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Horowitz: 'We found no bias' in decision to open probe

Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz at Wednesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing affirmed that his probe found no bias behind the launching of the FBI's investigation into the 2016 presidential campaign. 

Under questioning from Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinHillicon Valley: Intelligence agency gathers US smartphone location data without warrants, memo says | Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian hack on DOJ, courts | Airbnb offers Biden administration help with vaccine distribution Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian cyberattack on Justice Department, Courts Schumer becomes new Senate majority leader MORE (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on Judiciary, Horowitz said the FBI's probe was launched with an adequate predicate, though he declined to specifically say it found no “deep state conspiracy” against Trump when prompted.

“The predicate here was the information that the FBI got at the end of July [2016] from the friendly foreign government that reflected a meeting that the friendly foreign government had with [Trump campaign aide George] Papadopoulos in May,” Horowitz told Feinstein when asked for details of the predicate.

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Asked by Feinstein which specific government was involved, Horowitz replied, “We don’t mention that in the report,” adding “that is, my understanding is, still classified … I’m only going to speak to what’s in our report.”

The foreign government that alerted the FBI is widely reported to be the Australian government. 

“Your report states you didn’t find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation played a role,” Feinstein said.

“That’s correct,” Horowitz responded.

“And you didn’t find a 'deep state' conspiracy against candidate or President TrumpDonald TrumpNYT: Rep. Perry played role in alleged Trump plan to oust acting AG Arizona GOP censures top state Republicans McCain, Flake and Ducey Biden and UK prime minister discuss NATO, multilateralism during call MORE,” Feinstein continued.

“We found no bias,” Horowitz said.

“And no rationale for a deep state?” Feinstein prompted.

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“We did not find any evidence of having engaged in any bias or having any bias,” Horowitz replied.

Asked by Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDemocrats seek answers on impact of Russian cyberattack on Justice Department, Courts Senate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee Democrats swear in three senators to gain majority MORE (D-Vt.) if the inspector general's office found "no evidence that the investigation was motivated by anti-Trump or political bias," Horowitz stressed that they found no evidence of political bias in the initial decision to open the probe.

"We found no evidence that the initiation of the investigation was motivated by political bias. It gets murkier — the question gets more challenging, senator — when you get to the FISA," Horowitz said, referring to the FBI being granted warrants from a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court to monitor Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser. 

"When you get to the attorney's actions, for example, in connection with that FISA," Horowitz added.

Horowitz appeared to be referring to Kevin Clinesmith, a front-line lawyer. Clinesmith, according to the report, altered an email related to the warrant renewal application.

The inspector general earlier this week released a report on FBI surveillance abuse during the 2016 presidential campaign. 

The report found the FBI's decision to open a probe into Trump campaign associates was not motivated by political bias. Still, the watchdog found “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the FBI's application to the secretive court created by FISA as part of its efforts to monitor Page.

Trump has ripped the report, saying at a Tuesday rally there was clearly spying on his campaign by the FBI.