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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3:03 p.m. ET, December 9, 2019

FBI lawyer who doctored email wrote "the crazies won" after Trump was elected

From CNN's Marshall Cohen

The Justice Department's inspector general found highly partisan instant messages criticizing President Trump and calling Vice President Mike Pence "stupid" were sent by the low-level FBI lawyer who doctored an email relating to the Carter Page FISA.

One instant message, sent the day after Trump’s victory in 2016, slammed the election result and said “the crazies won finally,” and lamented that Trump would undo the “progress we made” under Obama. 

Here's what the message said:

“I am so stressed about what I could have done differently … I just can't imagine the systematic disassembly of the progress we made over the last 8 years. ACA is gone. Who knows if the rhetoric about deporting people, walls, and crap is true. I honestly feel like there is going to be a lot more gun issues, too, the crazies won finally. This is the tea party on steroids. And the GOP is going to be lost, they have to deal with an incumbent in 4 years. We have to fight this again. Also Pence is stupid.”

Two weeks later, during the Trump transition, the FBI lawyer said in a message: “Viva le resistance."

The texts were sent on government devices and found as part of the inspector general review, and a previous inspector general review, the report said.

The FBI lawyer in question had worked on the Clinton email investigation and the early stages of the Russia investigation, including the controversial FISA against Page.

2:49 p.m. ET, December 9, 2019

Who in the Justice Department is criticizing the report — and who agrees with it

The Justice Department inspector general just released his long-awaited report on the origins of the FBI's Trump-Russia investigation.

The key finding so far in the lengthy report is that the FBI properly opened the investigation — but there were major errors in how the agency conducted the probe.

At least two people in the Justice Department have disputed the report so far:

  • Attorney General William Barr in a statement disputed the finding that the FBI properly opened a full investigation. "The inspector general’s report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions," he said.
  • US Attorney John Durham — who reports to Barr and is leading Barr's probe of the origins of the Russia investigation — said "we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened."

And here's who has publicly said they agree with the findings:

  • FBI Director Christopher Wray touted the inspector general's claim that the Russia investigation was opened properly. "I think it's important that the inspector general found that in this particular instance the investigation was opened with appropriate predication and authorization," Wray said.
2:41 p.m. ET, December 9, 2019

The FBI director and attorney general have opposing reactions to the report

From CNN's David Shortell

FBI Director Christopher Wray just touted the Justice Department inspector general's claim that the Russia investigation was opened properly.

The report, which was released this afternoon, says that the start of FBI Russia probe was legally justified and unbiased, but cites significant errors in surveillance warrants.

"I think it's important that the inspector general found that in this particular instance the investigation was opened with appropriate predication and authorization," Wray said in an interview with ABC News today.

The FBI director's reaction to the report puts him at odds with his boss, Attorney General William Barr, who continued to criticize the bureau, saying that there was "insufficient" evidence to open the probe. 

2:29 p.m. ET, December 9, 2019

Why we're talking about Australia in the inspector general report

From CNN's David Shortell 

Attorney General William Barr praised the contribution of a foreign government that led to the opening of the Russia investigation, but continued his criticism of the FBI's investigatory steps.

The inspector general's office found that the only information the FBI relied upon to open the Crossfire Hurricane investigation in July of 2016 was a tip from a "friendly foreign government," or FFG — which has since been identified as Australia.

“I want to emphasize that this FFG did the right thing in supplying that information; the FFG has acted at all times just as we would hope a close ally would. We are grateful that we have such friends," Barr said.

"What was subsequently done with that information by the FBI presents a separate question," he continued. 

Earlier today, Barr said the FBI's counterintelligence investigation had been launched on "the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken." 

Some background: Australian officials told the FBI on July 28, 2016, about a meeting two months prior between Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos and an Australian diplomat. In that meeting, Papadopoulos displayed knowledge of a possible plan by the Russians to release information damaging to Hillary Clinton. 

Here's the full statement from Barr:

“The Inspector General found the only information relied on to open the FBI’s counter-intelligence investigation was supplied to the FBI by a friendly foreign government (FFG). I want to emphasize that this FFG did the right thing in supplying that information; the FFG has acted at all times just as we would hope a close ally would. We are grateful that we have such friends. What was subsequently done with that information by the FBI presents a separate question.”
2:23 p.m. ET, December 9, 2019

Sen. Lindsay Graham will hold a news conference on the report this afternoon

Sen. Lindsay Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, will hold a news conference at 4 p.m. ET today on the Department of Justice's Inspector General's report.

