Ahead of the release of the highly anticipated report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz due out on Dec. 9, The New York Times has published a series of reports based on sources “familiar with a draft” indicating that Horowitz’s findings will largely disappoint Trump and his supporters.
Last week, the Times reported that its sources say the draft of the report will criticize FBI leaders for how they handled the Trump-Russia investigation and detail a series of “errors and omissions” in the obtaining of the wiretap for Trump associate Carter Page, but will ultimately say that the FBI did not take “politically motivated” action against Trump.
Now, in a report published Wednesday, the Times says that Horowitz’s final report is expected to conclude that the FBI “never tried to place undercover agents or informants inside the Trump campaign.” The claim has raised questions about a Times report from May on how the “F.B.I. sent [an] investigator posing as [his] assistant to meet with [a] Trump aide in 2016.”
“The Justice Department’s inspector general found no evidence that the F.B.I. attempted to place undercover agents or informants inside Donald J. Trump’s campaign in 2016 as agents investigated whether his associates conspired with Russia’s election interference operation,” the Times reported Wednesday, citing sources familiar with a draft of the report, which the Times has not seen.
The finding “contradicts some of the most inflammatory accusations hurled by Mr. Trump and his supporters, who alleged not only that F.B.I. officials spied on the Trump campaign but also at one point that former President Barack Obama had ordered Mr. Trump’s phones tapped,” the Times adds.
While the Times stresses that the report is expected to find that the FBI did not try to place informants “inside” the Trump campaign, the paper has reported in the past about the FBI’s attempts to get information out of people connected to the Trump campaign, most famously through an investigator disguised as an assistant to academic Stefan Halper in order to try to get information out of Trump aide George Papadopoulos. The Times reported in May:
The conversation at a London bar in September 2016 took a strange turn when the woman sitting across from George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser, asked a direct question: Was the Trump campaign working with Russia?
The woman had set up the meeting to discuss foreign policy issues. But she was actually a government investigator posing as a research assistant, according to people familiar with the operation. The F.B.I. sent her to London as part of the counterintelligence inquiry opened that summer to better understand the Trump campaign’s links to Russia.
The American government’s affiliation with the woman, who said her name was Azra Turk, is one previously unreported detail of an operation that has become a political flash point in the face of accusations by President Trump and his allies that American law enforcement and intelligence officials spied on his campaign to undermine his electoral chances. Last year, he called it Spygate.
The decision to use Ms. Turk in the operation aimed at a presidential campaign official shows the level of alarm inside the F.B.I. during a frantic period when the bureau was trying to determine the scope of Russia’s attempts to disrupt the 2016 election, but could also give ammunition to Mr. Trump and his allies for their spying claims.
The Times addresses this incident in its new report by claiming that while Halper and the undercover agent were trying to get information out of Trump associates, they were not “seeking inside campaign information or a role in the organization.”
Horowitz “found no evidence that Mr. Halper tried to infiltrate the Trump campaign itself, the people familiar with the draft report said, such as by seeking inside campaign information or a role in the organization,” the Times reports. “The F.B.I. also never directed him to do so, former officials said. Instead, Mr. Halper focused on eliciting information from Mr. Page and Mr. Papadopoulos about their ties to Russia.”
In its report last week, the Times announced that the IG report will “sharply criticize lower-level F.B.I. officials as well as bureau leaders involved in the early stages of the Trump-Russia investigation,” but ultimately will “absolve the top ranks of abusing their powers out of bias against President Trump.”
The report “portrays the overall effort to seek the wiretap order and its renewals as sloppy and unprofessional,” the Times explains, and it “will also sharply criticize as careless one of the F.B.I. case agents in New York handling the matter and say that the bureau and the Justice Department displayed poor coordination during the investigation.”