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Lawmakers Question DOJ Inspector General On Russia Probe; DOJ IG: "Significant Inaccuracies & Omissions" In FISA Requests; DOJ IG: Surveillance On Carter Page Continued Even After Info Was Found That Weekend Probable Cause; DOJ IG: No Evidence Of Political Bias In Russia Probe's Origin. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired December 11, 2019 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, (R-IA): Mr. Staley might have found out which of the two versions were true. May be they weren't interested in doing their job. Three, Chairman Graham and I sent our referral to the FBI and DOJ on January 4, 2018.
And according to the FBI although already knew that the British Intelligence and the FBI officials discuss the litigation with Director Comey, the FBI never got Steele's statement in that litigation, until we provided them.
The FBI also never considered updating the court on these statements. Why did the court learn - no when did the court learn about these contradictory statements? About whether Steele did or didn't have contact with the media? And did anyone in the FBI seem concerned at all that it was not updating the frisk, the court; it was knowingly providing a court with incorrect and misleading information?
MICHAEL HOROWITZ, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT INSPECTOR GENERAL: So the FISA court first learned of it, at least as I understand it, in a letter sent June 2018, a year after the last FISA authorization when the Justice Department lawyers sent a letter informing them of new information that they had learned including from the litigation that Mr. Steele had acknowledged he was a direct contact for Yahoo News in that story. That was the first time the court was told about it.
GRASSLEY: Would you look at footnote 461 for me?
GRASSLEY: That footnote states that a Former FBI Confidential Human Source contacted an FBI agent in an FBI field office in late July 2016 to report information from, "A colleague who runs an investigative firm hired by two entities, the Democratic National Committee as well as another individual who was not named to explore Donald Trump's longstanding ties to Russian entities". Was that investigative firm Fusion GPS or did the DNC hire another firm to peddle Anti-Trump information to Obama's FBI?
HOROWITZ: I don't know definitively which it is but I can certainly follow up and get back to you on that. GRASSLEY: But it is a question you can answer for?
HOROWITZ: I don't know. I have to double check with our folks on that.
GRASSLEY: And if you couldn't, would that be a case of privacy or something?
HOROWITZ: No. I just don't know if we've ultimately figured out the answer to that question because it was in a different field office with different people to have to interview and that sort of thing. I'm not sure how much we went down that road frankly.
GRASSLEY: Okay, thank you. I've been asking questions since September 2017 about what kind of defensive briefings the FBI provided to the Trump Campaign. The FBI told me its briefings to both campaigns were similar and that it wasn't aware of action that it took as a result. Chairman Johnson and I wrote again to the FBI two months ago.
We noted that text messages between Strzok and Page indicated that the FBI may have used defensive briefings not to warn the Trump Campaign but to investigate it. Four questions along this line.
Question number one, would you agree that with respect to the defensive briefings, the Trump Campaign's briefings were treated differently than those provided to the Clinton Campaign?
HOROWITZ: If I could, they were called - it was not an FBI briefing the FBI went to an Office of the - Director of National Intelligence Briefing. It was a strategic Counter Intelligence Briefing. I mention that because it precisely wasn't a defensive briefing. It was an intelligence briefing.
And they were treated differently in that the agent wrote it up to the file and put the information in the file. The briefings were identical but the net result was one was for investigative purposes and one was purely for the intelligence briefing.
GRASSLEY: I think which you said touches on question two. But I'm going to ask you any way. In this case, the agency at the Trump Campaign Briefing documented statements and interactions of Michael Flynn and Candidate Trump for the FBI's investigative files. Is it normal for the Counter Intelligence briefers to document statements and interactions of individual that they're briefing for investigative purposes?
HOROWITZ: It was documented in one and not documented in the other as you said Senator. And based on what we saw, there's actually no policy on it. But based on the reaction of the current leadership and Director Wray's response where he underlined the word that this will not happen going forward, I think it's clear what his state of mind is on that, this should not have occurred.
GRASSLEY: Question number three did the FBI make any investigative use of the information garnered in the defense briefing for example to inform its later interview with Michael Flynn?
