Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said Wednesday that the FBI should have considered shutting down its investigation and surveillance of Carter Page much earlier than the bureau did, because the probe was not yielding any evidence that the former Trump campaign adviser was working as a Russian agent.
“If you’re getting information that isn’t advancing and, in fact, potentially undercutting, your primary theme or theory, as was happening here with the Carter Page FISA, you look at the Carter Page file and say, ‘should I keep going on this Carter Page related matter?’” Horowitz testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee regarding the findings of a report on the FBI’s surveillance of Page and the Trump campaign.
Horowitz was responding to a line of questioning from Sen. Ron Johnson, the chairman of the Senate panel. Johnson asked Horowitz whether he believed that the FBI should have shut down Crossfire Hurricane, its counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign, months after opening it in July 2016.
The FBI initially investigated whether members of the Trump campaign worked with Russia to influence the 2016 election. The Horowitz report and one released by the special counsel’s office found no evidence of a Trump-Russia conspiracy.
Horowitz said that one of the criticisms in his 480-page report, released on Dec. 9, was that the FBI failed to reassess information that investigators collected on Page, as well as about Christopher Steele, the former British spy whose dossier alleged a “well-developed conspiracy of co-operation” between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The FBI relied heavily on the unverified dossier to assert in applications to wiretap Page that the Trump aide was a Russian agent.
Horowitz found that the FBI was unable to corroborate any of the allegations in the dossier regarding Page. In some cases, FBI agents withheld information that called Steele’s reliability and credibility into question.
“One of our criticisms that we’ve laid out here is that as the team was gathering this evidence as to the Carter Page FISA, in particular, they weren’t reassessing it, including the information from the primary sub-source… that was inconsistent with the Steele reporting,” said Horowitz.
Horowitz pointed to a section of the report about FBI agents discussing before April 2017 why Page was still a subject in the investigation.
“They were actually asking that question, not just as to the FISA, but to the foundational question of ‘Carter Page, we’re not finding anything as to him, why aren’t we reassessing?’” Horowitz said.
The report said that two FBI supervisors considered whether Page “was a distraction in the investigation” given that he was “not a key player in the Trump campaign, and was not critical to the overarching investigation.”
Nevertheless, the investigation persisted. FBI officials applied for two additional FISA renewals to continue wiretapping Page after that conversation.
Horowitz’s report sparked an unprecedented rebuke on Tuesday from Rosemary Collyer, the president judge on the FISC. In an order released on Tuesday, Collyer said that the FBI submitted “false” and “misleading” information in its applications to wiretap Page.
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