Trump, GOP shift focus from alleged surveillance abuse to Durham Russia probe

Republicans are preparing to shrug off a forthcoming report on alleged surveillance abuse during the 2016 campaign and turn their focus to an ongoing investigation of the Russia probe. 

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday is expected to release the long-awaited results of Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign was improperly spied on during the previous presidential election. 

While Republicans have been careful to be respectful of Horowitz and hope he can answer their questions, they’re also warning that his authority is limited and he won’t be the final word. 


Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGraham vows Biden, Ukraine probe after impeachment trial GOP warns of 'drawn out' executive privilege battle over Bolton testimony  Senate Republicans confident they'll win fight on witnesses MORE (R-Wis.), the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he was reserving judgement until he could read Horowitz’s findings but that he’s “been expecting to be disappointed by the IG report.” 

“That’s no reflection on Michael Horowitz. He is very limited in what he can look at,” Johnson said. 

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham says he wants to see Bolton manuscript Bolton upends Trump impeachment trial  Juan Williams: Democrats can't let Trump off the hook MORE (R-S.C.), during an interview with Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityHannity to interview Trump during Super Bowl pregame show GOP cries boredom in attack on impeachment case Hannity: 'Lunatic' Schiff 'the worst liar in all of politics' MORE of Fox News, noted that Horowitz is “not a prosecutor” and that following up on his findings would rest with John DurhamJohn DurhamJim Comey's damaging legacy at the FBI must be undone Federal prosecutor looking into Brennan's role in Russian interference findings: report The Hill's Morning Report - Vulnerable Dems are backing Trump impeachment MORE, who is investigating the origins of the Russia probe, and Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrBolton told Barr he was concerned Trump did favors for autocrats: report DOJ says surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Page lacked evidence Senators press DHS over visa approval for Pensacola naval base shooter MORE.  

“You should look at this investigation [as] sort of a road map of where you might go criminally,” Graham said. “This is just the beginning.” 

Horowitz’s report is roughly 20 months in the making. He’s expected to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. 

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 [Office of the Inspector General] 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.

Republicans lauded the investigation, hoping it would back up their long-held suspicions that 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. 

But selective leaks of the report ahead of its release have raised questions about how damaging it will be, especially for leading Obama-era intelligence figures who have been top targets for the president and his allies. 

Horowitz’s report, according to The New York Times, will strongly criticize FBI officials for being careless in how they pursued wiretaps of Page during the investigation into Russia’s election interference in the 2016 election. The FBI obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant on Page in October of 2016 and renewed the wiretap three subsequent times.

The Times noted that the report is also expected to find that top agency leaders did not act with bias against President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren: Dershowitz presentation 'nonsensical,' 'could not follow it' Bolton told Barr he was concerned Trump did favors for autocrats: report Dershowitz: Bolton allegations would not constitute impeachable offense MORE as they undertook the investigation. Horowitz, according to The New York Times, also did not find evidence that the FBI tried to put informants in Trump’s campaign, undercutting a claim that the campaign was spied on. 

GOP lawmakers are warning that the report is being selectively leaked to try to diminish Horowitz’s findings before the entire document is released to the public. 

“It is reasonable to assume that most (if not all) of these sources are themselves subjects of the report, and that they are hoping to preemptively offer their own spin on what we are all about to read. So it’s wise to be avoid drawing sweeping conclusions about what is in it,” Sen. John CornynJohn CornynBolton sparks internal GOP fight over witnesses Trump legal team begins second day of arguments under Bolton furor Trump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president MORE (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, tweeted. 

After months of hype, GOP lawmakers, Trump and top conservative allies are now shifting their attention toward Durham’s investigation of the origins of the FBI’s investigation into the 2016 campaign and Moscow.

Trump, speaking to reporters in London, predicted that Horowitz’s report would include “a lot of devastating things,” but he also cast it as only a precursor to Durham. 

“I do think the big report to wait for is going to be the Durham report. That’s the one that people are really waiting for. And he’s highly respected. And we’re — and he’s worked very hard. And he’s worked long hours, I can tell you, and gone all over world. So we’ll see. But the Durham report is the report people are really looking forward to,” Trump said. 

He’s been backed up by GOP allies off and on Capitol Hill. 


Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsCollins expected to announce Georgia Senate bid Meadows: Republicans who break with Trump could face political repercussions GOP senator: Romney trying to 'appease the left' with impeachment witnesses MORE (R-Ga.), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, warned Fox Business Network that Horowitz “only had limited sort of jurisdiction for him to look into a certain area.” 

“Mr. Durham has unlimited when he can go to the grand jury and other things. So there's two separate things going on here. The American people need to keep their eyes on both,” he said.

Hannity, during his interview with Graham, predicted that Horowitz’s facts would be “devastating” but that “it will be up to Barr and Durham” to follow up. Graham replied, “100 percent.” 

The Washington Post reported that Barr is preparing to break with Horowitz over whether there was enough evidence to open up an investigation into the Trump campaign. 

Johnson, asked about the report from The Washington Post, argued that Barr wouldn’t be seen as undercutting Horowitz but would be just “saying something that’s pretty obvious.” 

“My guess is Attorney General Barr would be pretty respectful,” he said. “I think it would be wrong for an attorney general not to point out the fact, but he didn’t look at the whole picture. I’ve seen a larger bit of the picture because of what we’re doing with John Durham.”

Read more from The Hill: 

Five things to watch in Russia probe review