HOROWITZ: So I don't know definitively whether that did occur but that was certainly the stated purpose for the agent being present.
GRASSLEY: Okay. Lastly, campaigns place trust in the FBI to provide an environment of cooperation and honest assessments about the risk of foreign threats. How can the FBI repair that trust after abusing the briefing process?
HOROWITZ: Well, that's where we make the recommendation. We think the FBI has to clearly state what its policy is. It does these kinds of strategic briefings as the Chairman mentioned for members of Congress, for private citizens, companies when they get attacked on their computer systems for example. For transition purposes as was the case here. And there needs to be clear guidance and rules so that those getting the briefings understand.
GRASSLEY: Okay. On another point, according to your report Bruce Ohr told the FBI that Steele's reporting had gone to the Clinton Campaign November 2016. By January 11th, 2017, key investigators knew the dossier was prepared in part for the DNC. And by February and March 2017, "It was broadly known in the FBI and by Senior Justice Department officials that Den Simpson was working for the Democratic Party".
How many in the FBI and DOJ knew that the Steele dossier was political opposition research funded by the Democrats and who were they? And did any of them approve information in the FISA or any of its renewals while knowing who was paying for it?
HOROWITZ: So on the FBI side as we layout in the report it's page 258 forward, there were a number of people who knew. It's challenging getting back to the Chairman's question to know precisely what was known at the very highest levels of the FBI and when, the Director, Deputy Director levels, because of the lack of any direct record of entire briefings.
But there certainly was much information as we layout here known at the FBI. At the Justice Department, much of that information was not known. In fact, one of the concerns we note in the information about what Mr. Ohr did is Mr. Ohr was passing along information from Mr. Steele to the FBI. That information was not being given back by the FBI to the Justice Department.
So the people, the colleagues of Mr. Ohr's at the Justice Department were approving when reviewing these FISAs didn't know that their colleague had passed along that information to the FBI.
GRASSLEY: Thank you.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R-CA): We'll go with Senator Leahy. Then we'll break for lunch and come back at 1:00 and go vote.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, (D-VT): Thank you. Mr. Horowitz, it's good to see you again. I read an awful lot of IG Reports in my years here. Am I correct that when the Justice Department or a component disagrees whether has comments about an IG report, the general practice is to provide with a written response to publish along with your report, is that correct?
HOROWITZ: That is correct. We would always include that in our appendix to our reports.
LEAHY: My staff looked at 797 Inspector General reports filed in - began there were three dozen reports for the Justice Department of component contested more. How many IG Reports under your name involve the Justice Department arguing that in fact committed more misconduct than your investigation uncovered?
HOROWITZ: I don't recall that happening before.
LEAHY: I tell you right now. None. None. That's why I find it very unusual that Attorney General Barr didn't send you anything to go in the report. He just went to the television cameras to talk about it. There was a lot about the personal text messages involved in your 2018 report involving FBI lawyer and agent involved in these investigations personal animus toward President Trump.
You also, didn't you, in your investigation find pro Trump text messages from agents who worked on the Russia investigation, including one that was an expletive ridden exchange where the agents were enthusiastic where he talked about Trump's election and their desire to investigate the Clinton Foundation under President Trump that you found that too, didn't you?
HOROWITZ: That's correct, that's in the report.
LEAHY: I think it was potentially problematic whether they're pro Trump or pro Clinton. I assume the FBI investigators can have strong views on politics, but the question is does it impact their work?
HOROWITZ: Exactly right. I think it is very important to keep in mind that while they frankly should never be using their government devices to have political discussions whether they're working on a sensitive matter or not. In our view and we took this view last year, we laid it out we were not holding or referring people for performance failures simply because they expressed support or lack of support for candidate. It was precise as you indicated.
LEAHY: Thank you.
HOROWITZ: Connecting it to their--
LEAHY: Well, there was pro Trump or pro Clinton, thank you. Now there was one occasion where I think bias did impact Russian work. The FBI appropriately kept quiet about the Trump Russia investigation during the 2016 election. The same can't be said about the Clinton Administration. Rudy Giuliani and others appeared to receive highly sensitive leaks from the New York FBI Field Office, leaks that likely contributed to Director Comey's public announcement that he was reopening the Clinton investigation just days before the election.
