Highlights of the inspector general's hearing
- Michael Horowitz, the inspector general of the Justice Department, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about his office's report on the FBI's handling of the Russia investigation.
- On Monday, he concluded that there was no political bias in the launch of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and any Trump campaign ties to Russia.
- Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham revealed during the hearing that an FBI lawyer allegedly "doctored" a CIA email regarding a former Trump campaign aide who was under FBI surveillance.
Washington -- On Capitol Hill on Wednesday, the Justice Department's inspector general defended his report's conclusions about the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign's ties to Russia but said he was "deeply concerned that so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate, hand-picked investigative teams."
Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded in a report published Monday that the FBI was justified and showed no political bias when it launched its investigation.
But his team did find 17 "significant inaccuracies and omissions" in the FBI's handling of FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) applications to surveil Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide, and found that "the surveillance of Carter Page continued even as the FBI gathered information that weakened the assessment of probable cause."
During the hearing before the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee, Chairman Lindsey Graham, one of President Trump's biggest defenders, revealed that an FBI lawyer allegedly "doctored" a CIA email to state that Page was not a CIA source when, in fact, he was. Graham suggested that this information -- had it not been doctored -- might have provided a reason to stop surveillance of Page.
Horowitz said "it is unknown as to precisely why" the FBI lawyer changed the content of the email.
The IG, however, said these surveillance problems were "not routine" and that the motivations behind them are "unclear." While he disagreed with Republicans that they represent "grotesque abuse of power," the inspector general did support the idea of congressional reform of the FISA system.
Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal pointed out that he has proposed such reforms in the past and was unable to win Republican support for them.
In his closing statement, Graham said this is the "beginning, not the end" of his committee's involvement in reforming the FISA process.
"What scares me the most is that the power to open up a counterintelligence investigation is almost unlimited. The power to abuse it is exactly what your report tells us about," he said.
The committee's top Democrat, Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, said that "it's time to move on from the false claims of political bias" and accused her Republican counterparts of being hypocrites.
"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," she said.
Mr. Trump has accused the FBI of harboring a bias against him. Horowitz's report was released as Mr. Trump faces the possibility of impeachment. On Wednesday night, the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee will debate the articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump over his dealings with Ukraine -- a country that he and his allies claim interfered in the 2016 election to help his opponent, Hillary Clinton. The U.S. intelligence community disputes that claim.
The 434-page Horowitz report is based on more than 1 million documents from the Justice Department and the FBI as well as interviews with more than 100 witnesses. Read a summary of its conclusions here.
Graham closes out hearing: "Poor Carter Page"
4:20 p.m. Graham began to close out the hearing, joking that he may have violated the Geneva Convention by not giving Horowitz a restroom break for hours.
The top Republican hit on many of his earlier points, and lamented the FBI's treatment of "poor Carter Page." He also criticized the FBI's handling of the probe and insisted all Americans should be concerned that they could be surveilled by federal agencies at any time and for any reason. American politicians should be particularly concerned, Graham said.
"What scares me the most is that the power to open up a counterintelligence investigation is almost unlimited. The power to abuse it is exactly what your report tells us about," Graham said, warning that this is the "beginning, not the end" of his committee's involvement in reforming the FISA process. -- Kathryn Watson
Senator John Kennedy says he thought he had "dropped acid" when he read IG report
4 p.m.: Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, known for being one of the most quotable elected officials on Capitol Hill, said the FBI has a reputation for being the premiere law enforcement agency. But reading the report shocked him.
About 15% of the way through the report, Kennedy said he wanted to "heave." About 25% of the way through, he said he thought he'd "dropped acid."
Kennedy said he found the report extremely concerning.
"This has gotta be fixed. At a minimum, somebody's gotta be fired," Kennedy concluded. -- Kathryn Watson
Harris says Horowitz has "the power and the duty" to investigate Barr
3:50 p.m.: Senator Kamala Harris, who recently dropped her bid for the presidency, pointed out that Horowitz has the ability to investigate the attorney general.
Harris said the watchdog has the "power and the duty to investigate misconduct" committed by Barr, insisting that the attorney general is doing the "bidding" of the president to undermine the intelligence community. Barr has been traveling to other countries as a part of the Justice Department's own review of what happened in 2016.
"Attorney General Barr has been highly critical of your findings, during the final stages of your investigation he even embarked on his own personal investigation, by meeting with foreign leaders in foreign lands, apparently in search of evidence that contradicts the fact that Russia interfered in the 2016 United States presidential election to benefit Trump," Harris said.
