GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse

Republicans are eagerly awaiting the Justice Department’s report on alleged surveillance abuse of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.

The findings of the Department of Justice (DOJ) watchdog’s investigation — the release of which has been teased for months — is on the verge of being released, according to Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrJudge rejects DOJ effort to delay House lawsuit against Barr, Ross Holder rips into William Barr: 'He is unfit to lead the Justice Department' Five takeaways on Horowitz's testimony on Capitol Hill MORE and GOP senators tracking the issue.

Republicans, including some of Trump’s biggest allies, believe the findings will address their long-held suspicions of wrongdoing within the Obama administration and help fuel follow-up investigations on Capitol Hill.

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Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Jonson (R-Wis.) said he and Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley urges White House to help farmers in year-end tax talks The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday MORE (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Finance Committee and a member of the Judiciary Committee, are anticipating the report as they look for an opening to dig into Obama-era scandals.

“I would really like to see the inspector general’s report on the FISA applications. ... I’m going to have far better opportunities to interview witnesses once I have the information that those investigators have found out,” Johnson told WSAU, a Wisconsin radio station, on Thursday.

Johnson added that he and Grassley are “waiting anxiously to go over the hundreds of pages in that … because that will inform what our next step is going to be as well.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Graham invites Giuliani to testify about recent Ukraine trip MORE (R-S.C.) has predicted that DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s findings will be “stunning,” “damning” and show a “system being off the rails.”

He said after a recent conversation with Barr that he expects the report to be out in a “matter of weeks,” and that Horowitz and the attorney general wanted to declassify “as much as possible.” Graham is planning to call Horowitz to testify publicly once the report is public.

“I feel very good about it’s coming out. It’s being done right. They’re having the time they need,” he said this week. “Stay tuned.”

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The report of Horowitz’s findings is more than a year in the making.

The watchdog’s office announced in a March 2018 statement that it would “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,” the statement continued.

While the individual was not named in the announcement, the person is widely known to be Carter Page, the former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser who was investigated in connection with the FBI’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The investigation was lauded by Republicans, who have long alleged the FBI abused its surveillance powers in applying for a warrant to spy on Page, saying officials did not sufficiently disclose the Democratic link to the so-called Steele Dossier. The inspector general reportedly interviewed Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer behind the dossier, over the summer as part of the review.

Both the Justice Department and the inspector general’s office have been largely tightlipped about the investigation. But Horowitz sent a letter to lawmakers in mid-September saying that the review was complete.

Since then, the potential drop date for the report has slipped, raising concerns among some GOP lawmakers that the findings could be buried.

Grassley, in a tweet this week, said if the report wasn’t released next week that he would be “very disappointed & left to wonder WHAT THE GAME IS?? Is someone at FBI or DOJ tying IGs hands??”

In a subsequent follow-up tweet, he added that he wanted the “leakers in DOJ” to say if the report would come out, adding: “I’ve had enough of those disappointments. Tell ‘IF.’”

Asked by The Hill why he was worried about the report potentially not being released, Grassley pointed to the sliding release date and questioned if the agencies could be worried about the findings making them look bad. 

“Mostly what we’ve been told over the past six months — it was going to come out in June, it was going to come out Labor Day, it was going to come out the first week of October, it was going to come out the last of October. It was going to come out Nov. 20, now it’s coming out the first week of December, is what you’re hearing,” he said. 

Grassley, laying out why he was concerned about the report’s release, added that he had “suspicion about how agencies don’t like to have bad news get out about them.”

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“So the FBI’s got this silver lining reputation that everything is OK, so if there’s some bad news about the FBI they don’t want it out. ... That’s the gut feeling I have about a lot of departments and it could be a cover up,” he continued.

The report could also give Republicans an opening to try to swing focus away from the impeachment inquiry. Democrats have said they expect Graham to call Horowitz within the month, putting the hearing on an overlap with the House investigation.

The House is weeks into its investigation into whether Trump tied aid to Ukraine to the country opening up an investigation into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenNew York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Graham invites Giuliani to testify about recent Ukraine trip Booker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications MORE and his son Hunter Biden. The probe, which Trump has dismissed as a “witch hunt,” has produced a steady stream of headline-grabbing news and headaches for Republicans.

Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsGOP lawmakers jockey for positions as managers Impeachment obliterates tinges of comity in House Overnight Defense: Mattis downplays Afghanistan papers | 'We probably weren't that good at' nation building | Judiciary panel approves two impeachment articles | Stage set for House vote next week MORE (R-Ga.), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said during an interview with Fox Business Network that Democrats were trying to brush over the forthcoming report.

“They would like for you to forget that the FISA abuse under the corrupt cabal of [former FBI Director James] Comey and [former FBI agent Peter] Strzok and Page and [former FBI Deputy Director Andrew] McCabe — they wish those were far in — you know, way-in-the-past names,” Collins said.

“They’re not,” he added. “They're going to come back up very quickly in the Horowitz report.”