On February 27, 2018, Jeff Sessions held a press conference on the Opioid Crisis.
The Conservative Treehouse caught a notable response by AG Jeff Sessions to a question on FISA abuse:
We believe the Department of Justice must adhere to the highest standards in the FISA Court. And yes, it will be investigated. I think that’s just the appropriate thing. The Inspector General will take that as one of the matters he’ll deal with.
On March 28, 2018, the Office of the Inspector General released a second Initiation of Review – dealing specifically with FISA abuses:
— Justice OIG (@JusticeOIG) March 28, 2018
The obvious question immediately presents itself – what areas has the Inspector General been investigating for the last year and two months.
Has the Inspector General really been limiting his examination to only those issues involving the Clinton Email Investigation/Exoneration.
Are these areas of FISA abuse – along with the litany of other offenses – only now being explored.
The short answer is this.
The Inspector General already has all the information and evidence. It’s the manner of dissemination and disclosure that’s being revealed by the Inspector General’s announcement.
Sessions previously noted the appointment of Outside Prosecutors in a March 7, 2018 interview:
I have appointed a person outside of Washington, many years in the Department of Justice, to look at all the allegations that the House Judiciary Committee members sent to us – and we’re conducting that investigation.
A November 17, 2017 response letter from Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd previously highlighted this same appointment.
The Attorney General has directed senior federal prosecutors to evaluate certain issues raised in your letters.
These senior prosecutors will report directly to the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General.
We recently obtained tantalizing evidence of a grand jury empaneling. This was not the result of any Congressional investigation. If it exists – and the DOJ response would seem to indicate it does – the grand jury is resulting from Inspector General Horowitz’s Investigation.
Two letters from the Inspector General – in July and December 2017 – help us to understand the scope of his Investigation. See also, The Inspector General’s Encompassing Investigation.
The January 12, 2017 Initiation of Review from the Office of Inspector General laid out the initial framework of his pending Investigation:
DOJ OIG Announces Initiation of Review
Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz announced today that, in response to requests from numerous Chairmen and Ranking Members of Congressional oversight committees, various organizations, and members of the public, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) will initiate a review of allegations regarding certain actions by the Department of Justice (Department) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in advance of the 2016 election. Cognizant of the scope of the OIG’s jurisdiction under Section 8E of the Inspector General Act, the review will examine the following issues:
- Allegations that Department or FBI policies or procedures were not followed in connection with, or in actions leading up to or related to, the FBI Director’s public announcement on July 5, 2016, and the Director’s letters to Congress on October 28 and November 6, 2016, and that certain underlying investigative decisions were based on improper considerations;
- Allegations that the FBI Deputy Director should have been recused from participating in certain investigative matters;
- Allegations that the Department’s Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs improperly disclosed non-public information to the Clinton campaign and/or should have been recused from participating in certain matters;
- Allegations that Department and FBI employees improperly disclosed non-public information; and
- Allegations that decisions regarding the timing of the FBI’s release of certain Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents on October 30 and November 1, 2016, and the use of a Twitter account to publicize same, were influenced by improper considerations.
The review will not substitute the OIG’s judgment for the judgments made by the FBI or the Department regarding the substantive merits of investigative or prosecutive decisions. Finally, if circumstances warrant, the OIG will consider including other issues that may arise during the course of the review.
For a discussion of each bullet point and likely individuals see here.
This is the December 2, 2017 Clarification Statement made by the Inspector General:
The Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General released the following statement in response to inquiries today:
The January 2017 statement issued by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) announcing its review of allegations regarding various actions of the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in advance of the 2016 election stated that the OIG review would, among other things, consider whether certain underlying investigative decisions were based on improper considerations and that we also would include issues that might arise during the course of the review. The OIG has been reviewing allegations involving communications between certain individuals, and will report its findings regarding those allegations promptly upon completion of the review of them.
This statement was prompted by breaking news on FBI Agent Peter Strzok. See, The Inspector General’s Quiet Investigation.
Note the shift in language. The Inspector General has already included “other issues” in his Investigation.
This investigative shift occurred in July 2017.
On July 14, 2017, Inspector General Michael Horowitz sent a letter in response to an earlier request from several Democratic Senators regarding ongoing investigations and the recusal of AG Jeff Sessions.
The Inspector General’s letter contained only three short paragraphs. Only two sentences were actually important:
As you know, in January 2017, the Office of Inspector General initiated a review of allegations regarding various actions by the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in advance of the 2016 election…We are continuing to assess what, if any, additional review would be appropriate for the OIG to undertake and will update you as appropriate.
The Inspector General was suddenly responding to a letter the Democrat Senators had sent him more than four months earlier – on March 3, 2017.
