Donald Trump’s staunchest allies have continuously built up expectations that the Department of Justice inspector general’s report into the Trump campaign and Russia will contain bombshell revelations of a Deep State plotting to stop Trump’s 2016 candidacy before the election. If early reports about the investigation are accurate, though, the president’s boosters—and Donald Trump himself—have set themselves up for a big disappointment when the report is released on Monday.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz has been investigating whether Justice Department officials were politically biased against Trump’s campaign, and whether a surveillance warrant against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was illicitly obtained. Early reporting on the investigation suggests that Horowitz didn’t find political bias played a role in the investigation, although Horowitz reportedly accuses an FBI lawyer of altering a document used in a warrant request.
All of which could become a bit awkward for right-wing media types who have been consumed with political fantasies and thirsting for vindication over the promise that Horowitz’s report contains damaging revelations about the Justice Department and the Obama administration. It could prove even more embarrassing for QAnon fans who have become convinced that Horowitz’s report will set off mass arrests against top Democrats.
Many of Trump’s most loyal boosters and sycophants at Fox News have long promised that Horowitz’s report was not only going to expose FISA abuses and reveal that the Russia investigation was a politically motivated hoax by the Obama administration, but would also lead to actual jail time for those in the Deep State.
Back in January, Fox News host Sean Hannity boasted on his radio program that the president had secret information that Horowitz would use to reveal unbelievable levels of corruption by the intelligence community.
“We still have Michael Horowitz, the inspector general. He is to report back on FISA abuse, we already know that did take place,” Hannity told his audience. “We know that the president has five different buckets of information that he's holding, in his hand, that will reveal corruption at levels we never dreamed or we never thought of.”
Following the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference this past spring, Hannity and other Fox News personalities repeatedly insisted that the Horowitz report was just around the corner and that it would spark recriminations among not just top government officials but those who led prior investigations into former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
“I’m certain that Inspector General Michael Horowitz is going to look at that in his report as to whether or not Hillary Clinton ever received a defensive briefing,” Fox News contributor Sara Carter, a frequent Hannity guest, said in April. “That’s going to be very interesting. Because that’s going to show the imbalance between the two, how they treated the Trump campaign and how they treated Hillary Clinton.”
During a May appearance on Fox Business Network, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski went even further. Speaking with Fox legal analyst Gregg Jarrett, Lewandowski declared a whole slew of Deep State targets would be sitting in jail by the following spring.
“And when Attorney General Barr and Mr. Horowitz release that report in approximately a month, I think we are going to see additional criminal referrals with [Andrew] McCabe getting another referral, Comey a referral, [Peter] Strzok and [Lisa] Page, James Baker, possibly Bruce Ohr and other people who we haven't even meant as household names yet will have criminal referrals,” he exclaimed. “And I think what we're going to see, Gregg, is in March or April of next year, James Comey, Andy McCabe, Strzok and Paige will be on trial for the crimes they committed against the Fourth Amendment and against this president.”
As the months ticked by and no report emerged, confidence in a forthcoming bombshell began to wane. Hannity, for his part, “joked” in August that as they waited for Horowitz’s report to finally be released, all of his reporting on FISA abuses could lead to a “mid-morning raid at [his] house” or him being the victim of a “bad accident.”
With summer turning into fall, Hannity and others subtly began lowering their expectations for Horowitz, shifting their attention instead towards federal prosecutor John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the Russia probe. But when the Washington Post reported on Nov. 21 that Horowitz’s report had found evidence that an FBI lawyer altered a document tied to a FISA warrant, Hannity allowed himself to hope again.
“Premeditated fraud on a FISA court for the purpose of spying on a presidential candidate,” he exclaimed. “Then his transition team. And, yeah, then a president. It’s that bad. And there’s going to be more.”
Fellow Fox News contributors, such as Jarrett and former GOP congressman Jason Chaffetz, would point to the Post article to assert that an even more “devastating” report was to come, resulting in “criminal referrals” covering “corrupt acts identified by FBI, CIA, State Department, and maybe the Department of Justice itself.”
But the jubilation was short-lived. As subsequent reports flooded in that the Horowitz report would find no political bias and that FISA applications had a proper legal basis, the president’s favorite mouthpieces shifted from hyping Horowitz to badmouthing him. The inspector general, they insisted, was a Trump-hating Washington insider himself.
“The inspector general is so limited in what he can do. He can't really even compel testimony, the people he talks to are given two weeks to look at the report and lobby for changes and edits,” conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh complained on Dec. 3. “And the inspector general is a Deep Stater, he's one of them, he's a swampist.”
Figures on the farther right have also long expected Horowitz to vindicate pro-Trump conspiracy theories. The Gateway Pundit, a right-wing blog whose owner was invited to the White House this summer, has eagerly followed developments surrounding the report’s release, adding a “tick tock” countdown in one excited September post.
Horowitz has also been a hero for believers in the ludicrous QAnon conspiracy theory, which posits that Trump is engaged in a shadowy war with a “deep-state cabal” and top Democrats, who are also pedophiles and cannibals. QAnon believers hoped that Horowitz’s report would kick off “The Storm” — their long-awaited dream of Trump implementing mass arrests and executions aimed at Democratic officials. In March, for example, prominent QAnon promoter “Joe M” proclaimed that Horowitz would uncover a scandal “1000x worse than Watergate.”
The anonymous clue-maker behind QAnon, who goes by the alias “Q,” has built up anticipation for the report. In July, the poster claimed that the new report meant an “avalanche is coming” and claimed it was the first step towards the mass arrest of Democratic leaders.
It was merely the latest case of a top DoJ official attracting the adulation of QAnon fans, according to Travis View, a podcaster who analyzes QAnon’s spread. Earlier, QAnon believers were convinced that FBI Director Christopher Wray and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, among others, would implement the long-awaited purge. More recently, those hopes have rested on Horowitz.
“That’s been really critical to the whole QAnon narrative,” View said.
This isn’t the first time QAnon believers have expected bombshell revelations from an inspector general report, only to be disappointed. In 2018, QAnon believers were convinced that Horowitz’s report on the Hillary Clinton email investigation would unleash the “Storm.” Instead, the report contained no major revelations when it was released in June 2018, and no Democrats were arrested and shipped off to Guantanamo Bay. One disappointed and armed QAnon believer shut down a bridge near the Hoover Dam with an improvised armored truck, demanding in a bizarre video that Trump release the “real” report.
With early reports on the Horowitz investigation suggesting that it won’t be as explosive as Republicans hoped, fringe figures have already begun to downplay it and make excuses for the lack of big news. Many have already moved on to fixating instead U.S. Attorney John Durham, who’s leading Attorney General Bill Barr’s review into the investigation into Trump’s campaign and Russia.
“They’re going to justify why yet another investigation that they’re hoping for was a dud, and pin their hopes on the next investigation,” View said.