The much anticipated and recently released report by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz seems to be paralleling the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. They both had elements Republicans and Democrats could seize upon.
In the Mueller Report, Republicans were able to refute the Democrats’ two-year baseless claims that President Trump, his family and members of his campaign had criminally colluded with Russian operatives in their efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election. Mueller emphatically stated that no American citizen participated in President Putin’s mischief. He totally exonerated Trump & Company.
Democrats were able to avoid a total political humiliation by claiming that Mueller had cited several examples of where Trump had obstructed the investigation – leading to their charge of “obstruction of justice.” Mueller had made no such claim or accusation. Rather Mueller pointed to several times where Trump may or may not be accused of obstruction. Mueller left the final determination to his bosses at the Justice Department. Attorney General William Barr – in consultation with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the attorneys in the Office of Professional Conduct – determined that the examples noted by Mueller did not rise to the level of obstruction of justice. Case closed – except for the partisan Democrats.
Inspector General Horowitz was commissioned to look into the launching of the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign’s colluding with Russia as a subtext of the larger investigation of Russian meddling in our elections generally. The issue was whether partisan political views or personal animus was the reason for the investigation of Trump – or was it justified based on initial facts. This was an important distinction since Mueller exonerated the Trump folks from working with the Russian government for political advantage.
As with Mueller, the Horowitz Report seems to have left both Republicans and Democrats cheering and jeering at the two elements of the Report. Horowitz said that he was UNABLE to find evidence that the launching of the investigation into Trump campaign involvement was predicated on political biases. That got the Democrats running to their friends in the press to claim the Republican accusations of misdeeds by intelligence officials were as bogus — as bogus as their own claims about Trump’s working with Russians.
On the other hand, Horowitz did cite some 17 egregious “errors” in acquiring search warrants and permission to tape phones from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court. This had the Republicans rendering a collective “aha” – arguing that the 17 screw-ups prove that certain intelligence officials were out to get Trump.
While Democrats viewed the errors as little more than clerical errors, Republicans saw the “mistakes” as something much more sinister. In one case, an FBI agent altered an email used in evidence to remove words that would have made it appear less damning to the Court. That agent has been recommended for criminal charges by Horowitz. Hardly a clerical error.
It is also disturbing that ALL the alleged random errors worked against the Trump campaign. Something that smacks of coordination and conspiracy more than benign accidents.
In terms of the Democrats taking a victory lap on the overall determination of no political bias – not so fast. When former FBI Director James Comey said he and others were totally exonerated, Horowitz said, not so.
Horowitz – as the IG for the Department of Justice – could only talk to folks working for the Department. He could not issue subpoenas. He could not compel testimony. That is why I highlight “UNABLE to find evidence” in a previous paragraph. The IG work was more of an inquiry than an investigation.
What Democrats need to worry about is the criminal investigation being carried out by the DOJ’s John Durham. He can look at the actions of anyone inside and outside the Department of Justice. He has the power to subpoena folks like former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, Former Intel chief James Clapper and other players, such as James McCabe, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.
It is always ill-advised to make predictions regarding the outcomes of major investigations – especially in these politically volatile times. But it does appear that Democrats are beginning to lose the upper hand they have enjoyed in the court-of-public-opinion for several years.
So, there ‘tis.