory information in June of 2017 that would've further proven that Carter Page is not a Russian agent. He was actually working for the CIA.

Let me ask you very directly, do you believe Carter Page is or ever was an agent of the Russian government trying to do harm to his country?

HOROWITZ: I'm going to refer to the evidence we found here, which is that if I'm going to read this... (ph)

GRAHAM: Thank you.

HOROWITZ: ... they, the FBI in -- at the end of these FISAs told us that they had found no evidence to corroborate the allegations in the Steele dossier-related (inaudible).

[11:35:00]

GRAHAM: OK, it's not that -- it's not that clean, folks. They knew and they ignored it, and they continue to surveille him. Why? Why did they doctor the email? The people who continued getting warrants after they knew it wasn't legitimate had a bias that reeked. How this thing was opened, I don't know, but I can tell you, Mr. Durham has a different view. I respect your view that there may have been a lawful predicate giving them every benefit of the doubt, but one of the people pushing this was Peter Strzok from day one.

So ladies and gentlemen, we have a task at hand here to make sure this never happens again, 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. And finally, if you report that this 434-page report says lawful investigation with a few irregularities, you're doing a great disservice to the American people.

Thank you very much.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

As we spoke, Inspector General, you pointed out your office spent 19 months and interviewed 100 witnesses, and your report concluded that the FBI had an adequate predicate, reason to open the investigation on the Trump campaign ties with Russia. Could you quickly define that predicate?

HOROWITZ: Yeah, so the predicate here was the information that the FBI got at the end of July from the friendly foreign government that reflected a meeting that the friendly foreign government had with Mr. Papadopoulos in May.

FEINSTEIN: What was the -- who was the friendly government?

HOROWITZ: We don't mention that in the report, so I'm going to stick to what we have in...

FEINSTEIN: Is that classified?

HOROWITZ: That is -- my understanding is still classified, but it...

FEINSTEIN: Thank you. (inaudible)

HOROWITZ: As I sit here, I am only going to speak to what's in our report.

FEINSTEIN: OK, OK, go ahead.

HOROWITZ: And as I mentioned in my statement, the comment was that Mr. Papadopoulos had made a suggestion that there had been a suggestion to the Trump campaign that the Russian government could provide information that would be damaging to candidate Clinton, and then President Obama.

FEINSTEIN: So your report states that you didn't find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation played a role?

HOROWITZ: That's correct.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you. And you didn't find a deep-state conspiracy against candidate or President Trump?

HOROWITZ: So as the to opening, we found no -- no bias, no testimonial or documentary evidence on that. (inaudible)

FEINSTEIN: And no rationale for a deep state, but...

HOROWITZ: We -- we looked at Mr. Priestap, as I noted, what -- made -- was the decision maker, and we did not find any evidence in his emails or texts of having engaged in any bias or having any bias.

FEINSTEIN: FBI Director Wray provided a written response to your report... HOROWITZ: Yes.

FEINSTEIN: ... accepting all of your findings, and these include the key finding that there was, quote, "an authorized purpose and actual factual predication for the investigation." By contrast, Attorney General Barr expressed his doubt about the legitimacy of the FBI's investigation in press statements. Did Attorney General Barr provide any evidence that caused you to alter this key finding, that the FBI investigation had an adequate predicate?

HOROWITZ: No, we stand by our finding.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you. During your investigation Attorney General Barr stated his belief that, quote, "spying on the Trump campaign did occur," end quote. And as you said, your investigation found no evidence that the FBI placed any confidential source within the Trump campaign, or tasked any confidential source to report on the Trump campaign. That's correct, right?

HOROWITZ: That's correct.

FEINSTEIN: And further, no evidence that political bias or improper motivations influenced the decision to use confidential sources as part of the investigation.

HOROWITZ: That's correct.

FEINSTEIN: Did your office ask Attorney General Barr and U.S. Attorney - U.S. Attorney John Durham to share whatever evidence they had that might be relevant to your investigation?

HOROWITZ: We asked Mr. Durham to do that.

FEINSTEIN: And what about Attorney General Barr?

HOROWITZ: And - and Attorney General Barr.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you. So nothing they could provide altered your office's conclusion that the FBI did not place spies in the Trump campaign?

HOROWITZ: None - none of the discussions changed our findings here.

[11:40:00]

FEINSTEIN: Thank you. In a press statement issued Monday, U.S. Attorney John Durham, tasked by Attorney General Barr to also investigate the origins of the Russia investigation, stated, and I quote, "last month, we advised the IG that we do not agree with some of the report's conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened."

What's your reaction to that?

HOROWITZ: Well I - I was surprised by the statement. I didn't necessarily know it was going to be released on Monday. We did meet with Mr. Durham, as I mentioned, we provided him with a copy of the report, as we did others, to - through our factual accuracy review process. We met with him in November.

With regard to that, we did discuss the opening issue. He said he did not necessarily agree with our conclusion about the opening of a full counterintelligence investigation, which is what this was, but there are also investigative means by which the FBI can move forward with an investigation, it's called a preliminary investigation. So there are two types of investigations, full and preliminary. They opened a full here.