"Clearly, Barr's investigation, which was launched to do the bidding of President Trump, has two objectives: One, to undermine the integrity of our intelligence community. The goal? To cast doubt on the finding that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in order to benefit the Trump campaign.
"And two: To intimidate the men and women of our intelligence community by suggesting that our national security professionals will face serious consequences if they investigate wrongdoing on the part of this president or his operatives," Harris said. -- Kathryn Watson
Horowitz says FBI behavior in Trump-Russia investigation “not routine”
3:33 p.m.: When asked by Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham about the behavior uncovered by his investigation, the inspector general said, "It certainly better not be routine, and I don't know any reason to think it is."
The Justice Department watchdog described the actions of some FBI officials as "pretty bad," but he disagreed with the Republican chairman that the report represented a "grotesque abuse of power" by FBI and Justice Department officials.
"We did not say that in the report. We did not reach a conclusion like that, so I would not agree with that," Horowitz said. -- Melissa Quinn
Blumenthal applauds Republicans' "newfound indignation" over FISA procedures
3:23 p.m.: Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said he was glad Republicans are finally paying attention to overreach by the FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] courts.
He hopes they'll work with him on legislation to reform the system, which is under scrutiny because the inspector general's report found 17 "significant inaccuracies and omissions" in the FISA applications related to the investigation of the Trump campaign's ties to Russian interference.
"I welcome my colleagues' apparently newfound indignation about the potential reform of the FISA court and the process," he said. "In fact, I authored the FISA Court Reform Act in 2013 with 18 co-sponsors -- all Democrats.
"The FISA process is secret because ordinarily we don't want our adversaries to know we're investigating them," Blumenthal said. "But there still needs to be checks and balances, scrutiny, to make sure that accurate information is presented to the FISA judges who work in secret. Unfortunately, a great many of those proposed reforms did not become law."
Horowitz agreed that Congress should consider more FISA reforms. -- Kathryn Watson
Republican claims FBI "effectively meddled" in 2016 presidential campaign
2:57 p.m.: Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, claimed the FBI "effectively meddled" in the 2016 presidential election and in Mr. Trump's campaign.
Hawley said the U.S. expects foreign governments like Russia to attempt to meddle, "but when our own government does it, how can the American people have confidence, and what can we do?"
Hawley said the Democratic National Committee (DNC) should be "remembered" for getting the FBI to investigate Mr. Trump's campaign.
Horowitz, however, concluded in his report that the Steele dossier -- which was produced by a British spy hired by Fusion GPS, a firm with links to a law firm representing the DNC -- is not the reason the FBI launched an investigation of the Trump campaign's ties to Russian interference in the election. -- Kathryn Watson
Ted Cruz compares oversight of FBI probe to "Beavis and Butt-Head"
2:19 p.m.: Senator Ted Cruz had harsh words for the Justice Department and its oversight of the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russian interference in the 2016 election.
"When I was at DOJ, if someone said '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 Butt-Head,'" Cruz said, referencing a CIA movie character and a comedic TV show about two incompetent teens to undermine the FBI investigation.
Horowitz agreed that not enough people in the Justice Department were aware of what was happening.
"Alright, I want to tone things down a little bit here," Senator Amy Klobuchar said shortly after as she claimed her time for questioning. -- Kathryn Watson
Motivations behind FISA missteps are “unclear,” says Horowitz
1:53 p.m.: The inspector general acknowledged that he couldn't pinpoint the motivations behind the "significant inaccuracies and omissions" in the FISA applications for warrants to surveil Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide.
Horowitz's report didn't find any evidence to support Republicans' claims that they were due to political bias. Senator Mike Lee, a Republican, said that means he can't conclude that no bias occurred, and Horowitz agreed.
"On the FISA side, we found, as you noted, a lack of documented testimony evidence about intentionality, but we also noted the lack of satisfactory explanations and in fact leave open the fact that, for the reasons you indicated, it's unclear what the motivations were. On the one hand, gross incompetence, negligence? On the other hand, intentionality? And where in between? We weren't in a position, with the evidence we had, to make that conclusion, but I'm not ruling it out." -- Kathryn Watson
Democratic Senator Durbin voices concerns about FISA, Rudy Giuliani
1:38 p.m.: Republicans weren't the only ones to voice concerns over the federal government's use of the FISA warrants to surveil U.S. citizens. Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat, did too.
