A lot is being written about the Department of Justice Inspector General’s (IG) report about the FBI’s abuse of the FISA application process to obtain warrants to spy on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide. Talking heads will quibble about whether this exonerates or implicates the FBI under the Obama administration and whether it supports or refutes President Donald Trump and his supporters’ claims of Deep State meddling.
But Michael Horowitz’s IG report lays out a whopping 17 “inaccuracies and omissions” that were not brought to the attention of the Office of Intelligence prior to the fourth and last FISA application being filed in June 2017. Further, National Security Division (NSD) officials were not even aware of the issues when they prepared and reviewed the first FISA application, meaning at the very least, due diligence was not performed. Seven of the inaccuracies and omissions related to the first FISA application, and these errors were carried on the three subsequent applications, along with additional errors. Below are the seven specific inaccuracies and omissions from the first application:
Omitted information from another U.S. government agency detailing its prior relationship with Page, including that Page had been approved as an operational contact for the other agency from 2008 to 2013, and that Page had provided information to the other agency concerning his prior contacts with certain Russian intelligence officers, one of which overlapped with facts asserted in the FISA application;
Included a source characterization statement asserting that Steele’s prior reporting had been “corroborated and used in criminal proceedings,” which overstated the significance of Steele’s past reporting and was not approved by Steele’s FBI handling agent, as required by the Woods Procedures;
Omitted information relevant to the reliability of Person 1, a key Steele sub-source (who, as previously noted, was attributed with providing the information in Report 95 and some of the information in Reports 80 and 102 relied upon in the application), namely that (1) Steele himself told members of the Crossfire Hurricane team that Person 1 was a “boaster” and an “egoist” and “may engage in some embellishment” and (2) [redacted]
Asserted that the FBI had assessed that Steele did not directly provide to the press information in the September 23 Yahoo News article, based on the premise that Steele had told the FBI that he only shared his election-related research with the FBI and [Fusion GPS Founder Glenn] Simpson; this premise was factually incorrect (Steele had provided direct information to Yahoo News) and also contradicted by documentation in the Woods File-Steele had told the FBI that he also gave his information to the State Department;
Omitted Papadopoulos’s statements to an FBI CHS in September 2016 denying that anyone associated with the Trump campaign was collaborating with Russia or with outside groups like WikiLeaks in the release of emails;
Omitted Page’s statements to an FBI CHS [Confidential Human Source] in August 2016 that Page had “literally never met” or “said one word to” Paul Manafort and that Manafort had not responded to any of Page’s emails; if true, those statements were in tension with claims in Steele’s Report 95 that Page was participating in a “conspiracy” with Russia by acting as an intermediary for Manafort on behalf of the Trump campaign; and
Selectively included Page’s statements to an FBI CHS in October 2016 that the FBI believed supported its theory that Page was an agent of Russia but omitted other statements Page made, including denying having met with Sechin and Divyekin, or even knowing who Divyekin was; if true, those statements contradicted the claims in Steele’s Report 94 that Page had met secretly with Sechin and Divyekin about future cooperation with Russia and shared derogatory information about candidate Clinton.
An additional 10 errors were included in one or more of the renewal applications, which also all contained the original seven errors:
Omitted the fact that Steele’s Primary Sub-source, who the FBI found credible, had made statements in January 2017 raising significant questions about the reliability of allegations included in the FISA applications, including, for example, that he/she had no discussion with Person 1 concerning WikiLeaks and there was “nothing bad” about the communications between the Kremlin and the Trump team, and that he/she did not report to Steele in July 2016 that Page had met with Sechin;
Omitted Page’s prior relationship with another U.S. government agency, despite being reminded by the other agency in June 2017, prior to the filing of the final renewal application, about Page’s past status with that other agency; instead of including this information in the final renewal application, the FBI OGC [Office of the General Counsel] Attorney altered an email from the other agency so that the email stated that Page was “not a source” for the other agency, which the FBI affiant relied upon in signing the final renewal application;
Omitted information provided by persons with direct knowledge of Steele’s work-related performance in a prior position about Steele’s professional judgment, including statements that Steele had held a “moderately senior” position (not “high-ranking” as noted in the applications), had no history of reporting in bad faith but demonstrated “poor judgment,” “pursued people with political risk but no intelligence value,” “didn’t always exercise great judgment,” and it was “not clear what he would have done to validate” his reporting;
Omitted information from Department attorney Bruce Ohr about Steele and his election reporting, including that (1) Steele’s reporting was going to Clinton’s presidential campaign and others, (2) Simpson was paying Steele to discuss his reporting with the media, and (3) Steele was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being the U.S. President”;
Failed to update the description of Steele after information became known to the Crossfire Hurricane team, not only from Ohr but from others, that provided greater clarity on the political origins and connections of Steele’s reporting, including that Simpson was hired by someone associated with the Democratic Party and/or the DNC;
Failed to correct the assertion in the first FISA application that the FBI did not believe that Steele directly provided information to the reporter who wrote the September 23 Yahoo News article, even though there was no information in the Woods File to support this claim and even after certain FBI officials involved in Crossfire Hurricane learned in 2017, before the third renewal application, of an admission that Steele made in a court filing about his interactions with the news media in the late summer and early fall of 2016;
Omitted the finding from a formal FBI source validation report that Steele was suitable for continued operation but that his past contributions to the FBI’s criminal program had been “minimally corroborated,” and instead continued to assert in the source characterization statement that Steele’s prior reporting had been “corroborated and used in criminal proceedings”;
Omitted Papadopoulos’s statements to an FBI CHS in late October 2016 (after the first application was filed) denying that the Trump campaign was involved in the circumstances of the DNC email hack;
Omitted Joseph Mifsud’s denials to the FBI that he supplied Papadopoulos with the information Papadopoulos shared with the FFG (suggesting that the campaign received an offer or suggestion of assistance from Russia); and
Omitted evidence indicating that Page played no role in the Republican platform change on Russia’s annexation of Ukraine as alleged in Steele Report 95, which was inconsistent with a factual assertion relied upon to support probable cause in all four FISA applications.