Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz clarified Wednesday that his investigation into the FBI’s FISA abuses “did not reach” the conclusion that the bureau was unaffected by political bias during its 2016 Russia investigation.
Following the release of the report, Democrats and former FBI officials were quick to point to Horowitz’s statement that he “did not find documentary or testimonial evidence” of political bias in the opening of Crossfire Hurricane, arguing that the statement proved President Trump’s claims of a politically-motivated “witch hunt” were false.
In an op-ed published after the report’s release, James Comey attacked Trump and attorney general William Barr, saying “those who smeared the FBI are due for an accounting.” On Sunday, the former FBI director attributed to “sloppiness” the 17 “significant errors and omissions” included in the FISA application to surveil Trump-campaign adviser Carter Page.
Appearing on CNN with former FBI former deputy director Andrew McCabe, former FBI general counsel James Baker said that Trump should “apologize to me, to my colleagues” because “there was no hoax, there was no conspiracy to overthrow anybody, there was no sedition, there was no treason, there was no evidence of any of that.”
But under questioning from Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.), Horowitz explained his investigation did leave the door open to possible political bias because his team could not accept the explanations FBI members gave on why there were “so many errors” in their investigation.
“We have been very careful in the connection with the FISA’s for the reasons you mentioned to not reach that conclusion,” Horowitz told Hawley. “As we’ve talked about earlier — the alteration of the email, the text messages associated with the individual who did that, and our inability to explain or understand, to get good explanations so that we could understand why this all happened.”
Horowitz’s clarification comes after U.S. attorney John Durham released a statement saying his office did “not agree with” the report’s statements regarding the origins of the FBI’s 2016 Russia probe.
The inspector general also said during testimony that his team was looking further into whether the FBI’s “basic errors” in the case were potentially systemic.