So much for vindication! Lindsey Graham complimented Michael Horowitz and his team to start off the Senate Judiciary hearing into Operation Crossfire Hurricane. “You were able to uncover and discover abuse of power I never believed would actually exist in 2019,” Graham declared about the Horowitz report. “It was as if J. Edgar Hoover came back to life,” Graham added, noting that this is … not a compliment:
Graham says the FBI's Russia probe was "as if J. Edgar Hoover came back to life"
— CBS News (@CBSNews) December 11, 2019
Horowitz showed up to testify about his findings today, but the Inspector General is generally a cautious and meticulous man. Like Robert Mueller, we probably can’t expect Horowitz to depart in any meaningful manner from his report, which means we’ll get few juicy quotes out of his testimony. His opening statement, published in non-PDF form by Politico, essentially restates the report’s executive summary without adding a jot or tittle.
Any fireworks from this hearing will come from the committee members, especially Graham. The Senate Judiciary chair came out breathing fire, but that may be because he needs to reestablish his credentials with Trump supporters after operating out of an abundance of caution on impeachment until now. Graham has demurred from opening his own hearings to compete with the Adam Schiff circus next door, a decision that now appears wise after the complete lack of traction Schiff gained with voters over his histrionics. With the Horowitz report now out, Graham has lots of room to riff off of it rather than deal with witnesses who might provide unpleasant surprises.
The Hoover reference might be a little over the top, but Graham at least has company in the argument that Horowitz’ report is no vindication of the FBI. Ad not just on the right, either, unless Matt Taibbi and Rolling Stone have switched sides:
The Guardian headline reads: “DOJ Internal watchdog report clears FBI of illegal surveillance of Trump adviser.”
If the report released Monday by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz constitutes a “clearing” of the FBI, never clear me of anything. Holy God, what a clown show the Trump-Russia investigation was.
Read it all, as Taibbi has a detailed and devastating riposte to three years of Russia-collusion “nonsense” and the Steele dossier in particular. Taibbi concludes that not only is the Horowitz report a massive indictment of the FBI, the US national media at least qualifies as an unindicted co-conspirator as well:
The impact was greater than just securing a warrant to monitor Page. More significant were the years of headlines that grew out of this process, beginning with the leaking of the meeting with Trump about Steele’s blackmail allegations, the insertion of Steele’s conclusions in the Intelligence Assessment about Russian interference, and the leak of news about the approval of the Page FISA warrant.
As a result, a “well-developed conspiracy” theory based on a report that Comey described as “salacious and unverified material that a responsible journalist wouldn’t report without corroborating,” became the driving news story in a superpower nation for two years. Even the New York Times, which published a lot of these stories, is in the wake of the Horowitz report noting Steele’s role in “unleashing a flood of speculation in the news media about the new president’s relationship with Russia.”
No matter what people think the political meaning of the Horowitz report might be, reporters who read it will know: Anybody who touched this nonsense in print should be embarrassed.
Jonathan Turley has another count to add to the media indictment — fraud in how it reported on the Horowitz report:
Horowitz finds a litany of false and even falsified representations used to continue the secret investigation targeting the Trump campaign and its associates.
This is akin to reviewing the Titanic and saying that the captain was not unreasonable in starting the voyage. The question is what occurred when the icebergs began appearing. Horowitz says that investigative icebergs appeared rather early on, and the Justice Department not only failed to report that to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court but removed evidence that its investigation was on a collision course with the facts. …
Despite this shockingly damning report, much of the media is reporting only that Horowitz did not find it unreasonable to start the investigation, and ignoring a litany of false representations and falsifications of evidence to keep the secret investigation going. Nothing was found to support any of those allegations, and special counsel Robert Mueller also confirmed there was no support for collusion and conspiracy allegations repeated continuously for two years by many experts and members of Congress.
In other words, when the Titanic set sail, there was no reason for it not to. Then there was that fateful iceberg. Like the crew of the Titanic, the FBI knew investigative icebergs floated around its Russia investigation, but not only did it not reduce speed, it actively suppressed the countervailing reports. Despite the many conflicts to its FISA application and renewals, the FBI leadership, including McCabe, plowed ahead into the darkness.
Contra James Comey, this is no vindication — at least not of the FBI and Comey. It might be a vindication of Donald Trump’s decision to fire Comey.
Update: When asked about Comey’s claim of vindication, Michael Horowitz had a very different take on his report than the former FBI director did:
"Former FBI Director James Comey said this week that your report vindicates him. Is that a fair assessment?" Sen. Lindsey Graham asks.
— ABC News (@ABC) December 11, 2019
Update: The sound you now hear is a million ledes from the last two days being rewritten:
This is noteworthy. Horowitz is NOT saying he has ruled out political bias in the FBI's 17 Carter Page FISA errors. Q: "Can you say it wasn’t because of political bias?" A: "I do not know."
— Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) December 11, 2019
This is a point that got a lot of attention when Robert Mueller said he found “no evidence” of collusion, but got lost when Horowitz used the same construct in his report. In the former, Democrats were quick to claim that Mueller hadn’t vindicated Trump, but equally quick to claim that Horowitz had vindicated the FBI. But in both cases, “no evidence” means absence, not conclusory proof.
To be fair, Republicans have argued it both ways in both instances too, but Mueller’s scope was much broader than Horowitz’ was.