FBI misconduct in Trump spying probe shows reforms needed

Brett Velicovich ,

FBI and Justice Department officials have an important and urgent assignment over the holidays: come up with reforms to correct the serious flaws and potential for abuse in the process used to get the permission of a secret court to spy on fellow Americans.

A scathing report earlier this month by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz exposed these flaws as part of its investigation of FBI handling of applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to monitor the emails and phone calls of Carter Page, an adviser to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

FISC Presiding Judge Rosemary Collyer has given the FBI until Jan. 10 to come up with solutions to prevent the kinds of abuses uncovered in the Horowitz report on the Page surveillance.

And in a second order made public Friday, Collyer ordered FBI officials to identify previous surveillance requests from the FBI lawyer who got permission to spy on Page. The judge ordered the Justice Department to report on steps to make sure those filings were accurate. She asked if the lawyer was ever disciplined.

Fox News reported Friday that, according to sources, “the unidentified FBI lawyer in question has since resigned his post, and the Horowitz report said he face possible criminal prosecution.”

Judge Collyer sharply criticized the FBI for the way it misled the FISC to get permission to spy on Page. The spying was part of an FBI investigation of the Trump campaign that led to the nearly two-year probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller of allegations of collusion between the campaign and Russia to help Trump win the last presidential election.

Mueller concluded he could find no convincing evidence of such alleged collusion. This means that his entire investigation was a gigantic waste of millions of taxpayer dollars and needlessly divided our nation over what turned out to be bogus charges against Trump and his campaign.

The Horowitz report found there were at least 17 “significant errors and omissions” in the FBI applications to the FISC to obtain permission to spy on Page. By any objective standard, this was a stunning finding that should have been the focus of media coverage.

Yet most of the media focused on another finding by Horowitz that said: “We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the FBI’s decision to seek FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] authority on Carter Page.”

While the lack of evidence of improper motivation is significant, it pales in significance to the numerous instances of FBI misconduct that took place to get permission to spy on Page.

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Look at it this way: if you found out the FBI was improperly spying on you, what would be more important? The fact that you were spied on for no valid reason, or the fact that the spying apparently wasn’t motivated by politics?

In two days of congressional testimony, Horowitz stood by the findings in his report, highlighting shocking details about the FBI’s lawless surveillance of the Trump campaign, including multiple instances of incomplete and inaccurate information provided in surveillance warrant applications to the FISC.

Here is an in-depth look at Horowitz’s key findings.

It was impossible to determine the motive of those who investigated the Trump campaign

“There are so many errors, we couldn’t reach a conclusion or make a determination on what motivated those failures,” Horowitz testified Wednesday. That certainly is not the same thing as a conclusive finding of no political motivation by the FBI – though you would never know it from most media reports.

And while documentary proof may not exist, common sense tells us that political bias is the only possible explanation for this level of FBI malpractice and carelessness.

The FBI made unforgivable mistakes

The authorities didn’t just use controversial evidence to substantiate their case against the Trump campaign – they also repeatedly violated FBI protocols throughout the investigation.

“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 the 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,” Horowitz reported.

Comey isn’t innocent

In 2018, former FBI Director James Comey had the following message for his critics: “I have total confidence that the FISA process was followed and that the entire case was handled in a thoughtful, responsible way. I think the notion that FISA was abused here is nonsense.”

Not only did the inspector general’s report disprove this narrative entirely, but Horowitz has also called out Comey for his latest round of delusional excuses. That led Comey to admit he had been wrong.

So much for Comey’s self-proclaimed “higher loyalty” to the truth and his absurd attempt to paint the Horowitz report as vindicating him.

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After his report was issued, Horowitz elaborated and said that “although we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence of intentional misconduct, we also did not receive satisfactory explanations for the errors or the missing information and the failures that occurred.”

That’s just a lawyerly way of saying that the folks at the FBI are very good at their jobs, so when they break the law, they know exactly how to cover their tracks.

The FBI is still contaminated with partisans

Not only did the biased FBI agents abuse the law to bully and intimidate innocent Americans, but Horowitz indicated that many of the bad actors involved in the Russia collusion probe are still working in the bureau.

Obviously, this poses a great obstacle to the prospect of reform within the FBI. If the bureau’s leadership continues to believe that the FISA abuse was justified, then there is no reason to expect the FBI to take accountability for its actions.

That is precisely why it is important for lawmakers to identify the bad actors within the FBI and ensure that they never get to participate in another federal investigation.

If Horowitz’s shocking revelations weren’t enough to make that clear, Judge Collyer cleared up any remaining ambiguity when she said the bureau had so deeply wounded its credibility that the court could no longer trust the agency to be truthful in its other applications for surveillance warrants.

The FISC can’t function without rigorous honesty from law enforcement. The American people have vested enormous power in the court, which operates in secret, on the condition that this power not be abused. FBI misconduct damaged that trust.

The mainstream media didn’t want you to see the truth

Predictably, the liberal media were not too eager to broadcast a hearing that would completely falsify their threadbare Russia collusion narrative.

After airing nearly the entire partisan impeachment testimony in the House of Representatives against President Trump, the mainstream media decided not to show the Horowitz congressional testimony, often cutting away for commercials and highlighting cherry-picked segments of the testimony.

The Horowitz testimony was bad news for the Democrats. Instead of vindicating the FBI, the inspector general delivered a harsh rebuke of the bureau’s collusion probe and the entire Russia investigation.

Everyone in America should read and listen to what Horowitz had to say about the inexcusable behavior of the FBI. Those who abused the rule of law in order to undermine the 2016 election must be held to account.