The reason for the strange timing of the Inspector General’s letter was simple. It was at this point – July 14, 2017 – the Inspector General’s Investigation shifted and expanded.
July 14, 2017, was exactly the same time when the Inspector General’s Investigation discovered FBI Agent Peter Strzok’s texts.
We know this because of a timeline IG Horowitz would later detail in a December 13, 2017 response to a letter from Senators Johnson and Grassley. Grassley and Johnson were specifically asking for more information regarding the timeline, and means of discovery, of texts sent by demoted FBI Agent Strzok.
Thank you for your letter of December 6, 2017, requesting information regarding the Office of the Inspector General’s discovery of certain electronic text messages in connection with its review of the actions of the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in advance of the 2015 presidential election. Our responses to the questions presented in your letter are set forth below.
1. When and how did OIG become aware of the text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page?
In gathering evidence for the OIG’s ongoing 2016 election review, we requested, consistent with standard practice, that the FBI produce text messages from the FBI-issued phones of certain FBI employees involved in the Clinton e-mail investigation based on search terms we provided. After finding a number of politically-oriented text messages between Page and Strzok, the OIG sought from the FBI all text messages between Strzok and Page from their FBI-issued phones through November 30, 2016, which covered the entire period of the Clinton e-mail server investigation. The FBI produced these text messages on July 20, 2017. Following our review of those text messages, the OIG expanded our request to the FBI to include all text messages between Strzok and Page from November 30, 2016, through the date of the document request, which was July 28, 2017. The OIG received these additional messages on August 10, 2017.
“The OIG expanded our request to the FBI…”
The FBI produced the Strzok text messages on July 20, 2017. Horowitz’s discovery and subsequent request for the texts obviously occurred earlier.
Although the Inspector General’s letter to Senator Grassley does not note exactly when the texts were first discovered, we can now be reasonably confident the discovery was made on or before July 14, 2017 – the date of IG Horowitz’s letter to the Democrat Senators.
From the closing section of IG Horowitz’s letter:
4. In connection with the OIG’s review of the actions of DOJ and the FBI in advance of the 2016 presidential election, has the OIG received any similar allegations involving other government officials?
The OIG’s review is ongoing, and we currently are in the process of completing our witness interviews and document review. Thereafter, we intend to issue a public report with our findings on these and the other issues we are reviewing, and we would be pleased to discuss them with you at that time.
“We intend to issue a public report with our findings on these and the other issues we are reviewing…”
The Inspector General cc: the same senior Democrat Senator to which he wrote that July 14, 2017 letter.
Prior to the discovery of Strzok’s texts, the Inspector General had been looking only up to November 30, 2016. On July 14, 2017 that changed. He was now looking at everything.
There are other pieces of evidence as well.
According to several U.S. officials, McCabe’s government communications were collected as part of the ongoing DOJ Inspector General investigation.
The House Memo contained quotes and information from FBI Counterintelligence Head Bill Priestap and former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr – see items #3 & 4. Although both men remain on Devin Nunes’ interview list, neither Nunes or anyone from the House Intelligence Committee has yet to interview either man.
Priestap and Ohr – both of whom are almost certainly cooperating at this point – must have been interviewed by the Inspector General. Additionally, it is likely that IG Horowitz was the individual who unearthed the FBI’s many interviews of Ohr.
Note: The House Memo’s primary intent was to detail FISA Abuses.
The Inspector General said it plainly on January 12, 2017:
If circumstances warrant, the OIG will consider including other issues that may arise during the course of the review.
He hinted at his decision in his July 14, 2017 letter:
We are continuing to assess what, if any, additional review would be appropriate for the OIG to undertake.
IG Horowitz was more direct in his December 2, 2017 clarification statement:
The OIG review would, among other things, consider whether certain underlying investigative decisions were based on improper considerations and that we also would include issues that might arise during the course of the review.
The Inspector General noted his decision in his December 13, 2017 letter:
We intend to issue a public report with our findings on these and the other issues we are reviewing.
The upshot is this.
The Inspector General already has all the evidence in his possession. His investigation formally expanded on July 14, 2017.
500 employees. A $100 million budget. 1.2 million documents in the Inspector General’s possession.
The Investigative Phase is mostly completed. Now comes the dissemination.
Consider a simple fact. The vast majority of Americans have little or no idea the true scale of what’s transpired. Some are beginning to get a sense but only recently so.
Details being discussed today were widely ridiculed six months ago.
We’ve maintained for some time that this information needed to be rolled out in a systematic fashion – and done so with a preamble – to prepare the American people for what’s coming.