I asked then Director Comey about these leaks. He said he was investigating. Now, we know that a number of these leaks to Mr. Giuliani, which he then ran to the cameras and actually bragged about, talking about. What can you tell us about the New York Field Office's leaks to Rudolph Giuliani and others?
HOROWITZ: So as we noted publicly last year in our report, we were very concerned about that. We put in the appendix charts showing all the different contacts. And subsequent to that report and this continues to this day, we are investigating those contacts. We've issued a couple of public summaries so far about people we found violated FBI policy.
We have other investigations ongoing that when we conclude it, we will also post summaries of. What's proving to be very hard is to prove the actual substance of the communications between the agents and the reporter or the individuals as you might guess, but we can prove the contacts. Under FBI policy you need authorization if you're going to disclose information and have certain contacts.
LEAHY: Thank you. One of your central findings is that the FBI's investigation into Russian ties in the Trump Campaign was not influenced by political bias, is that correct?
HOROWITZ: The opening of the investigation, we found, was not connected to any of the bias texts that we identified.
LEAHY: Now there's an alpha in the room, maybe a herd of them. At the President's direction the Attorney General has been combing Europe to find support for fringe theories to cast doubt on the Russia investigation. I'm not clear what legitimate law enforcement purpose it serves. How do we know that politics is not driving the Barr, Durham investigation?
HOROWITZ: I'm not sure how anybody knows what you don't know or unless you do an investigation or you review it or somebody looks through as we did for example here a million records and an exhaustive effort.
LEAHY: But you would agree that Justice Department investigations have to be free of improper political motivation?
HOROWITZ: Absolutely, 1000 percent. I did public corruption investigations. I ran the public corruption unit in the Southern District of New York. You had to be straight down the yellow line in the middle of the road on anything you touched.
LEAHY: Does it concern you the Attorney General is running around Europe to find any kind of theories that might cast doubt on the Russian investigation?
HOROWITZ: I think you have to ask the Attorney General about those meetings. I don't know what those meetings were about. Obviously haven't done any investigating.
LEAHY: I am concerned because he did not follow the procedure normally if they have a question or disagreement with the Inspector General's report by letting you know before it comes out so you can include and would include any disagreements. [12:15:00]
LEAHY: It just went to the press with it. I think about when Glenn Fine investigated the politically motivated firing of nine U.S. Attorneys during the Bush Administration. He said that carbon leaders educated the response - ensure that prosecutorial decision probably based on the law they have a department policy not political pressure. In this case for the first time pressures were not sent by - sent to you by the Attorney General but instead given to the press, is that correct in your experience?
HOROWITZ: Yes, I don't know of another situation that we didn't get those attached to our appendix to our report.
LEAHY: Thank you Chairman.
GRAHAM: Thank you, Senator Leahy.
LEAHY: Thank you for your comments about Senator Leahy and myself.
GRAHAM: Absolutely. We will adjourn, recess until 1:00.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. You've been watching live coverage of an important and at times contentious hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The witness Michael Horowitz the Department of Justice's Inspector General. The subject his investigations, the IG's investigation into the origins of the 2016 Trump/Russia Counter Intelligence investigation known as cross fire hurricane.
Mr. Horowitz saying importantly he found no political bias in the interviews or the documents of the top FBI leadership but just as importantly he also detailed some damming conduct by mid level FBI agents who he said repeatedly violated agency procedures and repeatedly violated agency rules and in his views repeatedly violated common sense and ethics as they proceeded through that investigation. Let's get to our Crime and Justice Reporter Shimon Prokupecz to kick us up. Shimon, what are your major takeaways here?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the fact that he's standing by this, right? I think that's the big headline here that he is standing by this report, by his findings despite what the Attorney General said yesterday, despite what the U.S. Attorney who is overseeing this other aspect of the investigation that's being done by the Department of Justice separately from this. I think that's a key thing.
