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Lawmakers Question DOJ Inspector General on Russia Probe; Horowitz: Investigation into Trump Campaign Not Politically Motivated; Republicans Get Horowitz to Admit Can't Rule Out Political Bias; A.G. Barr Contradicts Horowitz Report. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired December 11, 2019 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Since 9:00 a.m. this morning, Senators on the Judiciary Committee have been questioning DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the independent watchdog there at the department.
Yesterday, he had a sweeping 400-plus-page report out that found that while there were serious errors in the Russia investigation, the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign was not one of them. It was not politically motivated, according to the report.
Senator Dianne Feinstein addressed this point directly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): 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?
MICHAEL HOROWITZ, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT INSPECTOR GENERAL: That is correct.
FEINSTEIN: And further, no evidence of political bias or improper motivations influenced the decision to use confidential sources as part of the investigation.
HOROWITZ: That's correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: When asked directly about specific instances within the investigation however, like the FISA warrant for Carter Page, Republicans were able to get Horowitz to admit he can't rule out political bias.
We have CNN crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, who has followed all of this, the Russia investigation, from the beginning.
It's been, what, years now, Shimon.
KEILAR: This is a significant admission, right?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: No, it certainly is. I think what he's saying there is he can't get into the state of mind of a lot of the investigators and the people who asked for this warrant, who signed the documents and put information into this warrant. And that's what he's saying.
You know, he's sticking by his findings, despite what the attorney general came out and said yesterday, sticking by the fact that the FBI had a legitimate concern here, had a legitimate reason to believe that crimes were being committed, so they needed to investigate this.
That is where he sees things very different from what the attorney general is seeing, calling some of this flimsy evidence, based on flimsy evidence that the FBI wound up opening this investigation. Horowitz clearly doesn't see it that way. He does feel there was enough information, enough reason for the FBI to pursue this investigation.
Obviously, the FISA issue, there are two separate things going on here. You have the FISA and the issues. Horowitz is really not holding back in that, quite simply saying this should not have happened, this should not have occurred, they should not have been able to go to get this FISA, they should have been more forthcoming, more information in this FISA, concerning some of the information they had.
The other part is, did the FBI have the right to open this investigation. There Horowitz is quite clear also saying, yes, they had the right to open this investigation. There was no political bias. They were seeing things. They had information. They had to open this investigation.
He's continuing, obviously, with his testimony.
But, you have to keep thinking, despite what we heard from the attorney general yesterday, Horowitz today saying he's sticking by his findings that the FBI had the right to open this investigation.
KEILAR: Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much for that reporting.
Ahead, the president and his allies continue to push the conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election. But now, the attorney general is not knocking it down. Why this is a dangerous new turn.
Also, President Trump again attacks and mocks former FBI lawyer, Lisa Page, and he's using a baseless claim to do it. She is now responding.
KEILAR: A lengthy 400-plus page report from the Justice Department's independent inspector general has squashed years of conspiracy theories from President Trump claiming that his campaign was spied on.
This is not stopping the president or, more noteworthy, the Attorney General William Barr from continuing to insist the opposite.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Folks, they spied on our campaign, OK? They spied.
WILLIAM Barr, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Oh, it was clearly spied upon. I mean, that's what electronic surveillance is. I think wiring people up to go in and talk to people and make recordings of their conversation is spying. I think going through peoples' e-mails, which they did as a result of the FISA warrant. They went through everything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Former deputy assistant attorney general, Harry Litman, is here as well as CNN's senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown.
How do you make sense of Barr's role in this? But also, just fact- check what we heard from him because that's not accurate.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No. It's stunning to hear the attorney general put out information like that that that --
KEILAR: Someone was wired up.
BROWN: Yes, to say that people were wired up and going into the campaign to talk to people to try to get them and snare them and spy on them. The I.G. report made clear that is not what happened and that the campaign was not spied on. And the Carter Page FISA happened after Carter Page left the campaign.
So it seems like the attorney general is trying to turn himself into a pretzel to fit this narrative that the president has put out there about being spied on and that there was malicious behavior and so forth.
It is stunning with the attorney general. It's like they're saying the same thing, witch hunt, hoax, but the attorney general is using lawyerly language, no predication, and that kind of thing. But they're basically saying the same thing.
And it seems as though the attorney general wanted to go on this media blitz, in a sense, to shape public perception and focus the mistakes that the FBI made, which they did, according to this report, and the FISA warrant for Carter Page, much like he did, you know, after the Mueller report, trying to shape the public perception.
KEILAR: I wonder what you think about what he's saying, including the part where he likens the FISA process to spying.
HARRY LITMAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Spying is a loaded term. He knows it's a loaded term. He knew it before. And using is, what it loads is some suggestion of illegal surveillance.
KEILAR: That's right.
LITMAN: In fact, we know that everything was lawful and by the book. And Shimon says that has to be the headline here.
But more to the point, it's so odd, unprecedented really, for the attorney general to be undermining his own inspector general, who's there to make independent, trustworthy findings.
