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DOJ watchdog: Agents probing Trump campaign broke rules, no bias

Credit: Reuters - Politics
Published on December 11, 2019 - Duration: 03:32s

DOJ watchdog: Agents probing Trump campaign broke rules, no bias

The U.S. Department of Justice's internal watchdog told Congress on Wednesday that the FBI made "basic and fundamental errors" during a politically sensitive investigation into Donald Trump's presidential campaign in 2016.

Zachary Goelman reports.

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DOJ watchdog: Agents probing Trump campaign broke rules, no bias

The man who reviewed the FBI probe into the 2016 Trump campaign's possible ties to Russia testified on Wednesday (December 11) that while the Bureau's probe was properly authorized, on several occasions broke their own department rules in pursuit of the case.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE INSPECTOR GENERAL MICHAEL HOROWITZ, SAYING:"We found, and as we outlined here, are deeply concerned concerned that so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three handpicked investigative teams on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations." Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz this week submitted a more than 400-page report which concluded that the FBI's probe of Trump, dubbed Crossfire Hurricane, was approved by a senior FBI supervisor in line with protocol, and that he found no evidence of political bias in that decision.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE INSPECTOR GENERAL MICHAEL HOROWITZ, SAYING: "We reviewed Department [of Justice] and FBI policies, and concluded that Assistant Director Priestap's exercise of discretion in opening the investigation was in compliance with those policies." But Horowitz his team found 17 omissions or errors, including when in applications for surveillance warrants, and said he found all of this "deeply" disturbing.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE INSPECTOR GENERAL MICHAEL HOROWITZ, SAYING: "The circumstances reflect a failure, as we outline in the report, not just by those who prepare the applications, but also by those managers and supervisors in the Crossfire Hurricane chain of command, including FBI senior officials, who were briefed as the investigation progressed." Both Democrats and Republicans tried to make political points out of Horowitz's testimony.

Republican allies of President Donald Trump pressed the point that several agents in the probe showed bias against the candidate, and broke the rules to target him.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) EXCHANGE BETWEEN U.S. REPUBLICAN SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM AND U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE INSPECTOR GENERAL MICHAEL HOROWITZ: GRAHAM: "Did they have a duty to report to their supervisors and eventually to the court exculpatory information?" HOROWITZ: "Absolutely." GRAHAM: "They did not." HOROWITZ: "They did not." GRAHAM: "Why?" HOROWITZ: "That's the question I can't specifically answer for you." Democrats noted the Horowitz report refuted the right-wing conspiracy theory that a secretive group inside the government tried to take down candidate Trump.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) EXCHANGE BETWEEN U.S. DEMOCRATIC SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN AND U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE INSPECTOR GENERAL MICHAEL HOROWITZ: FEINSTEIN: "And you didn't find a 'deep state' conspiracy against candidate or President Trump?" HOROWITZ: "As to the opening [of the investigation] we found no bias, no testimony or documentary evidence on that." While the report documents agents breaking protocol and cutting corners, Trump took the conclusions several steps further, claiming that such errors amount to "an attempted overthrow of the government." (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP SAYING (DECEMBER 10): "Yesterday the Justice Department's Inspector General released a report detailing the outrageous, scandalous and unprecedented abuses of power." At a rally this week he referred to the FBI in some of his harshest words yet.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP SAYING (DECEMBER 10): "And the FBI also sent multiple undercover human spies to surveil and record people associated with our campaign.

Look how they've hurt people.

They've destroyed the lives of people that were great people.

That are still great people.

Their lives have been destroyed by scum." Trump has found support in his appointed U.S. Attorney General, William Barr, who said says he disagrees with his own inspector general's findings, and saying he believes the investigation was launched on the "thinnest of suspicions." Asked about Barr's comments, Horowitz said he stands by his findings.

Horowitz may not have the final say in the matter.

Barr assigned another U.S. attorney to investigate the origins of the FBI's Trump probe.

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