On Inspector General’s Report, Republicans Telling Five Big Lies
Reprinted with permission from Alternet
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s new report on the origins of Crossfire Hurricane, commonly called the Russia investigation, blew up many of the right wing’s favorite talking points and conspiracy theories about the FBI. At the same time, it exposed real failures of procedures meant to protect American citizens against undue surveillance and exposed the need for serious law enforcement reforms.
But most Republicans seem unfazed that the report undercuts President Donald Trump’s repeated accusations of “treason” and a “witch hunt,” and they show no genuine interest in pushing policy to generally make law enforcement more responsible. Instead, they’re trying to pin the blame on the Obama administration and bias against Trump, even though these claims actually distract from the genuine problems uncovered.
So instead of grappling with the complicated facts of the report, Republicans are just lying about what it says. Here are five huge lies you should be on the look out for, and why they’re false:
This is absolutely not true. Trump has accused the FBI of “treason” for its investigation of members of his campaign, an accusation that was always ludicrous. Obviously, the report didn’t find anything “far worse” than treason — the worst finding seems to be that an FBI lawyer falsified a piece of evidence in an application for surveillance, making Carter Page’s activities look more suspicious than they otherwise would. This is quite bad, if true, but it’s far milder than much of what the FBI’s critics have claimed.
And in contrast to what Trump has been saying for more years now, the report said: “We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the decisions to open” investigations of Trump associates.
In fact, the media can dispute this fact, because it’s not true. The work of Christopher Steele did not “launch” Crossfire Hurricane, as Horowitz made perfectly clear. It explained that the officials working on the investigation “did not become aware of Steele’s election reporting until weeks [after the investigation began] and we therefore determined that Steele’s reports played no role in the Crossfire Hurricane opening.”
Again, this is false. Putting aside the controversial use of the word “spying,” and acknowledging that the report found serious errors in the application for the surveillance of Carter Page, these errors spanned both the Obama administration and the Trump administration. The application was re-approved by officials appointed by Trump himself.
Barr is particularly cagey, and he is trying to contradict Horowitz even while ostensibly praising his work. By inserting the phrase “in my view,” he’s trying to blend together his own unsupported claims with the contrary assertions of Horowitz.
Perhaps the most significant conclusion Horowitz reached, however, is that Crossfire Hurricane properly predicated, despite what Barr said. He explained:
Additionally, given the low threshold for predication in the AG Guidelines and the DIOG, we concluded that the FFG information, provided by a government the United States Intelligence Community (USIC) deems trustworthy, and describing a first-hand account from an FFG employee of a conversation with Papadopoulos, was sufficient to predicate the investigation.
It’s true that, as the report says, the standards for predication are low. But it’s possible for the predication to fail to meet the standard — it can’t simply be that FBI agents have a “hunch.” Having concerning, first-hand information from a friendly foreign government — which public reporting indicates was Australia — that implicates national security is not “the thinnest of suspicions.” And Barr is just wrong to say that the report supports the idea that it is.
Yet again, this is blatantly wrong and grossly misleading about the underlying facts. The investigation was not of the campaign more broadly but of four distinct individuals tied to the campaign. And the fact that the report found no evidence to support the idea that there was political motivation behind the investigation refutes the claim that it is “more evidence Dems will break any rule or law to rig an election against Trump.”
And Scalise lied about the opening of the investigation, which preceded the decision to apply for FISA surveillance by several months. Again, there’s no evidence in the report that the investigation was opened improperly, even though it says that there were serious problems in the FISA process.
Cody Fenwick is a senior editor at AlterNet. He writes about politics, media and science. Follow him on Twitter @codytfenwick.