- The Justice Department’s inspector general found no evidence to support President Donald Trump’s claim that the FBI inserted spies in his 2016 presidential campaign, The New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with a draft of the report.
- Trump has repeatedly and baselessly alleged that the FBI inserted covert operators in his campaign.
- He also alleged, without evidence, that former President Barack Obama had intelligence officials tap his phones, a claim the report is also expected to undercut.
- Sources told The Times and The Washington Post that while the report undermines Trump’s most extreme claims, it also faults the FBI for making bureaucratic mistakes when applying for a warrant to surveil Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide.
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The Justice Department’s inspector general found no evidence to support President Donald Trump’s claim that the FBI spied on his 2016 presidential campaign while investigating whether the campaign was conspiring with the Russian government to interfere in the election, The New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with a draft of the report.
The Times article builds on reporting from The Washington Post, which broke the story last week.
Trump has repeatedly and baselessly alleged that the FBI inserted covert agents in his campaign. Trump and his allies dubbed this purported scandal “Spygate.”
He has also alleged, without evidence, that President Barack Obama ordered US intelligence officials to tap his phones, a claim the report is also expected to undercut.
After taking office, Trump ordered the DOJ to investigate his claims. The inspector general, Michael Horowitz, is set to release his full report on the matter on December 9.
Sources told The Post and The Times that while the report undermines the president’s most extreme claims, it also finds fault with how the FBI handled its surveillance of the former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
Specifically, Horowitz found discrepancies and bureaucratic mistakes in how the FBI applied for a warrant seeking the wiretap. He also found evidence that an FBI lawyer may have altered an email connected to the Page wiretap but concluded that the employee’s conduct had no effect on the overall validity of the application or on the bureau’s overarching investigation.
However, Horowitz has reportedly requested that federal prosecutors look into the FBI lawyer’s alteration of the email.
Broadly, the report is said to outline that the surveillance of Page was legally justified and not, as Trump has claimed, driven by political bias.
Trump recently predicted that the report would reveal “perhaps the biggest scandal in the history of our country.”
The DOJ is also conducting another inquiry into the origins of the Russia investigation at the direction of Attorney General William Barr, who has largely done Trump’s bidding since taking office earlier this year.
Jeff Sessions, who was the attorney general until Trump forced him out following the 2018 midterm elections, tapped John Huber, a US attorney in Utah, to oversee an investigation into potential DOJ or FBI misconduct related to the Russia investigation.
But Barr told CBS News in May that Huber was basically on “standby” in case Horowitz wanted to refer any matters to him.
Meanwhile, John Durham, a US attorney from Connecticut, has been working in secrecy with Barr for several months to uncover evidence of FBI misconduct related to the origins of the Russia investigation.
In an inquiry that legal experts have described as overly broad and a fishing expedition, Durham and Barr have travelled overseas to meet with foreign intelligence officials as they seek to uncover evidence supporting Trump’s claim that the government acted improperly while investigating his 2016 campaign.
Last month, the DOJ opened a criminal inquiry into its own Russia investigation based on Barr’s and Durham’s findings so far. The move gave Durham the power to subpoena witnesses, convene a grand jury, and file charges.
Because there has been no evidence of departmentwide misconduct related to the Russia investigation, the DOJ’s decision to open the criminal inquiry sparked widespread condemnation and allegations that the president was using the US’s top law-enforcement agencies to target his perceived enemies.
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