He - he said during the meeting that the information from the friendly foreign government was, in his view, sufficient to support the preliminary investigation. And as we note in the report, investigative steps such as confidential human source activity that occurred here, are allowed under a preliminary investigation or under a full investigation.

FEINSTEIN: Did either Barr or Durham present anything that altered your findings?

HOROWITZ: No.

FEINSTEIN: I wanted to ask you, since we have the author of the whistleblower legislation very proudly sitting here, you previously told this committee that whistleblower rights and protections have been one of your highest priorities since becoming IG.

As you know, there have been calls for the Ukraine whistleblower to be identified publicly, even though that person was not a direct witness to the events. So what is your view? Should the Ukraine whistleblower's confidentiality be breached and that person identified publicly, and why not?

HOROWITZ: So whistleblower protections have been one of my highest priorities. I've appreciated working with all of the members of the committee, obviously particularly Senator Grassley. We wrote a letter recently, as the IG communities, quoting his statement on the issues and the importance of whistleblowers, and whistleblowers have a right to expect complete, full confidentiality in all circumstances. It's in the law in the IG Act that Congress wrote and it's a very important provision.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you. In a public hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, Deputy Secretary of State George Kent testified that politically associated investigations or prosecutions against opponents of those in power undermine the rule of law.

Do you agree with that? Do politically motivated investigations undermine the rule of law?

HOROWITZ: I - any politically motivated investigation undermines the rule of law.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much. Did you find any evidence that President Obama or anyone else in the White House asked the United States government to investigate then-candidate Trump or his campaign?

HOROWITZ: We certainly didn't see any evidence in the (ph) FBI's files or the Department's files, which was our mandate here and our authorized jurisdiction.

FEINSTEIN: You have a policy recommendation regarding the use of confidential human sources. I'd like to ask a few questions about it. Your investigation found that the use of confidential human sources was consistent with existing rules, correct?

HOROWITZ: Correct.

FEINSTEIN: The use of confidential human sources here was not solely to gather First Amendment protected information?

HOROWITZ: Correct, and that is the standard currently in the rules.

FEINSTEIN: And you found no evidence that the decision to use confidential human sources was motivated by political bias ...

HOROWITZ: Correct.

FEINSTEIN: ... is that correct? With regard to your policy recommendation, what, if anything, do you believe should be changed and why?

HOROWITZ: So as I mention in my opening statement, I think we were surprised to learn and concerned to learn that in an investigation of any political - national party political campaign, the confidential human source usage could be approved by only a first level supervisor.

In this instance, as we note here, some of them were approved at the Assistant Director level but they could have been proved - approved at just the line supervisor level.

[11:45:00]

For an investigation of a major party presidential campaign of either side or of any side, that's - was concerning to us, particularly since there was not a requirement that any Department lawyer, whether at the National Security Division, the Criminal Division, the Deputy Attorney General's office, the Attorney General's office, needed to be notified at - at any point in time.

FEINSTEIN: Did you give interviews about your investigation while it was ongoing?

HOROWITZ: I'm sorry, did I ...

FEINSTEIN: Did you give interviews ...

HOROWITZ: Oh, myself?

FEINSTEIN: ... during the ...

HOROWITZ: No, I do not do that. FEINSTEIN: Did anybody on the IG team?

HOROWITZ: No, and it would have been entirely inappropriate for them to do so.

FEINSTEIN: So just - what - I'd just like to clear this up. What are the dangers of discussing an investigation that's ongoing?

HOROWITZ: So I actually wrote - and we wrote - a 500 page report about that that we issued last year on the mid-year investigation, and among other things criticized what occurred last year with regard to the handling of that investigation.

Ongoing investigations are - need to be protected from outside influence. You don't know as an investigator or you shouldn't conclude as an investigator until you are done with the investigation, you shouldn't be leeching your conclusions until that point.

And so giving preliminary ideas, advice, guidance, statements can be misleading and you should not be leeching final conclusions until you get to the end of the investigation.

FEINSTEIN: There is a lot of misimpression about two people, Strzok and Page. So I want to ask this question. For the last two years, President Trump has relentlessly attacked former FBI officials as a way to undermine the investigation.

For example, the President tweeted that, and I quote, "how can the ricked (sic) witch - witch hunt proceed when it was started, influenced and worked on by Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who exchanged text messages critical of candidate Trump?"

Your investigation found that while Lisa Page attended some of the discussions regarding the opening of the investigations, she did not play a role in the decision to open Crossfire Hurricane. You also found that while Strzok was directly involved in the decisions to open Crossfire Hurricane, he was not the sole or even the highest-level decisionmaker to any of those matters. That decision, as I understand it, was made by FBI Assistant Director Priestap, as you have indicated, and by consensus after multiple days of discussions and meetings.

Most importantly, you found that the decision had a proper factual basis and that there is no evidence that, quote, "political bias or improper motivation influenced it."

So based on your investigation, personal political views expressed in text messages did not motivate the opening of the investigation of ties between Trump campaign advisors and Russia. Is that correct?

