News and Commentary

AG William Barr Says Report On Potential FISA Abuses, Origins Of Russia Probe Is ‘Imminent’
U.S. President Donald Trump, left, speaks to William Barr, U.S. attorney general, during the 38th annual National Peace Officers Memorial Day service at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Trump is poised to delay a decision by up to six months to impose auto tariffs to avoid blowing up negotiations with the EU and Japan and further antagonizing allies as he ramps up his trade war with China, according to people close to the discussions.
Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Pool via Bloomberg

Attorney General William Barr told reporters Wednesday that an inspector general’s report, digging into whether the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice abused their authority and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act when they initiated an investigation into whether the Trump campaign and, later, the Trump transition team, was conspiring with Russian officials, is “imminent” and could be out any day.

“It’s been reported and it’s my understanding that it is imminent,” Barr said at a news conference Wednesday, according to Politico. “A number of people who were mentioned in the report are having an opportunity right now to comment on how they were quoted in the report, and after that process is over which is very short, the report will be issued. That’s what the inspector general himself suggests.”

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz was charged with investigating potential FISA abuses in March of 2018 after House Republicans, then still in charge of the House Intelligence Committee, released a memo claiming that the FBI, under the Obama Administration, used now-widely discredited dossier on Donald Trump, put together by an operative named Christopher Steele, to obtain permission to wiretap the Trump team’s offices and listen in on key Trump officials’ phone calls.

The Washington Examiner reported, at the time, that Republicans, led by Rep. Devin Nunes (D-CA) found that:

* The Steele dossier formed an essential part of the initial and all three renewal FISA applications against Carter Page.

* Andrew McCabe confirmed that no FISA warrant would have been sought from the FISA Court without the Steele dossier information.

* The political origins of the Steele dossier were known to senior DOJ and FBI officials, but excluded from the FISA applications.

* DOJ official Bruce Ohr met with Steele beginning in the summer of 2016 and relayed to DOJ information about Steele’s bias. Steele told Ohr that he, Steele, was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected president and was passionate about him not becoming president.

Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions commissioned the Inspector General’s investigation, giving Horowitz permission to “examine the Justice Department’s and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) compliance with legal requirements, and with applicable DOJ and FBI policies and procedures, in applications filed with the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) relating to a certain U.S. person. As part of this examination, the OIG also will review information that was known to the DOJ and the FBI at the time the applications were filed from or about an alleged FBI confidential source,” according to a statement issued in March of 2018.

Barr has said little about the IG report, other than to express his confidence in Horowitz and mention, occasionally, that the inquiry is “limited in scope,” according to Politico. Back in October, Horowitz sent a letter to Congress indicating that his investigation was nearing completion.

“The goal from my standpoint is to make as much of our report public as possible. “I anticipate that the final report will be released publicly with few redactions,” he wrote on October 26.

If the report indicates that officials abused the FISA courts, it could give a leg up to Republicans and the President, who have long contended that investigations into President Trump’s behavior amount to a “witch hunt.” The report could also prove useful to U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is in charge of another wide-ranging investigation, this time into how Democrats came to believe that Donald Trump’s campaign was conspiring with Russian officials to deny Hillary Clinton the 2016 presidential election.