James Comey received his second bureaucratic slap on the wrist this year with Monday’s release of the long-awaited Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general’s report on alleged abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
After months of build-up, Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz concluded that the FBI’s investigation of the 2016 Donald Trump campaign was justified, but that the DOJ and FBI under Comey made “significant” omissions in seeking to spy on Trump campaign member Carter Page, Fox News reports.
But although the FBI clearly spied on the Trump campaign — and on flimsy pretenses, it would seem — Comey swiftly claimed “no spying” and tweeted out an op-ed congratulating himself Monday.
“So it was all lies. No treason. No spying on the campaign. No tapping Trump’s wires,” he tweeted. “It was just good people trying to protect America.”
Operation Crossfire Hurricane
Comey has repeatedly claimed that the FBI’s spying on Trump in what was known as Operation Crossfire Hurricane was justified and “totally normal,” according to the Daily Caller, and he even quibbled with the term “spying” itself — but an investigation by the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General reached a far more subtle conclusion. Horowitz’s report dealt a scathing rebuke to the FBI under Comey, even as it exonerated him and other FBI and DOJ officials of bias toward Trump.
The nearly 500-page report confirmed long-standing Republican suspicions about the FBI’s abuse of the FISA process to spy on Page using an unreliable dossier riddled with deranged innuendo. The report found that Christopher Steele’s salacious dossier was a core part of the applications and that it was not deemed wholly credible, but that it was used to justify spying on Page despite at least 17 “significant inaccuracies and omissions” that, the report hints, might have otherwise prevented the FBI from renewing the warrants.
“The Crossfire Hurricane team failed to inform department officials of significant information that was available to the team at the time that the FISA applications were drafted and filed,” the report notes, according to Fox News. “Much of that information was inconsistent with, or undercut, the assertions contained in the FISA applications that were used to support probable cause and, in some instances, resulted in inaccurate information being included in the applications.”
The report also confirms that the FBI spied on Trump campaign members including Page and George Papadopoulos using informants, hardly a “normal” turn of events. Still, Horowitz somehow let Comey off the hook.
“We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the FBI’s decision to seek FISA authority on Carter Page,” the report said.
The Deep State skates again
Horowitz’s conclusion was expected after early leaks of the report led many to downplay the rather explosive hopes invested in it by supporters of President Trump, including Fox News’ Sean Hannity. By the time of the report’s release, some were prepared to write it off as the work of a bureaucrat — Horowitz is an Obama appointee — who was never going to bring the hammer down on Comey and other top foes of the president, like John Brennan and James Clapper.
The report marks the second time that Comey has avoided prosecution despite high expectations of some kind of reckoning for the “Deep State.” Horowitz referred Comey for prosecution over his memo leaks earlier this year, but the DOJ declined, according to NBC News.
Comey has admitted to leaking memos of his conversations with Donald Trump to spark a special counsel probe, an action that spurred the IG to denounce his “dangerous example” in its previous IG investigation of his memo leaks, according to the Associated Press. Still, the former FBI leader claimed vindication despite that scathing assessment of his leadership and demanded an apology from those who had accused him of crimes.
Cardinal Comey once again responded by playing the victim card with his tweet Monday, but in a sign of the deepening divide between Deep State loyalists and President Trump, Attorney General Bill Barr also issued a stunning statement Monday saying that the report “makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken,” according to NBC.
Barr’s prosecutor, John Durham — who is overseeing a separate, criminal probe of Russiagate — also took issue with Horowitz’s conclusion and alluded to the wider scope of his probe, which is also looking into whether the CIA improperly influenced the FBI in launching Crossfire Hurricane. But for now, it looks like Comey will once again get off scot-free — unless Barr does something about it.