HOROWITZ: That's correct. Ultimately, we concluded that those text messages, which we found last year were entirely inappropriate, didn't ultimately make -- play the role in Mr. Priestap's decision to open the investigation.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you. So your investigation also uncovered text messages between other FBI employees, expressing support for Candidate and President Trump, correct?

HOROWITZ: That's correct.

FEINSTEIN: So FBI employees held personal political views that were both favorable and unfavorable toward the candidate at that time?

HOROWITZ: That's correct. And as we note here -- and we noted in last year's report -- we did not find the text messages were inappropriate solely because people expressed a view as to which candidate they supported or didn't support in an election.

What concerned us with the text messages we outlined last year, and reference again in this year's report as to certain individuals, is the connection between their views and their work on -- on the investigation.

FEINSTEIN: To conclude my questioning, what do you believe, with your long experience, are the most important points that this 400-plus-page report brings forward?

HOROWITZ: Well, I think there are several, as you might expect in a 400-plus-page report.

FEINSTEIN: That's why I still have time.

HOROWITZ: Yes. I think as we outline in the executive summary, first, it was opened with the proper predicates, sufficient predication by a person,

[11:50:00]

Mr. Priestap, who was not one of the text message persons and senior to those people.

Third, that the confidential human source operations, while permitted by FBI policy, should cause everybody to give pause as to whether that policy is sufficient to provide accountability over decisions.

And, finally, that the FISA process here was not used appropriately, properly and the rules were not followed.

[11:50:32]

FEINSTEIN: Well, that concludes my questioning. I just want to say thank you and thank you to your staff. I am very grateful to the inspector general's office, year in year out. Thank you.

GRAHAM: Thank you. I --

FEINSTEIN: I would yield the balance of my time to Senator --

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, I'm Kate Bolduan. We have all been watching and listening together to the testimony of Michael Horowitz, the inspector general of the Justice Department.

We're going to take a quick break. There's much more to come. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:55:48]

BOLDUAN: Welcome back, everyone. Let's head back to Capitol Hill. The Justice Department's inspector general, Michael Horowitz, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the long- awaited, much-anticipated report on the origins of the Russia investigation.

Let's listen back in.

HOROWITZ: -- with regard to that.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): Does it refute the claims made by some that there's a Deep State involved?

HOROWITZ: It finds that it was a properly predicated investigation based on the rules at the FBI.

LEAHY: And did you find anything where the FBI planted spies in Mr. Trump's campaign?

HOROWITZ: We found no use of confidential human sources in the -- in placing them in the campaign or trying to put them in the campaign.

LEAHY: OK, well I've used up -- five minutes are left and ...

GRAHAM: You'll get your 10 minutes.

LEAHY: No, I -- no, I -- I've taken her ...

(CROSSTALK)

GRAHAM: I just want to let Senator Grassley go. Thank you.

GRASSLEY: Has anybody been prosecuted or charged with any of -- this Russian investigation?

HOROWITZ: I'm sorry, on -- on this matter that I'm ...

GRASSLEY: Yeah.

HOROWITZ: ... handling? No one that I'm aware of.

GRASSLEY: OK. Following up on a question that Senator Feinstein asked, did the Obama administration or President Obama himself, is what -- the one I'm interested in, know about the counterintelligence investigation?

HOROWITZ: I don't know the answer to that definitively. Our -- we're -- our authority was over the FBI and to look at the FBI and the Department activities.

GRASSLEY: In January 2018, Chairman Graham and I wrote to the FBI and the Department referring Christopher Steele for investigation of potentially lying to the FBI. We told the FBI, the Department -- and the Department that what the FBI told the court about Steele's media contacts didn't match with what he told the British court.

Did -- four questions in regard to that. Did the FBI ever ask Steele whether he was a source for the September 2016 Yahoo news article that cited "western intelligence sources," quote-unquote? If not, why not?

HOROWITZ: They did not ask that question, despite having the opportunity to do so, and we got a variety of explanations, including that -- as to some of these issues that they didn't want to offend him or jeopardize their relationship with him.

GRASSLEY: Question two. On October the 11th, draft of the FISA application stating FBI believe Steele was the source for the Yahoo news article, but it was taken out in the October 14th draft. Why did the FBI originally say Steele was the source and what factual basis did the FBI have to change that and tell the court that Steele was not a source?

HOROWITZ: This is what was so disturbing about that event (ph), which is the initial application said, as you noted, that the FBI assessed that Steele was the direct source -- or was a direct source, and on October 14th, the drafts changed to the exact opposite.

What we found is the FBI had no basis for the first statement, no evidence in their file. It turned out the first statement was in fact the accurate statement. The point though was they had no evidence to support that. And when they flipped it, they had no evidence to support that, either.

That's the kind of issue that under the basic Woods Procedures, the factual accuracy procedures, had someone been doing their job and -- and -- and following up, they would have seen that and found that. And of course, had they bothered to ask Mr. Steele, they might have found out which of the two versions was true.

[12:00:57]

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA): Maybe they weren't interested in doing their job.

Question three, Chairman Graham and I sent our referral to the FBI and the DOJ on January 4th, 2018. And according to your report, although the FBI already knew that British intelligence and the FBI officials discussed litigation with Director Comey, the FBI never got steel's statement in that litigation until we provided them.