The other thing here really is that there was legitimate factual basis to suspect that crimes had occurred. The FBI had the right to open this investigation, to look into members of the campaign that they looked into because of concerns that crimes were being committed. Obviously the other thing is all the mistakes were made by the FBI. It all has to do with the FISA, that secret warrant on Carter Page.
That's what in the end, that's where all the mistakes came. That's where there were screw ups on the part of FBI agents, analysts and people who were putting this together, information he says that was not provided to the FISA court that he said should have been provided. And he said quite frankly that this should not have happened.
And what happens now, right? He stands behind the current FBI Director who said that he stood behind this report. And so essentially the issues now continue. You're going to have people on the Republicans who are going to feel that the FBI was bias in this, in the way that they handled this investigation.
Ultimately Horowitz here saying he did not find any political bias. Mistakes were made but the FBI had the right to go ahead based on the low legal threshold that exists in order to open these kinds of investigations. Based on everything he has found, the FBI was right in opening this investigation. John.
KING: Shimon Prokupecz, I appreciate your insights on this story you have covered for many, many years. Let's bring it into the room, with me to share their reporting and their insights this day, Maggie Haberman with "The New York Times" Toluse Olorunnipa with "The Washington Post" Julie Hirschfeld Davis also of "The New York Times" and CNN's Abby Phillip.
So at the top the headlines, Mr. Horowitz is saying there was probable cause to start this investigation. Trump says the deep state was after him from the get-go. He says probable cause. He says no documentary evidence or nothing in the witness interviews. A million pages he says that shows either Jim Comey the Former FBI Director, Andy McCabe his Deputy acted out of any political bias or that they knew of some of these mistakes down the line.
But this part is damning. I want you to listen here Senator Lindsey Graham is talking about Carter Page and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Warrant that allowed the FBI to have surveillance on an American citizen who was a Trump Campaign Advisor and incredibly sensitive question to put to the courts.
Mr. Horowitz said yes, they had probable cause to get the initial warrant. But then as the investigation continued, they came into possession of other information that cast doubt on some of that information, other information that cast Carter Page in a more favorable light. Here is an exchange with Chairman Graham.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: What I want you to know is that in January 2017, the whole foundation for surveilling Carter Page collapses, exculpatory information is ignored them were allowed to the court about what the interview was all about. Is that a fair summary so far?
HOROWITZ: It was misleading to the court.
GRAHAM: Okay, fair enough. And in January about six months later when they find more information that could be helpful to Mr. Page, they lie about it. Do you feel like Mr. Page was treated fairly by the Department of Justice and the FBI?
HOROWITZ: I don't think the Department of Justice fairly treated these FISA's and he was on the receiving end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: It is striking because Jim Comey would say well we had other evidence by this point so it wasn't just based on the Carter Page warrant but if you had other evidence by this point to justify continue your investigations. Why were you misleading the foreign intelligence? Why was that not reported up in the chain of command?
That is a very legitimate beef whether you're President Trump, Carter Page who was under investigation or any Republican who wants to cast doubt on this that law enforcement officials investigating not John Q. Public out there although John Q. Public deserves the same respect but a presidential campaign, now a president-elect of the United States didn't say we have a problem here.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: This is a very bad fact set that's laid out here. The problem with this IG's report is it doesn't neatly sort of acquit anybody's version of the events, right? It doesn't neatly acquit the President's version that there was a deep state - as you said that was after him but it also does not suggest the Jim Comey version of events that we were headed in this direction anyway and so who cares should be left on its own.
They clearly were and yet the FISA courts have been shrouded in secrecy since they came about. They are not accountable to anybody. This is a complaint referred from Rand Paul for many, many years and he is focused on FISA abuses. This is a reason why you have heard people make complaints like that and usually they fall on deaf ears because the national security import has outweighed it. And that is going to get another look because of this.
KING: Right, one other question when you listen to this is again if by then you knew Donald Trump Jr. brought Russians into the Trump Tower, you had - Papadopoulos was under some scrutiny, other people conversations Roger Stone we learned later in investigations contacts with WikiLeaks.
If you had a whole lot of other stuff to continue your information and you were confident in your investigation, why wouldn't you go to a court to protect your own credibility and say by the way, we screwed this one up; we're going to dial this one back. It's a pretty powerful case.