The supposed reason why the public will otherwise be confused is exactly the opposite. He's the one who has introduced the confusion. The things that he believes, presumably, in saying this was inadequate predication, the legal term would be.
Horowitz knew. Horowitz rejects the finding.
He's just making a disagreement that gives the president a talking point on the campaign trail to go from there to thugs, which is where he was with the FBI.
KEILAR: Yes. And I think that when he went against the president's narrative with what he said publicly, the attorney general was quick to come out and disagree with Horowitz on.
It's very interesting. Before this report was released, right, the A.G. had hired a federal prosecutor, John Durham, to run a separate investigation into the very thing.
I mean, it's the same thing, the origins of the Russia investigation, which the president would like to believe that it's completely politically motivated. It's a lot of wrongdoing. We see this not with the I.G.'s report
Republicans have been hanging their hat on this, the Durham report. This is what conservatives have been focused on, Harry. Do you think this is going to find something similar to what Horowitz found?
LITMAN: No. The Durham report, while it's a criminal investigation, we won't know until June. I don't think it will but the Republicans have shown they'll never take no for an answer, as you say, even though the headline has to be no bias, it was well predicated. They certainly -- Horowitz takes to task what the FBI did. If you look at the Republicans in the hearing this morning, they were really slapping -- well, they weren't slapping Horowitz around -- they were really emphasizing the mistakes that the bureau had made. That's going to be the new narrative.
Of course, what that has to do with Donald Trump and his alleged behavior, well, it has zero to do with it. It has something to do with Carter Page. That will be new -- the way they'll exploit the findings.
KEILAR: Yes. Those are serious mistakes.
KEILAR: But you can't just cherry pick those out of this.
All right, you guys, stand by for me if you will.
We have nine people who are still missing following a deadly volcano eruption in New Zealand. Survivors detailing the horrors that they saw as that eruption happened, trapping tourists on a cruise ship excursion.
KEILAR: Let's head back now to Capitol Hill where Senators are questioning the independent watchdog, the inspector general of the Department of Justice.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): -- the FBI for decades have had a great many honorable, principled professionals with a fidelity to rule of law.
And this indictment -- I'm an alumnus of the Department of Justice. This pattern of facts makes me angry. And it makes anyone who expects law enforcement to be non-partisan and faithful to the law, it should make them angry as well.
Now the press has focused on your specific conclusion that you did not find evidence of political biased. That's a judgment you have. I disagree with that judgment. But I think that judgment is in many ways the least significant component of this report.
I think the facts that are in this report need to be understood and they should be deeply chilling to anyone who understands the facts in this report and then people can draw the inference as to why that pattern of abuse occurred.
GRAHAM: Do you agree with that?
HOROWITZ: I'm sorry?
GRAHAM: Do you agree with what he just said? HOROWITZ: I think everybody can -- the -- the purpose of this report is to lay out the facts for the public and everybody can debate and decide what they think of this information. I absolutely agree.
CRUZ: So this 434 page report outlines 17 major errors and misstatements that were made by the FBI or DOJ in securing FISA warrants. A number of them are deeply, deeply troubling. These are not typos, these are not small inadvertent errors. These are grotesque abuse of power.
Let's focus on a couple of them. The primary sub source. Primary sub source and indeed the first -- the first error you note in the second, third, and fourth application for the FISA warrant is that the primary sub source reporting raise serious questions about the accuracy of the Steele dossier, which we now know was a bunch of malarkey, to use a term that's been in the news lately.
And that the FISA court was not informed of that. Now let's get specifically. So the basis of this Steele report was what's referred to in your report as the primary sub source. That was the principle basis and the FBI interviewed that primary sub source; not once, not twice, but three times in January, March, and May of 2017.
So that's the basis of this dossier. What do the primary sub source say as you -- as the OIG report says the interviews with the primary sub source raised quote, significant questions about the reliability of the Steele reporting. What did the sub source say specifically as your report goes on to say it says Steele misstated or exaggerated multiple sections of the reporting.
Says that portions of it, particularly the more salacious and sexual portions were based on quote, rumor and speculation. It says that some of the basis of that came from conversations with quote, friends over beers; and statements that were made in quote, jest.
And -- and the primary sub source also says to take the other sub sources, quote, with a grain of salt. Now the FBI had that information, knew that the basis of this -- this -- this dossier was saying it's unreliable. And what -- what do the FBI and DOJ do?
In renewal application number two and number three, the FBI advised the quote, the FBI found the Russian sub source to be truthful and cooperative with zero revisions. You note that is the most significant misstatement.
And -- and that is going in front of a court of law, relying on facts that you know are unreliable without any basis. That -- that was the number one. The number two major error in -- in -- in the applications was omitting Carter Page's prior relationship.
Now we now have evidence that Carter Page functioned as a source for a United States intelligence agency. That's a pretty darn important fact. If you're telling the FISA court hey, the fact that -- that this guy, Carter Page, who I don't know, I don't this guy Carter Page but the fact that he's talking to Russians really suspicious while the fact that he's serving as a source for U.S. intelligence agents is pretty darn relevant to why he's talking to Russians.
