Inspector general report on Russia investigation is out

By Meg Wagner and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 7:04 p.m. ET, December 9, 2019
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6:29 p.m. ET, December 9, 2019

One FBI agent on the Russia probe said watching Trump win was like a Super Bowl comeback

From CNN's David Shortell

Not all of the FBI agents who were texting about politics were dismayed by President Trump’s election win, according to the Justice Department inspector general report released today.

One FBI agent — who was responsible for handling an FBI source that had a limited and indirect relation to the FBI Russia probe — messaged another FBI agent that he “was so elated with the election."

He also compared the coverage to “watching a Superbowl comeback.”

6:21 p.m. ET, December 9, 2019

Steele told investigators he was not biased against Trump because he had a personal relationship with Ivanka Trump

From CNN's Nina Dos Santos

Christopher Steele told investigators that it was "ridiculous" that he was biased against Trump, saying he had "been friendly" with a member of Trump's family for years, according to the IG's report.  

The name is redacted from the report — but a source close to Steele's corporate intelligence agency called Orbis confirms the family member is Ivanka Trump. 

According to the report, Steele said, "If anything he was 'favorably disposed' toward the Trump family before he began his research because he had visited a Trump family member at Trump Tower and 'been friendly' with [the family member] for some years."  

He told investigators their relationship was "personal" and said he had once given that person a Scottish family tartan.

ABC first reported Steele's connection to Ivanka. CNN has reached out to representatives for Ivanka Trump for comment.

6:21 p.m. ET, December 9, 2019

FBI did not try to recruit members of the Trump campaign as informants, report says

From CNN's David Shortell

The Justice Department inspector general's office found that the FBI did not try to recruit members of the Trump campaign as informants, and did not to try infiltrate the campaign itself — either by instructing sources to get hired onto the campaign, or by sending sources into campaign spaces to collect information.

One early source that proved helpful to the FBI had actually been offered a position on the Trump campaign by former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, but the FBI was not aware of that when they approached the source, and the source never took the campaign job.

In fact, FBI officials involved in the investigation were unanimous in their belief that they would not use the source if the source had wanted to take a role on the campaign, according to the report. 

"No, no, no, no, no, no .... [O]h god no. Absolutely not," was former FBI agent Peter Strzok’s reaction to the news that the source had a job offer pending, the former senior counterintelligence agent told the IG’s office. 

The source eventually met with Page, former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, and a high-level campaign official who was not a subject of the investigation, on behalf of the FBI.

Part of the source’s conversation with Page, in which Page responded cryptically when asked about a potential “October surprise,” eventually made its way into one of the renewal applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act surveillance.

In another meeting with the source, Page joked that he’d like have an “open checkbook” from the Russians if he were to follow through with a plan to found a think tank in line with his friendly views on the country. That line too made it into the FISA applications, and caused some in the FBI to believe that Page could be acting as a Russian agent.

6:01 p.m. ET, December 9, 2019

FBI agent overseeing Russia investigation attended campaign briefing to collect info on Michael Flynn

From CNN's Sam Fossum

The supervising agent overseeing the FBI's Russia investigation attended a counter intelligence briefing the Office of the Director of National Intelligence provided to the Trump campaign, at least in part, to collect information relevant to their investigation, according to the inspector general Michael Horowitz's report. 

Horowitz wrote that he found no evidence that the FBI consulted with Justice Department leadership or DNI officials about the decision to send an investigator to the briefing.

About one week after the briefing, the supervising agent — after consulting with Peter Strzok and an FBI lawyer — formally documented the briefing in a three-page memo that described questions the agent fielded from Trump and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, comments both men made, and how the agent responded. The FBI agent said they only documented information potentially relevant to Crossfire Hurricane.

The same agent also provided the same briefing for the Hillary Clinton campaign, telling Horowitz that they did nothing differently between the Trump and Clinton briefings. The report quotes the supervising agent as saying: 

"That was one of the things that was very key. [The briefings] needed to be consistent."

