DOJ watchdog Horowitz says FBI's conduct in Trump-Russia probe doesn't 'vindicate anybody'

Key Points
  • DOJ watchdog Michael Horowitz tells the Senate Judiciary Committee that the FBI's conduct in a probe involving Donald Trump's 2016 campaign doesn't "vindicate anybody."
  • Horowitz's team "identified significant concerns" about how the FBI conducted its investigation.
  • Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, one of Trump's closest allies in Washington, set the tone of the hearing with a more than 40-minute speech blasting the FBI.
DOJ watchdog Horowitz says FBI's conduct in Trump-Russia probe doesn't 'vindicate anybody'

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said Wednesday he and his team "identified significant concerns" about how the FBI conducted its investigation into Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

"The activities we found here don't vindicate anybody," Horowitz said when asked about comments made by former FBI chief James Comey, who took a victory lap after the DOJ watchdog released a report this week on the agency's probe of Trump's campaign.

But Horowitz also noted that "opening the investigation was in compliance with [DOJ] and FBI policies, and we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced" the decision to initiate the Trump-Russia probe.

The DOJ watchdog's remarks came in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of Trump's closest allies, set the tone of the hearing with a more than 40-minute speech blasting the FBI.

"My goal is to make sure when this is over... you look at this as more than a few irregularities," Graham said. "What happened here is the system failed. People at the highest level of our government took the law into their own hands."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) holds up a copy of the Steel dossier as Michael Horowitz, inspector general for the Justice Department, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on December 11, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee | Getty Images

Horowitz was testifying about the more than 400-page report his office released on Monday after a nearly two-year investigation into the FBI's probe of possible coordination between officials on Trump's 2016 campaign and Russian government figures responsible for meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

By entering the committee's chamber, Horowitz walked into a heated and highly partisan debate on Capitol Hill about the main takeaways from his report.

Republicans have zeroed in on the "serious performance failures" by the FBI that Horowitz documented, including numerous "factual misstatements and omissions" that bolstered the FBI's case for obtaining surveillance warrants on then-Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

Democrats, meanwhile, have treated the report's conclusions that the FBI probe was lawfully predicated and that political bias did not factor into its opening as a rebuke to Trump's repeated claims of wrongdoing against his campaign by the "deep state."

"If that's what you get out of this report, you clearly didn't read it," Graham said in his opening statement.

The panel's ranking Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, pushed back in her opening statement, which was less than 10 minutes long.

"Simply put, the FBI investigation was motivated by facts, not bias," she said.

She also asked Horowitz about statements put out by Attorney General William Barr and U.S. Attorney John Durham after the watchdog's report's release. Durham, who was appointed by Barr this year to head another investigation into the origins of the Russia probe, said in his statement that "we do not agree with some of the report's conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened."

"I was surprised by the statement" from Durham, Horowitz said. He explained that Durham had told him last month that "he did not necessarily agree with our conclusion about the opening of a full counterintelligence investigation" by the FBI, rather than a preliminary investigation.

Horowitz told Feinstein he asked Barr and Durham in prior discussions to share evidence that might be relevant to his investigation. "None of the discussions changed our findings," Horowitz testified.

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