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. And what it shows is that if you go back and sort of dig into the origins of any of these wiretapping orders you may be likely to find similar mistakes, instances where people are mislead, instances where one part of the investigation is moving forward and another part is not aware of what may be new facts new exculpatory evidence that may provide a different set of avenues for information. So I think that this as Maggie said gives each side something to hang onto. President Trump has already said that this shows there was immense wrong doing people were out to get him. Yet the finding of the report overall is that there was reason to go forward on a lot of these other things and this set of facts is not necessarily something that blows up all the rest of the findings of the Russian investigation.
KING: And so what you're hoping for when an Inspector General a very sizes experience watchdog does something like, looking at an investigation that - so sensitive anyway and be as become so much more because of the Mueller investigation because of the President of the United States because we're going into a re-election campaign where some of these things are still an issue. You expect him to clear it up, right? You're hoping for clarity. Close the chapter. Listen to the Chairman and the Ranking Member. Nope.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: What happened here are not a few irregularities? What happened here is the system failed people at the highest level of our government took the law in their own hands.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D) RANKING MEMBER: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: It is remarkable and I guess it's just today's Washington that intelligent people read the same 437 pages and come away with apples and oranges.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's also a symptom of the kind of way in which we apparently as a society cannot hold two thoughts in our mind at the same time. It is possible that there were irregularities in Carter Page's FISA warrant and also that it doesn't point to some kind of systemic deep state problem within the FBI.
This does come back to though, I mean the FISA program clearly is in need of some re-evaluation but that's been true for quite some time now. It's not just a Trump phenomenon. This has been something that civil liberty advocates have been talking about for a very long time. So it's probably for the best that suddenly Lindsey Graham wants to reevaluate this and that some of the democrats who might have wanted to reevaluate a several years ago, might be interested in doing that now.
PHILLIP: Yes, this is not going to button any of this up. And then on top of that we're going to have the Durham report when that comes out that is going to further throw this into a political avenue. I do think though it's worthwhile pointing out that you know despite all the commentary from Barr and Durham about what they believe is true and what they don't believe is true, the value of the Durham report is that it is broader. So we will get a little bit of a wider aperture of what's going on not just within the FBI but in the entire IC view of this whole thing.
KING: If it's transparent, if we don't just get findings from Durham, if we actually get the transparency because they have opened themselves up to legitimate suspicion by the way they have publicly commented on others, including the Attorney General already trashing the work of the Inspector General saying he didn't - he disagrees with this conclusion.
Mr. Horowitz setting there, again he is seasoned, he has been through this saying this has never happened before in all his investigations it never happened before the Attorney General comes right out to the media and says I disagree. I think the guy missed and he says, "We stand by our finding".
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I'm not surprised to hear that he's standing by his findings. I'm also not surprised to hear that different people are looking at this report from different angles. We saw this with the Mueller report, another 400-page huge document.
You had Republicans see complete vindication for President Trump out of it. You saw Democrats seeing that Mueller actually laid out pretty damning evidence of misconduct by the President and his campaign including the President's administration in various forms of potential obstruction of Justice.
We saw the same thing with the Ukraine scandal. We saw the transcript from the call. Republicans eventually came to the position. At first some of them said it was a sign of misconduct but not impeachable. Now they're all on board saying it was perfect the way the President is and Democrats said this is the basis for an impeachment injury.
So I'm not surprised this has become another political Rorschach test in which Republicans those who defend Donald Trump who may in the past before President Trump came to this same way we've seen things that were wrong with the way his company operated.
Democrats may have seen some reasons to criticize civil liberties issues using the report to undercut President Trump's claims that he was spied upon and all this legal stuff happened. I'm not surprised that both sides are going into their corners less than 11 months from a campaign.
KING: I'm not surprised either but it would be nice to live in a world when some facts are facts. We could just all agree that some facts are facts this Wednesday. We bring on that as going into this. A big day looking back at the Russia report also a big day on Capitol Hill looking forward. The House Judiciary Committee meets in just a few hours to start marking up two articles of impeachment.