However, the agent only wrote a memo about the briefing that was provided to the Trump campaign.

Keep in mind: The IG wrote that there are no FBI policies that detail how such briefings should be handled and whether it's appropriate to use them for any possible investigative threads. 

"We identified no Department or FBI policies or procedures regarding the handling of presidential transition briefings, and no requirement that Department leadership be consulted before using a presidential transition briefing, or a defensive briefing, for possible investigative purposes," the report states. 

In the conclusion of the report, the Inspector General recommends that the FBI establish a policy regarding whether it's appropriate for investigators to use defensive or transition briefings and that any such step should require approval by senior leaders at the FBI with "notice to a senior Department official."

5:44 p.m. ET, December 9, 2019

Here's how much money the FBI paid Christopher Steele and George Papadopoulos, according to the report

From CNN's Marshall Cohen and David Shortell

Christopher Steele was an FBI source from 2013 until 2016, when the FBI cut ties after seeing that some of his information about Trump was popping up in press reports, according to the report that was released today.

“During his time as an FBI (confidential human source), Steele received a total of $95,000 from the FBI,” the report said.

The inspector general says “Steele was not compensated by the FBI” for the election-related information that is mentioned in the IG report.

Meanwhile, the report also describes how the FBI paid George Papadopoulos $3,000 for a “project” in September of 2016 in an operation that investigators hoped would produce new insight into the Trump foreign policy aide’s awareness of the Russian plots.

As part of the operation, which was approved by a senior counterintelligence official at the agency, the FBI had a source fly Papadopoulos internationally and assign him a paper focusing on the eastern Mediterranean, as well as the energy sector and the relations between Russia and Israel.

In meetings over brunch and pre-dinner drinks to discuss the project, which was designed to be unrelated to Papadopoulos’s role on the Trump campaign, the source pressed Papadopoulos about WikiLeaks 

Papadopoulos on more than one occasion replied claiming ignorance about the group’s plans to release damaging information on Hillary Clinton. He also told the source that the campaign didn’t advocate for help from WikiLeaks or the Russians because it was “illegal” and “compromises the US national security,” according to the report.

FBI officials said at the time and reiterated later to the IG that the answer sounded “canned” and “like a lawyer wrote it.”  

5:35 p.m. ET, December 9, 2019

The report brought up the salacious allegations in the Steele dossier

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz

The Justice Department inspector general's report paints a more thorough picture on what the FBI found when it tried to verify information in Christopher Steele's dossier on President Trump and Russia — including attempts to verify the existence of video tapes of "alleged unorthodox sexual activity."

Steele's primary source for information in the dossier, for instance, told the FBI he or she may have talked about Trump's alleged sexual activities in "jest" and couldn't confirm whether the tape was real, the report states, quoting the source.

"The Primary Sub-source explained that he/she reported to Steele that Trump's alleged unorthodox sexual activity at the Ritz Carlton hotel was 'rumor and speculation' and that he/she had not been able to confirm the story," the report states.

Many of the claims by Steele, a former British spy, have held up over time, or have proven to be at least partially true, including the fact that there was a concerted Russian operation to attacking the 2016 election. The Justice Department has brought criminal charges against dozens of Russian hackers and online trolls for allegedly interfering with the election.

Steele's dossier had also asserted that Trump could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail, among other things. The salacious allegations in Steele's memos remain unproven, nearly three years after the memos went public — a point which the inspector general's report on Monday underlines.

Read more here.

5:08 p.m. ET, December 9, 2019

What the report says about Carter Page's surveillance application

From CNN's Marshall Cohen 

The Carter Page Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (or FISA) application would have been a “close call" — but things changed when the FBI obtained Christopher Steele’s memos, according to a top FBI lawyer who is quoted in the inspector general's report. 

Page once served as a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser.