"I've been joining Senator Leahy and Senator Lee for years talking about this FISA court," Durbin said. "And we now have ample record here, in this case and in a lot of others. 2002, the FISA court identified more than 75 cases in which it was misled by the FBI. Internal FBI review in 2006, dozens of inaccuracies provided to the FISA court. The list goes on and on. So let's have a fulsome conversation after this about the future of the FISA court and the representations that are made to it."
The inspector general's report released this week found a total of 17 "significant inaccuracies and omissions" in the warrant applications and found that "the surveillance of Carter Page continued even as the FBI gathered information that weakened the assessment of probable cause."
Durbin then expressed concerns about President Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who claimed to have information from law enforcement about the Hillary Clinton emails. Durbin asked Horowitz if there are still concerns that Giuliani might be obtaining sensitive information from law enforcement.
"I'm not gonna speak to what we've learned or what we know about our ongoing investigations, and I'm not investigating matters related to the ongoing Ukraine issues that I think you're referencing," Horowitz responded.
The House moved forward with its effort to impeach Mr. Trump this week over his dealings in Ukraine. -- Kathryn Watson
FBI lawyer changed email about Trump campaign aide's status as CIA source
1:27 p.m.: During the hearing, Senator Lindsey Graham revealed new information regarding an email allegedly altered by an FBI lawyer, identified by Graham as Kevin Clinesmith, who helped prepare a FISA application to surveil Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide.
That email, which was written by the CIA, stated that Page was a source for the CIA, which was true. But Graham said it had been altered by FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith to say the opposite -- that he was not a source.
Horowitz testified that the FBI lawyer "altered it to insert the words 'and not a source' into the email." Asked by Graham whether this "made it look like the CIA denied knowing" Page, Horowitz responded that "it flatly stated that he (Page) was not a source."
Graham suggested this information -- had it not been kept from the FISA court that granted the Page warrant -- might have provided a reason to the court to stop surveillance of Page.
When asked by Graham why Clinesmith changed the email, Horowitz said, "It is unknown as to precisely why he did it."
Horowitz, in his report, did not disclose Clinesmith's name, nor does the report say that it was a CIA liaison whose email to the FBI had been altered. The report simply refers to the CIA as a "U.S. government agency" and notes that the liaison from the agency "reconfirmed the information that the other agency had provided to the FBI in August 2016 that Page did have a prior relationship with that other agency." -- Catherine Herridge
Democrat points out pro-Trump texts from FBI agents
12:10 p.m.: Republicans repeatedly point to anti-Trump texts from Lisa Page and Peter Strzok to support their belief that the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign was launched with political motivations.
But during his time at the hearing, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy pointed out that the inspector general's report also includes pro-Trump texts from FBI agents involved in the probe.
No agents should be expressing political views on their government devices, said Horowitz, but he reiterated that there's no evidence those political views influenced the FBI's investigation. -- Kathryn Watson
Horowitz “surprised” by U.S. attorney’s criticism of his report
12:05 p.m.: The inspector general said he was "surprised" that U.S. Attorney John Durham criticized the FBI's work.
Durham is leading an ongoing criminal probe into the origins of the Russia investigation. Unlike Horowitz, he has the power to subpoena witnesses and documents and call a grand jury.
Horowitz said Durham had previously told him he thought there was sufficient evidence to open a preliminary investigation, but perhaps not a full investigation, into the Trump campaign. Then after Horowitz released his report, Durham said he "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."
Answering questions from the top Democrat on the committee, Horowitz also reiterated that there were no spies embedded in the Trump campaign -- a claim that has been made by Attorney General William Barr. -- Kathryn Watson
Horowitz says his findings "don't vindicate anybody who touched this FISA"
11:38 a.m.: Earlier this week, former FBI Director James Comey, who was accused of launching a politically biased investigation and later fired by President Trump, said the inspector general's findings vindicate him.
But, when asked by Senator Lindsey Graham if he agrees, Michael Horowitz said, "I think the activities we found here don't indicate anybody who touched this FISA."
Horowitz's team found a total of 17 "significant inaccuracies and omissions" in the surveillance warrant applications and found that "the surveillance of Carter Page continued even as the FBI gathered information that weakened the assessment of probable cause."