It makes perfect sense the Inspector General would choose to do the same with his Reports – each one climbing higher on the political food-chain.
The Conservative Treehouse lays out the segmentation in phases:
- First, exonerate candidate Hillary Clinton. [email investigation]
- Second, conduct surveillance on candidate Trump. [FISA application]
- Third, the insurance policy. [fabricated Russia Collusion investigation]
This is an appropriate and helpful way to view the IG’s Investigation:
- Phase I – The Clinton Email Investigation.
- Phase II – Carter Page FISA Application.
- Phase III – Russia-Trump Investigation.
There will be overlap, but each Phase moves higher up the political echelon. Phase III included the broader Intelligence Community and may require Congressional Investigation.
Here we have the new announcement by the Inspector General:
DOJ OIG Announces Initiation of Review
Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz announced today that, in response to requests from the Attorney General and Members of Congress, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) will initiate a review that will examine the Justice Department’s and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) compliance with legal requirements, and with applicable DOJ and FBI policies and procedures, in applications filed with the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) relating to a certain U.S. person.
As part of this examination, the OIG also will review information that was known to the DOJ and the FBI at the time the applications were filed from or about an alleged FBI confidential source.
Additionally, the OIG will review the DOJ’s and FBI’s relationship and communications with the alleged source as they relate to the FISC applications.
If circumstances warrant, the OIG will consider including other issues that may arise during the course of the review.
The announcement’s focus is squarely on Phase II – Trump Surveillance/FISA Applications. There are three parts to the Initiation of Review.
Part One will illustrate the FBI’s & DOJ’s compliance – or lack thereof – with legal and policy matters relating to the FISA Application on Carter Page. In essence, did the FBI & DOJ break any laws or violate departmental policy in their FISA Application filing. Was there even a legal basis to request Title I Surveillance on Page.
Part Two will reveal exactly what was known about Christopher Steele – his sources, contacts with media, corroboration of his material, etc. – at the time the FISA Application was made. Was all relevant information concerning Steele and the makeup of his Dossier – and his viability as an FBI Source – made known to the FISA Court. Did the FBI & DOJ withhold and/or manufacture information.
Part Three will highlight the relationship between Steele and the FBI & DOJ. This phase will illustrate how information flowed between Steele, his sources – including the DNC & Clinton Campaign – Fusion GPS and the FBI & DOJ. Also included will be former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie Ohr.
Grassley’s letter to AG Sessions explains why.
Included in Grassley’s Special Counsel request were two attachments:
Attachment 1 – Grassley’s request for a “comprehensive review of potential improper political influence, misconduct, or mismanagement in the conduct of the counterintelligence and criminal investigation” into Russia and Trump. – sent to Inspector General Horowitz on February 28, 2018.
Attachment 2 – A 3rd – and less redacted – version of the Senate Grassley Memo.
Here are the entirety of the three documents strung together:
From Grassley’s letter to AG Sessions:
1) The attached request to the Inspector General asked that he investigate issues surrounding the application and renewals of the FISA warrant.
It also requested that he review potential improprieties in the FBI’s relationship with Christopher Steele, the potential conflicts of interest posed by the involvement of high-ranking DOJ official Bruce Ohr in serving as the cut-out between the FBI and Mr. Steele after the FBI terminated its formal relationship with him, apparent unauthorized disclosures of classified information to the press, the FBI and DOJ’s handling of the investigation of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and other matters.
Grassley’s letter to Sessions delineates the focus noted in the Inspector General’s new Initiation of Review.
Grassley’s February 28, 2018 letter to the Inspector General proves more interesting – and provides a sense of where this investigation will proceed:
Over the past year, the Department of Justice has made a number of documents relating to these issues available for review by the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and its Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism.
These documents have raised several serious questions about the propriety of the FBI’s relationship with former British Intelligence agent Christopher Steele, including its use of allegations compiled by Mr. Steele for Fusion GPS and funded by Perkins Coie on behalf of the Democrat National Committee and the Clinton campaign.
These documents also raise questions about the role of Bruce Ohr, a senior Justice Department official whose wife worked for Fusion GPS, in continuing to pass allegations from Steele and Fusion GPS to the FBI after the FBI had terminated Mr. Steele as a source.
