Analysis: The Biggest News About the IG Report Came Minutes After It Was Released

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Posted: Dec 10, 2019 1:05 PM
Analysis: The Biggest News About the IG Report Came Minutes After It Was Released

On Monday afternoon, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released his highly-anticipated report into the origins of the Russia/Trump investigation, as well as possible FISA abuses.  Both political parties are claiming vindication, with much of the media parroting the pro-Democratic spin, per usual.  It is true that Horowitz found no direct evidence of political bias driving the launch and conduct of the probe, which he determined to have been adequately predicated.  This contradicts several of the main theories Trump defenders have been floating for years -- though Horowitz's work does not comprehensively debunk them either (more on that to come).  

In spite of the triumphant football spiking from highly political former law enforcement and intelligence officials who have done significant damage to their institutions through partisan bias, poor judgment and misconduct, high-stakes and weird dishonesty and galling hubris, the IG report actually contains loads of damning information about the manner in which the Russia investigation was carried out.  Here are a few key examples, followed by what was likely the most important related news of the entire day, which arrived after Horowitz's work was published:

(1) The unverified, shoddy Steele dossier -- which some intelligence officials have come to believe was rife with Russian anti-Trump disinformation -- was, in fact, crucial to FISA applications against Carter Page.  And other important information was withheld from those applications (the IG identified 17 "significant errors or omissions"):


(2) Some elements of the dossier were utterly factually false, with other sordid details remaining entirely uncorroborated.  Problems with Steele's credibility, the fact that his 'oppo research' trolling was bought and paid for by the Democrats, and exculpatory/mitigating information about Page were all suppressed and held back during the FISA application and renewal processes.  Even as the CIA remained rightly skeptical of it's non-confirmed or established contents (likening it to an "internet rumor"), top FBI leaders pushed to have the Steele dossier included in a formal US intelligence assessment document:


(3) In addition to excoriating officials up and down the chain of command on the FISA applications (Horowitz could not establish clear evidence of bias or intentional wrongdoing, but declared himself unsatisfied with the explanations and excuses offered), the IG also ripped DOJ lawyer Bruce Ohr for his very suspicious conduct and conflicts throughout the ordeal:


"Steele" is ex-British spy Christopher Steele, in the employ of the Democratic Party at the time, and "Simpson" is Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson -- who just so happened to meet with that infamous female Russian lawyer directly before and directly after her Trump Tower meeting with Don Jr. in the summer of 2016, and who reportedly furnished her with the documents she presented.  Ohr's wife also worked for Fusion GPS, the Democratic research firm.  Even after Steele was cut loose by the FBI for lying and leaking, Ohr continued to act as an off-the-books conduit, without disclosing this fact to his superiors. I realize Horowitz couldn't prove that any of this was driven by political bias, but what else could possibly have been driving Ohr to act in the manner in which he did, if not an obsessive partisan animus?  Incidentally, what did Mr. Simpson have to say for himself on all of this?  Absolutely nothing:


(4) For more on the FISA abuses, read Eli Lake and Robby Soave.  For more on the broader lessons of the IG report and which actors it validates and undercuts, read this whole thread.  But as I alluded to above, perhaps the most significant IG-related news from Monday came from someone other than the IG.  Please recall that in this analysis last week, I theorized about why Attorney General Barr was allegedly telling associates in private that he does not concur with some of the top-line findings Horowitz was on the brink of releasing to the public.  My guess was that he was aware of additional streams of intel and information being gleaned by respected US Attorney John Durham that cast doubt on Horowitz's verdict.  Soon thereafter, some reporting seemed to back up my speculation.  And then Durham issued a rare statement within minutes of the Horowitz report dropping:


Durham explicitly noted that he has a wider mandate, far more authority (see the Simpson snub above), and a broader scope than Horowitz; this wasn't a shot at the IG at all, but rather a statement of fact regarding their distinct roles, jurisdictions and levels of power.  It strikes me as quite significant that the prosecutor who has been aggressively pursuing this exact matter -- expanding his probe into a criminal investigation along the way -- is clearly telegraphing that his ongoing work has turned up evidence that undermines or rebuts Horowitz's much-touted conclusions (plural) about the propriety of how the FBI's 2016-2017 Russia/Trump case was instigated and run.  The inescapable message from Durham's statement, alongside Barr's statement, is that in addition to all the serious problems flagged and unearthed by Horowitz, there are consequential shoes left to drop.