During his testimony, the inspector general said he can't rule out political bias as a motivation for the mishandling of the FISA warrants for the former Trump campaign aide -- even though his investigation found no evidence of political influence. -- Kathryn Watson
It's "extraordinary" the attorney general is attacking his own agency, says top Democrat
11:15 a.m.: Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, strongly criticized Attorney General William Barr for bashing the FBI, an agency he is meant to defend.
Barr has called the FBI's investigation "completely baseless."
Feinstein, however, pointed to the thorough work of the Justice Department's inspector general, whose report found no evidence of political or anti-Trump bias and concluded that the FBI was justified in opening investigations into the Trump campaign.
Michael Horowitz and his team, she noted, interviewed more than 100 witnesses and reviewed more than 1 million documents.
"It's really extraordinary that the attorney general continues to make unsupported attacks on the agency that he is responsible for leading," Feinstein said. "I believe strongly that it's time to move on from the false claims of political bias. 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." -- Kathryn Watson
Graham says Trump campaign national security team was "picked up off the street"
10:33 a.m.: In attempting to defend the president's campaign, Graham declared the Trump campaign's national security team -- including George Papadopoulos and Carter Page -- was "literally picked up off the street."
"This poor guy Papadopoulos, picked by Sam Clovis, to be part of Trump's national security team. This national security team was literally picked up off the street. If you've had a photo with Donald Trump, you've spent more time with Donald Trump than Papadopoulos and Page," he said.
"They're not paid, they're volunteers. But the FBI thinks we need to watch these guys, well Manafort as well as -- who's the other one -- Flynn, General Flynn. So they open up a counterintelligence investigation," Graham continued. -- Kathryn Watson
Graham says he's "dying" to hear from Horowitz but criticizes FBI first
10:07 a.m.: Graham, the committee's chairman and one of the president's staunchest defenders, opened up the hearing by saying he's "dying" to hear from the inspector general, but wanted to make a lengthy opening statement.
The South Carolina Republican said anyone whose takeaway from the report is that the FBI's investigation was lawfully predicated, they haven't read the report.
Graham declared FBI agents "biased," and questioned whether these individuals are "the best of the best."
Graham lamented that the president wasn't informed about investigators' concerns about Page.
"Why didn't they tell Trump? We'll figure that out later. But I think it's a question that needs to be asked," Graham said. He suggested the investigation became a massive conspiracy, with federal agents attempting to undermine the Trump campaign. -- Kathryn Watson
Horowitz highlights "significant concerns" in opening statement
9:51 a.m.: Horowitz highlights key findings from his report in his prepared opening statement. His testimony hones in on procedural mistakes made by the FBI in procuring the authority to surveil former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, even as the watchdog found no evidence of political bias in the FBI's work.
"[O]ur review identified significant concerns with how certain aspects of the investigation were conducted and supervised, particularly the FBI's failure to adhere to its own standards of accuracy and completeness when filing applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authority to surveil Carter Page, a U.S. person who was connected to the Donald J. Trump for President Campaign," the inspector general writes. "We also identified what we believe is an absence of sufficient policies to ensure appropriate Department oversight of significant investigative decisions that could affect constitutionally protected activity."
Horowitz goes on to say he is "deeply concerned that so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate, hand-picked investigative teams; on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations; after the matter had been briefed to the highest levels within the FBI; even though the information sought through use of FISA authority related so closely to an ongoing presidential campaign; and even though those involved with the investigation knew that their actions were likely to be subjected to close scrutiny." -- Kathryn Watson
Judiciary Committee includes 2 Democrats running for president
9:36 a.m.: The hearing will including questioning from two Democratic presidential candidates. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker are both members of the Judiciary Committee. Senator Kamala Harris, who dropped out of the race last week, also sits on the panel. -- Stefan Becket
Lindsey Graham: “Everyone involved in this investigation hated Donald Trump”
8:30 a.m.: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham told CBS News' Catherine Herridge that he believes the FBI's Russia investigation crossed the line and sets a bad precedent.
"Here's what I don't understand about Horowitz: I think he's a patriot, I think he did a hell of a job here, but when he says that there's no evidence of political bias or political motive -- everybody involved in this investigation hated Donald Trump," Graham said. He added, "They wanted to bring down this president. I really believe that."
Asked whether he planned to press Horowitz on this point, Graham replied, "One it doesn't matter why they did it. I want people to understand that the cops can't cheat. The cops can't lie. They have to play by the rules. Even if you don't like Trump you should like the rules because it could be you next time, not Trump."