Grassley identifies six documents being sent to IG Horowitz as classified attachments to Grassley’s letter:
1. An October 2016 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) application relying significantly on Mr. Steele’s allegations and credibility to seek surveillance of Carter Page;
2. Three renewal FISA applications – dated January, April, and June of 2017 – similarly relying on Mr. Steele’s allegations and credibility to seek approval to surveil Mr. Page;
3. A Human Source Validation Report relating to Mr. Steele;
4. Numerous FD-302s demonstrating that Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr continued to pass along allegations from Mr. Steele to the FBI after the FBI suspended its formal relationship with Mr. Steele for unauthorized contact with the media, and demonstrating that Mr. Ohr otherwise funneled allegations from Fusion GPS and Mr. Steele to the FBI;
5. Spreadsheets summarizing the details of interactions between Mr. Steele and the FBI, including the dates of contacts, the subject-matter of those contacts, and information relating to whether and when any payments may have been made;
6. Form 1023s and other documents memorializing contacts between the FBI and Mr. Steele.
Form 302s are used to report or summarize FBI interviews. Form 1023s are used to document meetings between FBI officials and FBI confidential human sources.
Additional relevant documents to which the Committee was provided access to review cannot be identified in this unclassified letter. Thus, those documents are detailed more fully in the attached classified memorandum.
Point number 4 regarding Bruce Ohr is particularly interesting. He was extensively interviewed by the FBI – indicating significant ongoing contact with Steele:
4. Numerous FD-302s demonstrating that Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr continued to pass along allegations from Mr. Steele to the FBI after the FBI suspended its formal relationship with Mr. Steele for unauthorized contact with the media, and demonstrating that Mr. Ohr otherwise funneled allegations from Fusion GPS and Mr. Steele to the FBI.
Here are Ohr’s form 302 dates along with actual interview dates from footnotes contained in Grassley’s letter:
- Ohr FD-302 12/19/16 (interview date 11/22/16)
- Ohr FD-302 12/19/16 (interview date 12/5/16)
- Ohr FD-302 12/19/16 (interview date 12/12/16)
- Ohr FD-302 12/27/16 (interview date 12/20/16)
- Ohr FD-302 1/27/17 (interview date 1/27/17)
- Ohr FD-302 1/31/17 ( interview date 1/23/17)
- Ohr FD-302 1/27/17 (interview date 1/25/17)
- Ohr FD-302 2/8/17 (interview date 2/6/ 17)
- Ohr FD-302 2/15/17 (interview date 2/14/17)
- Ohr FD-302 5/10/17 (interview date 5/8/17)
- Ohr FD-302 5/12/17 (interview date 5/ 12/17)
- Ohr FD-302 5/16/17 (interview date 5/15/17)
Note the difference between actual interview date and 302 date.
In only one instance were they done on the same day. In the first interview nearly one month passed before the meeting was documented. Two other 302s were belatedly filled out on this same day.
Related events immediately leading up to the 12/19/16 date of first three Ohr 302s:
December 9 2016 – The CIA tells Congress that Russia conducted hacking operations to prevent Hillary Clinton from winning presidency.
December 9 2016 – McCain provides a copy of Russian “Dossier” to FBI director James Comey.
December 9 2016 – The FBI compiles a classified two-page summary and attaches it to intel briefing note on Russian cyber-interference in election for President Obama.
December 9 2016 – Obama orders a full review of Russian-election hacking.
December 14 2016 – Citing unnamed intelligence officials (likely Strzok or Page), Washington Post reports on “Russian election hacking”.
December 15 2016 – James Clapper signs off on Executive Order changes impacting NSA Data-Sharing – Section 2.3 of Executive Order 12333 – Procedures for the Availability or Dissemination of Raw Signals Intelligence Information by the NSA.
December 16 2016 – Hillary Clinton directly blames Russia for election loss while speaking to donors in New York. She also blames FBI Director Comey for re-opening email investigation.
It was previously known that Bruce Ohr had multiple contacts with Steele in 2016.
Not known was this contact continued into 2017 – potentially well into May.
Lastly, Grassley poses a series of 31 questions for Inspector General Horowitz to pursue. All are relevant. I will highlight questions I found particularly intriguing – some are portions of a larger question:
Question 3) What connections are there between Mr. Steele and the Russian government or Russian intelligence community? Has Mr. Steele ever been paid directly or indirectly by the Russian government, Russian intelligence community, or other Russian sources?
Questions 26 & 27 are similar in nature. Was Steele paid by – or otherwise under the influence of – any Russian source.
Question 8) Did the FISA order allow the FBI to obtain emails Page sent prior to the order, during the time he was affiliated with the Trump campaign? If so, were any Obama political appointees able to read internal Trump campaign emails before the election? During the transition period? If so, who, when, and for what purpose?
Was the FISA warrant retroactive. Did the Obama Administration view Trump Campaign information before the election.
Question 13) How many people at the FBI and the Department of Justice reviewed and approved the Page FISA warrant and renewal applications? Did anyone ever raise any concerns with its accuracy or sufficiency?
