Call this the moment that Republicans well and truly pounced. At least that’s how The Hill reports it, with a headline blaring that “conservatives rip FBI over IG report.” While The Hill also includes a short clip of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) expressing his anger over the “indictment” of the FBI’s actions, it doesn’t mention the portion of Cruz’ interaction with Michael Horowitz caught by Jason Howerton.
In this brief exchange, Cruz focuses on the report of an attorney who altered documents in order to support the FBI’s FISA warrant application renewal. Did an FBI attorney really create “fraudulent evidence” to ensure the renewal of Page’s surveillance, Cruz wondered — and Horowitz confirmed it:
Here's the video… @tedcruz: “A lawyer at the FBI creates fraudulent evidence, alters an email that is in turn used as the basis for a sworn statement for the court that the court relies on. Am I stating that accurately?"
IG HOROWITZ: “That is correct. That is what occurred.” pic.twitter.com/e1435JSqLN
— Jason Howerton (@jason_howerton) December 11, 2019
That nugget, reported weeks ago as Horowitz’ draft circulated to all of the principals in the report, is listed as the ninth major omission and/or misrepresentation in the FISA process. Horowitz detailed the deliberate deception in the executive summary:
In an email from the liaison to the OGC Attorney, the liaison provided written guidance, including that it was the liaison’s recollection that Page had or continued to have a relationship with the other agency, and directed the OGC Attorney to review the information that the other agency had provided to the FBI in August 2016. As noted above, that August 2016 information stated that Page did, in fact have a prior relationship with that other agency. The’ next morning, immediately following a 28 minute telephone call between the OGC Attorney and the OI Attorney, the OGC Attorney forwarded to the OI . Attorney the liaison’s email (but not the original email from the OGC Attorney to the liaison setting out the questions he was asking). The OI Attorney responded to the OGC Attorney, “thanks I think we are good and no need to carry it any further.” However, when the OGC Attorney subsequently sent the liaison’s email to SSA 2 the OGC Attorney altered the liaison’s email by inserting the words “not a source” into it, thus making it appear that the liaison had said that Page was “not a source” for the other agency. Relying upon this altered email, SSA 2 signed the third renewal application that again failed to disclose Page’s past relationship with the other agency. Consistent with the Inspector General Act of 1978, following the OIG’s discovery that the OGC Attorney had altered and sent the email to SSA 2, who thereafter relied on it to swear out the third FISA application, the OIG promptly informed the Attorney General and the FBI Director and provided them with the relevant information about the OGC Attorney’s actions.
Hey, here’s the FBI’s lawyer cooking a FISA warrant to surveil someone who they knew to be a confidential source for “another agency,” but … Republicans pounce! or something. Don’t forget that the FISA system is designed specifically to guard against abuse of power by FBI counterintelligence operations, but the real story is that Republican Senators get angry when the process is corrupted and abused.
The Hill does note an observation from Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), in which Lee can’t imagine why Comey thinks this report reflects well on him:
Lee specifically called out former FBI Director James Comey, who had responded to the report in a Washington Post op-ed, saying that it disproved declarations from President Trump and his allies that the FBI “spied” on the Trump campaign and engaged in wrongdoing.
“There is no planet on which I think this report indicates that things were OK within the FBI in connection with this investigation … and yet stunningly former FBI Director Jim Comey took to the pages of The Washington Post to declare that this report, your report, shows that the FBI fulfilled its mission,” Lee said.
“I don’t understand that. I find it absolutely stunning that he would reach that conclusion. This is nonsense,” he continued.
Lee didn’t leave any room for a response, but Horowitz didn’t exactly object either.
The beauty of Cruz’ approach is that it doesn’t leave much room for the claim from Comey and many media outlets that there was no political bias involved in that decision. Why would an attorney fabricate evidence for a warrant on Carter Page other than political bias, especially given that he can and likely will lose his ability to practice law if not get convicted for perjury? Horowitz can’t say; all his report actually notes is that he found no evidence of political bias, not that it didn’t exist.
Cruz also takes on the idea that the FBI didn’t spy on the campaign, which Cruz calls a distinction without a difference. They might not have sent spies into the campaign, but having sources tape conversations with campaign personnel is just as bad, especially in the bungling manner in which it was handled. “This wasn’t Jason Bourne,” Cruz concludes, “this was Beavis and Butthead.”