How to watch Michael Horowitz's Senate testimony
- Date: Wednesday, December 11, 2019
- Time: 10 a.m. ET
- Who: Michael Horowitz, inspector general for the Justice Department
- Online stream: CBSN -- live in the player above and on your mobile or streaming device
- On TV: Your local CBS station
Major conclusions from the IG report on Russia and Trump investigation
6:00 a.m.: The Justice Department IG's report weighed in on several issues related to the launch of the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign's ties to Russia:
"We did not find any documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the FBI's decision to conduct these operations."
FBI employees' political leanings
A June 2018 Justice Department inspector general report uncovered derogatory messages about Mr. Trump exchanged by FBI employees, but Horowitz also found text messages exchanged by FBI officials that reflect support for then-candidate Trump.
FBI ties to Trump campaign
Mr. Trump has accused the FBI of spying on his 2016 campaign.
While the FBI had "several" confidential sources with "either a connection to candidate Trump or a role in the Trump campaign," Horowitz did not find evidence that the informants "ever reported any information collected from a meeting with Trump or a Trump campaign event."
The report examined the procedures for obtaining and renewing a surveillance warrant for Carter Page, a Trump campaign aide.
Horowitz's team found a total of 17 "significant inaccuracies and omissions" in the surveillance warrant applications and found that "the surveillance of Carter Page continued even as the FBI gathered information that weakened the assessment of probable cause and made the FISA applications less accurate."
While Horowitz's team "did not find documentary or testimonial evidence of intentional misconduct," they also "did not receive satisfactory explanations for the errors or missing information."
The report urges the FBI to "review the performance of all employees who had responsibility for the preparation, Woods review, or approval of the FISA application," including "managers, supervisors and senior officials in the chain of command of the Carter Page investigation."
The Steele dossier
Horowitz probed the use of the so-called Steele dossier as justification for Page's surveillance.
In September 2016, the FBI received reporting from former British spy Christopher Steele that FBI officials told Horowitz "'pushed [the FISA proposal] over the line' in terms of establishing probable cause."
Steele was hired around June 2016 by Fusion GPS, a Washington-based investigative firm, to determine whether then-candidate Trump had any personal or business ties to Russia, as well as whether there were ties between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.
Because Fusion GPS had been retained by a law firm representing the Democratic National Committee, there were claims that his work was "opposition research" that was biased against Mr. Trump. But Steele said he initially didn't know about Fusion's ties to Democrats. And if he was politically biased in any direction, he said he was more likely to be "favorably disposed" toward the Trump family before beginning his research because he had "been friendly" with a member of the Trump family for several years.
Read more here.
Barr slams FBI and calls Russia investigation "completely baseless"
5:33 a.m.: After the release of the Justice Department watchdog's report, which concluded that the FBI made procedural errors related to the applications for surveillance warrants, Attorney General William Barr blasted the federal agency and reiterated his criticism of the Russia investigation.
"I think that there were gross abuses of FISA [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] and inexplicable behavior that is intolerable in the FBI," he told NBC News Tuesday in his first interview since the report's release.
The inspector general determined that the FBI had justified reasons for opening an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign's ties to the foreign country. Still, Barr called the investigation, which resulted in what has been come to known as the Mueller report, "completely baseless."
"I think our nation was turned on its head for three years based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by an irresponsible press," he said.
Barr, however, claimed that he's waiting for the conclusion of a criminal investigation being led by U.S. Attorney John Durham to determine whether the FBI had "improper motive" to investigate the Trump campaign.
Barr's comments quickly drew criticism from Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
"With this revisionist campaign to undermine a thorough, two-year IG investigation, the Attorney General is once again substituting partisan rhetoric for politically inconvenient facts," Warner tweeted.
Read more here.
After IG report, Trump says FBI is "badly broken"
5:01 a.m.: President Trump told reporters that "the details of the [Horowitz] report are far worse than anything I would have imagined." He said he's looking forward to the release of Durham's report, "which is this information plus plus plus."
He also condemned the FBI director's reaction to the report.
"I don't know what report current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was reading, but it sure wasn't the one given to me. With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken," Mr. Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
He also tweeted quotes from Fox News hosts about how the report had found "serious performance failures" on the part of the FBI.
But in an interview with ABC News, Wray said that it was "important that the inspector general found that, in this particular instance, the investigation was opened with appropriate predication and authorization."
Read more here.