Graham was spotted on White House grounds this afternoon.

2:21 p.m. ET, December 9, 2019

An FBI lawyer altered emails and changed his story when talking to the inspector general

From CNN's Marshall Cohen

A low-level FBI lawyer changed his story when he was interviewed by the inspector general, according to the just-released report.

The change appears to be part of the criminal probe spun off from the inspector general review.

The FBI lawyer isn’t named in the report, but the review found that he altered at least one email that was relevant to the Carter Page FISAs. CNN first broke the story about the apparently doctored emails. 

Read more from the report below, and remember: The “OGC Attorney” is the low-level FBI lawyer. The “OIG” refers to the Office of Inspector General. The “OI Attorney” is a lawyer who worked for the Justice Department’s Office of Intelligence.

“The OGC Attorney initially told us that he recalled providing a detailed briefing to the OI Attorney about Page's status, and telling him that the OGC Attorney had conferred with the Liaison and that Page had not been a source for the other agency,” the report said. “However, in a subsequent OIG interview months later, the OGC Attorney said he did not recall a specific conversation with the OI Attorney on this subject matter, but thought he would have conveyed to the OI Attorney the details of what the Liaison had told him.”
2:10 p.m. ET, December 9, 2019

A report on the FBI's Russia probe just dropped. Here's what we know so far.

From CNN's David Shortell and Evan Perez

The Justice Department's inspector general just released a report on the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

One of the key findings: The FBI properly opened the investigation — but there were major errors in how the agency conducted the probe.

We're going through the 435-page report now (or you can read the full thing here), and we're posting highlights here. Here's what we know so far:

  • No "political bias" when opening the probe: The report, released 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.
  • Criticizing the FBI: The report criticized the FBI leaders and employees for how they handled four applications for surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act targeting Page.
  • Rebutting Trump: The report also refuted President Trump's claims that the FBI illegally spied on his campaign.
  • How this whole report started: Horowitz opened the probe early last year, after a request from Trump's former attorney general. His office has reviewed more than 1 million records and conducted more than 100 interviews as part of its review, including a number of current and former law enforcement officials at the center of "deep state" conspiracies.
1:51 p.m. ET, December 9, 2019

Report details how an FBI source met with a high-ranking Trump campaign official

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz described in his report how one FBI source met with an unnamed high-ranking Trump campaign official.

The inspector general described this meeting as one that didn’t give the FBI information about Russian interference in the election.

But he still dinged the FBI for not going into the meeting with a better plan for handling politically sensitive information.

Here's are the full quotes from the report:

“During the meeting between a CHS (Confidential Human Source) and the high-level Trump campaign official who was not a subject of the investigation, the CHS asked about the role of three Crossfire Hurricane subjects-Page, Papadopoulos, and Manafort-in the Trump campaign. The CHS also asked about allegations in public reports concerning Russian interference in the 2016 elections, the campaign's response to ideas featured in Page's Moscow speech, and the possibility of an "October Surprise." In response, the campaign official made no comments of note about those topics. The CHS and the high-level campaign official also discussed We found that the Crossfire Hurricane team made no use of any information collected from the high-level Trump campaign official, because the team determined that none of the information gathered was "germane" to the allegations under investigation. However, we were concerned that the Crossfire Hurricane team did not recall having in place a plan, prior to the operation involving the high-level campaign official, to address the possible collection of politically sensitive information.”
1:40 p.m. ET, December 9, 2019

What the report says about the FBI employees Trump has accused of working against him

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz

In his report, the Justice Department's Inspector General Michael Horowitz addressed many of the individuals within the FBI whom Trump has accused for months of working out of political hostility toward him.

Horowitz specifically wrote that Peter Strzok and Lisa Page did not affect the start of the investigation and didn’t act out of political bias.

  • Horowitz on Lisa Page: “While Lisa Page attended some of the discussions regarding the opening of the investigations, she did not play a role in the decision to open Crossfire Hurricane or the four individual cases." 
  • Horowitz on Peter Strzok: “We further found that while Strzok was directly involved in the decisions to open Crossfire Hurricane and the four individual cases, he was not the sole, or even the highest-level, decision maker as to any of those matters.”

The decision to open the investigation was made by Bill Priestap, who was Strzok’s supervisor, after he spoke with the FBI Director, general counsel and other top agency leaders.

  •  Horowitz on Bill Priestap: “We concluded that Priestap's exercise of discretion in opening the investigation was in compliance with Department and FBI policies, and we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced his decision.”