The top FBI lawyer isn’t identified in the report, but she gave an interview to IG investigators. The report says:

“She said that although there could be differing opinions, she thought it was a ‘close call’ when they first discussed a FISA targeting Page in August, and that the Steele reporting in September 'pushed it over' the line in terms of establishing probable cause.”

Another FBI lawyer told IG investigators that the FISA application was “probably 50/50” before the Steele material, according to the report. 

The report shows how the FBI had been considering asking for a FISA on Page for weeks, but things kicked into a higher gear when they got some material from Steele. Some of that information ended up in the FISA application, which was approved by the secretive FISA court.

The FBI and DOJ misstated a key piece of information about Steele in the FISA applications, the IG found. 

“The FISA request form referred to Steele as a ‘reliable source, whose previous reporting to the FBI has been corroborated and used in criminal proceedings,’” the IG report said. “As noted later in this chapter, while Steele had previously provided information to the FBI that helped the FBI further criminal investigations, his reporting had never been used in a criminal proceeding.”

Why did the FBI want a FISA on Page? An FBI agent involved with the FISA warrants told the inspector general “that he had hoped that emails and other communications obtained through FISA electronic surveillance would help provide valuable information about what Page did while in Moscow in July 2016 and the Russian officials with whom he may have spoken,” the report said. 

Page’s visit to Moscow, while he was still advising the Trump campaign, raised eyebrows and piqued the interest of US investigators, CNN previously reported. While Page was there, he delivered a public address at a university where he criticized US policy toward Russia and condemned the sanctions that the Obama administration imposed since 2014. 

5:06 p.m. ET, December 9, 2019

White House: Americans "should be outraged and terrified" by report

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Echoing President Trump’s comments earlier today in the Cabinet Room, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham reacted to the Justice Department inspector general’s report, saying, Americans "should be outraged and terrified by this abuse of power."

"This should never happen to another presidential candidate or any American ever again," Grisham said in the statement.

Read her full statement:

"The shocking report from the DOJ Inspector General shows an out-of-control FBI under President Obama and former Director Jim Comey. The report makes clear that the phony Steele Dossier was “central and essential” for the FBI to secure wiretaps from the FISA Court to spy on the Trump campaign. But the FBI repeatedly lied to the FISA Court to make Steele seem credible and to hide information showing that the Dossier was false. The Dossier was bought and paid for by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee — but that fact was hidden from the FISA Court. Astoundingly, when evidence was repeatedly uncovered showing no wrongdoing by candidate Trump, that also was hidden from the FISA Court. On top of all that, one FBI lawyer altered an email in an effort to continue and extend the wiretapping — and he has been referred for criminal prosecution. All of this shows a repeated effort to mislead the FISA Court long after the FBI was aware the “Dossier” was false, phony and could not be used justify spying on the Trump Campaign.  The American people should be outraged and terrified by this abuse of power. This should never happen to another presidential candidate or any American ever again."

 

4:53 p.m. ET, December 9, 2019

Michael Flynn's lawyer: The report "is a damning indictment" of the FBI and Justice Department

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz

Michael Flynn’s lawyer Sidney Powell released a statement following the Justice Department inspector general's report.

"The IG Report is a damning indictment of the determination of the FBI and DOJ to hide exculpatory evidence," Powell said.

About Flynn and the report: The report released today by inspector general Michael Horowitz did not find "documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the decisions" to open investigations that initially focused on campaign advisers Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

In the report, Horowitz revealed new interactions between FBI investigators and the Trump campaign that are certain to inflame Republicans who have claimed President Trump's team was spied on.

In August 2016, just months before the presidential election, an FBI supervisor who oversaw the burgeoning counterintelligence investigation attended a briefing that intelligence officials were giving to the Trump campaign, in part so that the FBI supervisor could observe Flynn, a former general who had taken on a leading national security role in the campaign. The agent later wrote a memo recording his observations at the meeting of Flynn, who at the time had fallen under scrutiny of FBI investigator.