The more you flip through the words of Inspector General Michael Horowitz in his voluminous report about the shameful conduct of the FBI in its Crossfire Hurricane investigation of the Trump presidential campaign, the more you hear echoes of former FBI Director James Comey and Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Both this IG report and Comey’s 2016 announcement that Hillary should not be indicted over her email scandal presented a litany of abuses, misdemeanors, crimes even, that shocked the senses. And in both cases, the subjective conclusions were opposite to the objective facts.
This transparent dualism by Washington insiders – a detailing of abuses, followed by exoneration – should lead us to ask if we all feel better now that Horowitz has concluded, “We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the FBI’s decision to seek FISA authority to spy on Carter Page.”
No Evidence of Bias?
That begs the immediate question of why every one of the 17 serious errors (referred to as “performance failures”) committed by the FBI and listed in the IG report cut in one direction: keeping alive the justification for a FISA warrant to spy on an enemy’s campaign at any expense. If this was merely gross incompetence, these errors would have occurred in both directions.
Beyond that, how would professionals in the world’s most prestigious law enforcement agency believe that Page, a minor Trump campaign official, was in league with nefarious Russians in a plot to rig the 2016 election? Better scripts have been rejected by Hollywood.
Why would high-ranking FBI officials deliberately and repeatedly exclude information from their FISA application that would have certified how unreliable the infamous and long-discredited Steele dossier was, especially as the principal, perhaps only, justification for spying on the campaign of their political enemy? Why would such extraordinary efforts be undertaken to protect the sanctity of a dossier that was laughed off and rejected even by elite media hardly given to protecting this president?
How could an investigation headed by FBI agent Peter Strzok, who authored those infamous text exchanges with his paramour Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer, promising an “insurance policy” against Trump’s election, not be considered biased? In another of her messages, Page asks, “Trump’s not ever going to become president, right?” Strzok replies, “No. No, he won’t. We’ll stop it.” And for good measure, Strzok expressed his contempt for Trump voters, writing that “I could SMELL the Trump support” at a Walmart.
Most of all, though, how in the world could Horowitz possibly conclude that the investigation was untainted by political bias when, in the same report, he writes the following:
“… the Crossfire Hurricane team failed to inform Department officials of significant information that was available to the team at the time that the FISA applications were drafted and filed. Much of that information was inconsistent with, or undercut, the assertions contained in the FISA applications that were used to support probable cause … Our review found that FBI personnel fell far short of the requirement in FBI policy that they ensure that all factual statements in a FISA application are ‘scrupulously accurate.’ We identified multiple instances in which factual assertions relied upon in the first FISA application were inaccurate, incomplete, or unsupported by appropriate documentation, based upon information the FBI had in its possession at the time the application was filed … officials accepted the FBI’s decision to move forward with the application, based substantially on the Steele information … We concluded that these failures created the inaccurate impression in the applications that at least some of Steele’s past reporting had been deemed sufficiently reliable by prosecutors to use in court, and that more of his information had been corroborated than was actually the case … the failure to update OI on all significant case developments relevant to the FISA applications led us to conclude that the agents and supervisors did not give appropriate attention or treatment to the facts that cut against probable cause … We concluded that the information that was known to the managers, supervisors, and senior officials should have resulted in questions being raised regarding the reliability of the Steele reporting and the probable cause supporting the FISA applications, but did not.”
In fact, all you really need to read is this: “We concluded that the failures described above and in this report represent serious performance failures by the supervisory and non-supervisory agents with responsibility over the FISA applications.”
Swamp Creatures and Cognitive Dissonance
Both Comey and Horowitz are products of the Washington bubble, where denizens have been unmasked for the extraordinary measures they have taken to weaken or remove a president they view almost universally as a mortal threat to their livelihood. And now, the Justice Department Inspector General, like the dearly departed former FBI director, has demonstrated that his endgame is to preserve the status quo. For if Horowitz had reached the only logical conclusion based on the facts in his report, his Justice Department would likely face an unimagined day of reckoning.
Comey is fortunate that elite media coverage unsurprisingly focused on Horowitz’s proclamation of no bias rather than on Comey’s transparent incompetence. The report paints a vivid picture of the FBI under Comey as entirely out of control, with rogue agents making critical decisions beyond their pay grade, some officials withholding information from others, alteration of at least one email from another agency about Steele that might well have tanked the FISA application, and pages full of additional jaw-dropping “performance failures” too long to itemize.
Cognitive dissonance – attempting to reconcile clashing narratives – is the operative expression in this Swamp so badly in need of draining. Or maybe the word is gaslighting: making people think they are crazy for believing what they know to be true. If the facts presented in your own report do not constitute political bias, Mr. Horowitz, please tell us exactly what would.
Read more from Tim Donner.