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Justice Department inspector general testifies about report on FBI's Russia probe

Del Quentin Wilber, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department's internal watchdog told Congress on Wednesday that the FBI botched its high-profile investigation of potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government efforts to tilt the 2016 election in Trump's favor.

"The activities we found don't vindicate anyone who touched this," Inspector General Michael Horowitz said, describing the findings of his 434-page report released Monday. "The actions of FBI agents were not up to the standards of the FBI."

Horowitz testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee about his inquiry into the origins of a counterintelligence investigation aimed at a major presidential campaign, one of the bureau's most politically charged probes in its history.

The inspector general said he found no evidence that political bias influenced the decision to start the probe in July 2016 and said FBI officials had proper legal and factual basis for doing so, rebutting a chief accusation by President Donald Trump that senior FBI agents and Justice Department officials orchestrated a "deep state" conspiracy targeting him.

However, Horowitz also slammed the FBI for committing serious errors as the investigation progressed, particularly in how it investigated Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser. The FBI made 17 serious errors or omissions in affidavits seeking court approval to conduct surveillance on Page, according to the report.

Republicans and Democrats on the committee quickly clashed over their interpretations of the report's findings.

 

Sen. Lindsey Graham, chairman of the committee, argued that it showed the FBI had engaged in a conspiracy to target Trump for investigation.

"It was as if J. Edgar Hoover came back to life," Graham said, referring to the FBI's founder and longtime director who was known for nefarious spying activities.

"What happened here is not a few irregularities," Graham, R-S.C., said, criticizing Democrats, the FBI and journalists for how they have covered the Russia investigation and inspector general's report. "What happened here is the system failed. People at the highest level of our government took the law into their own hands."

Graham said the report's findings raised concerns about whether the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approved the FBI surveillance of Page, "can continue unless there's fundamental reform."

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