Why We're Still Waiting On The DOJ Inspector General Report On Alleged Obama FISA Abuses

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Posted: Jul 06, 2019 4:40 AM
Why We're Still Waiting On The DOJ Inspector General Report On Alleged Obama FISA Abuses

Source: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Well, we’re still waiting on the report from Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz on alleged FISA abuses. It’s said to be scorching. It could air out all the dirty laundry the Obama DOJ and intelligence chiefs were trying to keep hidden during the 2016 election. They’re nervous. Why do you think there have been more leaks than the Iraqi Navy regarding this story in the past few months? Oh, and this coming after Attorney General William Barr said he’s looking into the origins of the whole Russia probe.

The core of this controversy concerns the spy warrant obtained for former Trump campaign official Carter Page. Page served briefly as Trump’s foreign policy adviser and the FBI reportedly cited the Steele dossier, which was a piece of political opposition research funded by the Clinton campaign, to obtain that FISA warrant. It was listed as credible evidence, despite what appears to be zero effort to verify any of its ludicrous claims. A mere Google search could have debunked some of the claims at face value. With the Mueller report debunking Russian collusion, the whole document is actually straight trash. The report is said to be stopping this summer, but two events will undoubtedly cause delays. The most recent of which is that key witnesses who were reluctant at first have now agreed to answer questions  (via Fox News):

Key witnesses sought for questioning by Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz early in his investigation into alleged government surveillance abuse have come forward at the 11th hour, Fox News has learned.  

Sources familiar with the matter said at least one witness outside the Justice Department and FBI started cooperating -- a breakthrough that came after Attorney General William Barr ordered U.S. Attorney John Durham to lead a separate investigation into the origins of the bureau’s 2016 Russia case that laid the foundation for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

While the investigative phase of the inspector general’s long-running probe is said to be complete, the sources said recent developments required some witnesses to be reinterviewed. And while Barr testified that he expected the report into alleged Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) abuse to be ready in May or last month, multiple sources said the timeline has slipped.

"The wheels of inspector general investigations move very, very slowly," former senior DOJ official Tom Dupree told Fox News.

Well, that’s an understatement. And it’s not just IG investigations - that’s government work in general for better or worse. The second development was ex-MI6 spook Christopher Steele, who compiled the dossier (aka the Trump dossier), agreeing to cooperate in this investigation. If the investigative part of the report was indeed done with all preparations set for sometime in June, this threw a wrench into that timeline. Though let’s be honest, the DOJ IG office probably wasn’t done—but Steele agreeing to answer some questions certainly nuked any hope of a May-June release. He agreed to the terms in June, with DOJ investigators said to be meeting with him in London “in the coming weeks” (via The Hill):

Christopher Steele, the former MI6 operative infamous for collecting a dossier alleging ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow, among other sordid details, has agreed to be questioned by U.S. officials about his relationship with the FBI. 

A source close to Steele told The Times he will meet with investigators in London in the coming weeks. Republicans have long alleged it was Steele’s dossier that improperly led to an FBI inquiry, which ultimately morphed into special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible coordination between the Trump and campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.

The Justice Department’s internal watchdog is investigating aspects of the Mueller probe, including whether officials abused their power when they ordered surveillance of a former campaign aide partially based on information from Steele’s dossier. 

The source told The Times that while Steele was initially reluctant to be questioned as part of the Justice Department’s inquiry, he reconsidered after reports said the investigation could ultimately criticize him and throw his credibility into question.

And while the DOJ inspector general can only question witnesses who have agreed to come forward, there have been other developments that make this whole Carter Page saga look even worse for those who ran the DOJ under Obama. Page was an intelligence asset for the FBI, CIA, and State for years. And there appears to be a lot of omissions in the Mueller report, which adds to the charge that the special counsel’s two-year investigation was nothing more than a political hit job that once again missed the mark. The Hill’s John Solomon noted this omission about former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort's connection to Ukrainian businessman Konstantin Kilimnik that feed into the Russian collusion hysteria; Kilimnik was actually a State Department source as well who also worked with the Obama White House. The FBI knew this throughout the whole Russian collusion probe:

In a key finding of the Mueller report, Ukrainian businessman Konstantin Kilimnik, who worked for Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is tied to Russian intelligence.

But hundreds of pages of government documents — which special counsel Robert Mueller possessed since 2018 — describe Kilimnik as a “sensitive” intelligence source for the U.S. State Department who informed on Ukrainian and Russian matters.

Why Mueller’s team omitted that part of the Kilimnik narrative from its report and related court filings is not known. But the revelation of it comes as the accuracy of Mueller’s Russia conclusions face increased scrutiny.

[…]

Kilimnik was not just any run-of-the-mill source, either.

He interacted with the chief political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, sometimes meeting several times a week to provide information on the Ukraine government. He relayed messages back to Ukraine’s leaders and delivered written reports to U.S. officials via emails that stretched on for thousands of words, the memos show.

The FBI knew all of this, well before the Mueller investigation concluded.

Alan Purcell, the chief political officer at the Kiev embassy from 2014 to 2017, told FBI agents that State officials, including senior embassy officials Alexander Kasanof and Eric Schultz, deemed Kilimnik to be such a valuable asset that they kept his name out of cables for fear he would be compromised by leaks to WikiLeaks.

[...]

Three sources with direct knowledge of the inner workings of Mueller’s office confirmed to me that the special prosecutor’s team had all of the FBI interviews with State officials, as well as Kilimnik’s intelligence reports to the U.S. Embassy, well before they portrayed him as a Russian sympathizer tied to Moscow intelligence or charged Kilimnik with participating with Manafort in a scheme to obstruct the Russia investigation.

Kasanof’s and Purcell’s interviews are corroborated by scores of State Department emails I reviewed that contain regular intelligence from Kilimnik on happenings inside the Yanukovych administration, the Crimea conflict and Ukrainian and Russian politics. For example, the memos show Kilimnik provided real-time intelligence on everything from whose star in the administration was rising or falling to efforts at stuffing ballot boxes in Ukrainian elections.

Those emails raise further doubt about the Mueller report’s portrayal of Kilimnik as a Russian agent. They show Kilimnik was allowed to visit the United States twice in 2016 to meet with State officials, a clear sign he wasn’t flagged in visa databases as a foreign intelligence threat.

The emails also show how misleading, by omission, the Mueller report’s public portrayal of Kilimnik turns out to be.

For instance, the report makes a big deal about Kilimnik’s meeting with Manafort in August 2016 at the Trump Tower in New York.

By that time, Manafort had served as Trump’s campaign chairman for several months but was about to resign because of a growing controversy about the millions of dollars Manafort accepted as a foreign lobbyist for Yanukovych’s party.

Specifically, the Mueller report flagged Kilimnik’s delivery of a peace plan to the Trump campaign for settling the two-year-old Crimea conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

“Kilimnik requested the meeting to deliver in person a peace plan for Ukraine that Manafort acknowledged to the Special Counsel’s Office was a ‘backdoor’ way for Russia to control part of eastern Ukraine,” the Mueller report stated.

But State emails showed Kilimnik first delivered a version of his peace plan in May 2016 to the Obama administration during a visit to Washington.

What appears to have happened is that the Obama presidency decided to use shoddy political opposition research that wasn’t vetted by the FBI to secure spy warrants on members of a presidential campaign team of the opposing party. The DOJ appears to have been weaponized. And we haven’t even touched upon the attempted spy attempts the FBI took to infiltrate the Trump campaign. 

Until then, we’ll just have to wait for this report, which looks like it might drop by Labor Day if we’re lucky.