Who at the FBI and DOJ were directly involved.
Question 14) Did anyone express any concerns about the propriety of presenting unverified, uncorroborated claims from the Steele dossier as the basis for a FISA warrant on an American citizen?
If so, how were these concerns addressed.
Question 15) Which specific dossier claims presented in the FISA application, if any, had the FBI independently verified at the time they were first presented to the court? Which claims, if any, had been verified by the time each of the renewal applications was filed?
Probably rhetorical. All evidence says the Dossier was virtually unverified.
Question 17) What Mr. Comey disclosed in a private briefing to the Chairman and Ranking Member Feinstein about the timeline of the FBI’s interactions with Mr. Steele appeared inconsistent with information contained in FISA applications the Chairman and Ranking Member later reviewed.
What is the reason for the difference between what Mr. Comey told the Chairman and Ranking Member in March 2017, and what appears in the FISA application? Did Director Comey intentionally mislead the Committee?
The answer to this question may prove important. Comey lied or the FISA Application was falsified.
Question 18) Was Peter Strzok aware of Steele’s claims when he opened the so-called Trump/Russia counterintelligence investigation? Did Mr. Steele’s claims play any role in the decision to open this investigation, despite the stated basis of foreign intelligence regarding George Papadopoulos?
I’ve always suspected the Dossier played a role. The Papadopoulos excuse is extraordinarily weak.
Question 19) To what extent did Mr. Steele’s information form any part of the basis for the FBI to expand its investigation from Mr. Papadopoulos to Mr. Page, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and Mr. Manafort?
Another important question. Was the Dossier the source of all surveillance and investigative activities. When did surveillance of Manafort first begin.
Question 21) Was anyone in the Justice Department, including senior leadership, aware that Mr. Ohr continued to pass information from Steele and Fusion GPS to the FBI even after Steele was suspended, and terminated, as a source?
This. Based on 302 and FBI interview dates, Ohr may have had ongoing contact with Steele through mid-May 2017.
Question 26) Who at the Department of Justice or the FBI was aware that Fusion was the subject of a Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) complaint alleging that it failed to register as a foreign agent for its work on behalf the Katsyv family to undermine Magnitsky Act sanctions against Russia?
I’ve long questioned this. Browder’s Senate Testimony provided evidence of Fusion’s financial ties to Russia. See, Fusion GPS, the Trump Dossier, Russian Money & the Magnitsky Act and The Ongoing Fusion GPS Revelations
Question 27) Was anyone involved in the decision to use Steele’s dossier information in the FISA application aware that Steele’s client, Fusion GPS, was accused of being an unregistered foreign agent for Russian interests at the time?
Same as Question 26. This is potentially important. If the FBI and/or DOJ knew Fusion was subject to FARA, they had an obligation to notify the FISA Court.
Question 29) Did anyone from the FBI or the Department of Justice leak to the media the fact that officials briefed the President-Elect about the contents of the dossier?
The media had widely dismissed the Dossier as unsubstantiated and unreportable. It was only after learning that Comey briefed President-Elect Trump that CNN reported on the Dossier. James Clapper is a possible source for this leak.
Question 30) Who leaked to the press the presumably classified contents of the publicly reported call between the Russian ambassador and Michael Flynn?
This was a material felony leak of classified information. The ramifications of this particular leak were far-reaching.
Question 31) Was the [General Flynn] interview conducted by the FBI agents on January 24, 2017 part of a criminal investigation or a counterintelligence investigation? Did the FBI agents who interviewed Lt. Gen. Flynn believe that he lied to them or intentionally misled them? Did the FBI agents document their interview with Lt. Gen. Flynn in one or more FD-302s? What were the FBI agents’ conclusions about Lt. Gen. Flynn’s truthfulness, as reflected in the FD-302s? Were the FD-302s ever edited? If so, by whom? At who’s direction? How many drafts were there? Are there material differences between the final draft and the initial draft(s) or the agent’s testimony about the interview?
Another important question. There have been unverified reports that McCabe ordered the alteration of the Flynn-related 302s.
Additionally, Comey told Congressional investigators that FBI Agents who conducted the Flynn Interview did not believe Flynn had actually lied.
My guess is General Flynn will withdraw his guilty plea. Ultimately, charges may be dropped.
If so, it will be the result of what Inspector General Horowitz has discovered – and General Flynn represents just one piece of a much larger puzzle.
The Inspector General has an immense amount of information to cover and disseminate.
The various Phases of his Investigation will incrementally reveal what is shaping up to be the biggest political scandal in history.
A Phased, segmented approach may be the appropriate way to bring his discoveries to public light.