Because we have lots of sources that are talking to bad guys. And when you don't tell the court that you're deceiving the court. But it's worse than just deceiving the court because, as the OIG report details, an assisted general counsel in the FBI altered an email, fabricated evidence.
And reading from the OIG report, specifically the words and not a source had been inserted into the email. That email then was sent on to the officials responsible for making the decision to go forward.
And as the report said -- let me read on page 256 of the OIG report, the final paragraph. Consistent with the Inspector General Act of 1978 and following OIG's discovery that the OGC attorney had altered the email that he sent to the supervising agent who thereafter relied on it to swear out the final FISA application.
So the -- so the men and women at home need to know what's happening. A lawyer at the FBI creates fraudulent evidence, alters an email that is in turn used as the basis for a sworn statement to the court that the court relies on. Am I stating that accurately?
HOROWITZ: That's correct. That is what occurred.
CRUZ: Now you have worked in -- in law enforcement a long time. Is the pattern of a Department of Justice employee altering evidence and submitting fraudulent evidence that ultimately gets submitted to a court; is that common place, is that typical?
HOROWITZ: I have not seen an alteration of an email and impacting a court document like this.
CRUZ: In any -- in any ordinary circumstance, if a private citizen did this, fabricated evidence. And by the way, what he inserted was not just slightly wrong, it was 180 degrees opposite what the evidence said.
So the intelligence agency said this guy is a source and he inserted this guy is not a source. If a private citizen did that in any law enforcement investigation, if they fabricated evidence and reversed what it said, in your experience, would that private citizen be prosecuted for fabricating evidence, be prosecuted for obstruction of justice, be prosecuted for perjury?
HOROWITZ: They certainly would be considered for that if it was an intentional effort to deceive the court. On this one I'm going to defer because as we noted here in -- in the sentence, you indicated we referred that over to the attorney general and the FBI director for handling.
CRUZ: Third major omission that the Department of Justice and the FBI did not tell the court is that this entire operation was funded by the DNC, was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and by Democrats. It was a an OPO research dump (ph). Look, at some level this is the most effective OPO (ph) research dump in history because the Department of Justice and FBI were perfectly happy to be hatchet men for this OPO (ph) research dump.
Now, throughout every one of the filings, DOJ and the FBI didn't inform the FISA court, that this was being paid for by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign, is that right?
HOROWITZ: That's not in any of the FISA applications.
CRUZ: So they didn't tell the court that. And it's not like DOJ didn't know indeed one of the senior Department of Justice officials, Bruce Ohr, his wife worked at Fusion GPS. The OPO research company being paid by the -- by -- by the DNC.
And he became the principle liaison with Steele without telling anyone at the Department of Justice that he was essentially working on behalf of the Clinton campaign. Who at the Department of Justice was -- and by the way, several -- several Democrats -- it's interesting to see Democratic Senators wanting to defend this abuse of power.
Several senators, Senator Feinstein said, I wrote this down, the FBI didn't play spies in the Trump campaign. Senator Leahy said something similar. Well that may be true, not spies in the Trump campaign.
But reading form your report, in particular page four of the executive summary, your report says thereafter the crossfire hurricane team used the intrusive techniques, including confidential human sources to interact and consensually record multiple conversations with Page and Papadopoulos both before and after they were working for the Trump campaign.
As well as on one occasion with a high level Trump campaign official who was not the subject of the investigation. So they didn't play spies in the campaign but they sent spies to record senior members of the campaign in the middle of a presidential campaign when -- when that candidate was the nominee for the other major party that was the opposing party to the one in power. Is that right.
HOROWITZ: They sent confidential human sources in to do those.
CRUZ: Did anyone at DOJ -- who at DOJ knew about this? Did the attorney general know about this? Did the White House know about this?
HOROWITZ: Based on what we found, nobody had been told in advanced.
CRUZ: But once it was happening did they know.
HOROWITZ: They did not. The only evidence that somebody knew were the line attorneys in NSD, in the National Security Division when they were told very selective portions of what had occurred.
Nobody knew before hand. Nobody had been briefed. And frankly that was one of the most concerning things here is that nobody needed to be told.
CRUZ: And I can tell you from my time at the Department of Justice and for my time in law enforcement, any responsible leader when hearing that you're talking about sending in spies and sending in a wire tap on any presidential nominee should say what in the hell are we doing.
And by the way, the people up the chain who are saying we didn't know. If you had responsible leadership, there's no more important decision than you make -- I can tell you when I was at DOJ if someone says let's tap Hillary Clinton or let's tap Bill Clinton or John Kerry, the people there would have said what in the hell are you talking about. What was going on here -- this wasn't Jason Bourne. This was Beavis and Butthead.
GRAHAM: Senator Klobuchar.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): All right. I want to tone things down a little bit here.
And first want to express my gratitude for the thousands of men and women who work every day on the front line with the FBI. I come from a background as a prosecutor.