A bombshell report by CNN on Thursday has prompted an enthusiastic response from President Trump and anxious admissions by CNN that the president and Republicans will have grounds for further allegations of misconduct by the intelligence community in the origins of the debunked Trump-Russia “collusion” probe.
CNN revealed Thursday that an unnamed former FBI official is under criminal investigation for allegedly altering a document central to the FBI’s 2016 surveillance of Trump campaign official Carter Page. “A former FBI lawyer is under criminal investigation after allegedly altering a document related to 2016 surveillance of a Trump campaign adviser,” CNN reported, citing “several people briefed on the matter.”
“The finding is expected to be part of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s review of the FBI’s effort to obtain warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide,” the network explained. “Horowitz turned over evidence on the allegedly altered document to John Durham, the federal prosecutor appointed early this year by Attorney General William Barr to conduct a broad investigation of intelligence gathered for the Russia probe by the CIA and other agencies, including the FBI. The altered document is also at least one focus of Durham’s criminal probe.”
“It’s unknown how significant a role the altered document played in the FBI’s investigation of Page,” CNN reports. “The alterations were significant enough to have shifted the document’s meaning and came up during a part of Horowitz’s FISA review where details were classified, according to the sources.”
CNN notes that during one of the Horowitz-led investigators’ more than 100 witness interviews this year, “they confronted the witness about the document” and the witness “admitted to the change.”
President Trump highlighted the news on social media early Thursday, tweeting, “‘Former FBI Employee Accused of Altering FISA Documents.’ Hello, here we go!”
“Former FBI Employee Accused of Altering FISA Documents.” Hello, here we go! @foxandfriends
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 22, 2019
In its report detailing the alleged FISA warrant alteration, CNN attempts to tamp down the potential significance of the accusation, stressing that its sources insist that “the situation did not sway an independent Justice Department watchdog from finding the surveillance was valid,” but acknowledging the major political ramifications of the development.
The alleged alteration of the FISA information “did not change Horowitz’s finding that the FISA application had a legal basis,” CNN reports, citing the The Washington Post. “Some witnesses who have been interviewed in Horowitz’s investigation have said they expect the inspector general to find mistakes in the FBI’s handling of the FISA process, but that those mistakes do not undermine the premise for the FBI’s investigation.”
“Still, the possibility of a substantive change to an investigative document is likely to fuel accusations from President Donald Trump and his allies that the FBI committed wrongdoing in its investigation of connections between Russian election meddling and the Trump campaign,” CNN emphasized, preemptively shifting into the “Republicans pounce” narrative.
Despite CNN’s attempts to downplay the development, as noted by Ed Morrissey, even ardent Trump critic former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara was forced to admit on CNN Thursday night that “it doesn’t get more serious” than deliberately misrepresenting information to the FISA court.
As The Daily Wire reported Thursday, CNN’s revelation follows other recent reports on Durham’s investigation turning “criminal,” including a late-October report by Fox News, revealing that Durham’s probe into potential misconduct by the FBI and Justice Department in 2016 through the spring of 2017 “has transitioned into a full-fledged criminal investigation.”
“One source added that DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s upcoming report on alleged FBI surveillance abuses against the Trump campaign will shed light on why Durham’s probe has become a criminal inquiry,” Fox reported on October 24. “Horowitz announced on Thursday his report would be available to the public soon, with ‘few’ redactions. The investigation’s new status means Durham can subpoena witnesses, file charges, and impanel fact-finding grand juries.”