Trump-Russia FBI inquiry was imperfect: report

Internal watchdog says Mueller’s probe had flaws, but that investigators largely played by the book

James Reinl   | 09.12.2019
Trump-Russia FBI inquiry was imperfect: report


The U.S. Justice Department’s internal monitor has criticized aspects of an FBI probe into President Donald Trump’s alleged election-fixing collusion with Russia but found that the agency did not operate with political motives.

A copy of the long-awaited report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz was released by the Washington Post daily on Monday. In it, Horowitz described a series of “basic and fundamental” mistakes made by inspectors on the case.

“We identified at least 17 significant errors or omissions,” in the handling of applications made by FBI investigators under the so-called Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), Horowitz said in the 476-page document.

“While we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence of intentional misconduct on the part of the case agents … we also did not receive satisfactory explanations for the errors or problems we identified,” added Horowitz.

The report is likely to be used by Trump’s defenders, who call the Russia probe a “witch hunt”, and the president’s critics, who say that while Trump was cleared of collusion he had likely tried to block what was a legitimate inquiry.

Attorney General William Barr, an ally of the Republican president, said the report was a work of “critical transparency and accountability” that demonstrated why FBI investigators must be held to the “highest ethical and professional standards”.

“The Inspector General’s report now makes clear that the FBI launched 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,” Barr said in a statement.

“It is also clear that, from its inception, the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory. Nevertheless, the investigation and surveillance was pushed forward for the duration of the campaign and deep into President Trump’s administration.”

The FBI investigation into alleged collusion between Trump’s campaign team and Moscow began in mid-2016 when the Republican standard-bearer was up against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the presidential election in November of that year.

Robert Mueller, an ex-FBI chief, took over the special counsel probe in May 2017. Mueller concluded that while Russia had used hacking and propaganda to swing the vote, that Trump campaign contacts with Moscow did not amount to a criminal conspiracy.

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