DOJ Watchdog Finds FBI Justified In Opening Trump Probe, But Failures In FISA Process

The IG report examines the bureau's decisions during "Crossfire Hurricane," the investigation into the Trump campaign's connections to Russia election meddling.
The J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington, D.C. 
The J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington, D.C. 

WASHINGTON ― There’s no evidence that the FBI’s decision to open an investigation into the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia in 2016 was influenced by political bias, according to a Justice Department inspector general report released Monday that largely debunked President Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia probe. But the report said FBI attorneys failed to properly vet applications to monitor the communications of former campaign official Carter Page.

The report, titled “Review of Four FISA Applications and Other Aspects of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane Investigation,” examines applications that federal law enforcement officials made to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court during the 2016 campaign. It finds that the FBI “had an authorized purpose when it opened Crossfire Hurricane to obtain information about, or protect against, a national security threat or federal crime, even though the investigation also had the potential to impact constitutionally protected activity.”

The report also found “serious performance failures by the supervisory and non-supervisory agents with responsibility over the FISA applications” and that FBI personnel “fell far short of the requirement in FBI policy that they ensure that all factual statements in a FISA application are ‘scrupulously accurate.’”

President Trump and his allies have long suggested that the bureau acted improperly when it quietly opened the Russia investigation during the 2016 campaign. The IG report debunks that narrative, finding that there was enough evidence to clear the “low threshold” required to predicate an investigation. The report also finds no testimony or documented evidence to show that “political bias or improper motivation” influenced early decision-making.

But the report raises broader issues with the FBI’s process for FISA applications, finding “serious performance failures” by FBI officials involved in FISA applications involving Page.

“That so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate, hand-picked teams on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations that was briefed to the highest levels within the FBI, and that FBI officials expected would eventually be subjected to close scrutiny, raised significant questions regarding the FBI chain of command’s management and supervision of the FISA process,” the report states. 

FBI Director Christopher Wray said he’d “ordered more than 40 corrective steps” to correct problems raised in the report, including “significant changes” to the bureau’s confidential human source program.

Attorney General William Barr disagreed with a key aspect of the investigation: the FBI’s decision to launch “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.”

U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is separately investigating the origins of the Trump investigation, said Monday in a statement that his office does not agree “with some fo the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened.” 

Read the report: 

This story has been updated with comment from Christopher Wray and more information about the report’s conclusions.