Live coverage: Justice IG testifies before House on report criticizing FBI

Live coverage: Justice IG testifies before House on report criticizing FBI
© Greg Nash

The Hill will be providing live coverage of a second day of testimony Tuesday by Justice Department (DOJ) Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

Hearing concludes after seven hours

5:10 p.m.

The hearing wrapped up seven hours after it began.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteHouse GOP probe into FBI, DOJ comes to an end Murkowski to reintroduce bill to help abused Native American women FBI hits GOP chairman over push to clear sensitive transcripts by Christmas Eve MORE (R-Va.) declared that his committee will continue to pursue the handling of the Clinton investigation until they are satisfied that the FBI has "cleaned house."

- Katie Bo Williams

 

GOP rep. asks IG to examine if FBI officials changed forms detailing investigative activity, interviews 

4:50 p.m.

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsOvernight Health Care: Trump vows to veto bills expanding abortion rights | Abortion foes march into divided Washington | Medicaid work requirements approved in Arizona Abortion foes march into divided Washington McCarthy, allies retaliate against Freedom Caucus leader MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, asked the inpector general to investigate the forms, known as 302s, that are used by the FBI to record investigative activity.

Although not exclusively, the forms tend to cover the results of interviews.

“There is growing evidence that 302s were edited and changed and it gets back to … those particular interview sessions and those 302s. It is suggested that they were either changed to prosecute or not prosecute individuals. And that is very troubling,” Meadows told Horowitz.

“We have been getting those kinds of referrals and as often happens when we issue reports like this, we get other information coming to us. We are intending to follow-up on that,” Horowitz replied.

When making this point, Meadows also highlighted one of his GOP colleague’s questions about why the FBI didn’t record their interviews with key witnesses — which Horowitz said was standard procedure. 

Reporter Sara Carter, a Fox News contributor, had first brought up altered 302s during her appearance with host Sean Hannity in January.

“There are indicators right now that [FBI Deputy Director Andrew] McCabe may have asked FBI agents to actually change their 302s. Those are interviews with witnesses. So basically, every time an FBI agent interviews a witness they have to go back and file that report,” Carter told Hannity, a vocal Trump supporter.

- Olivia Beavers

 

GOP rep. presses Horowitz on whether he shielded FBI, DOJ in report

4:36 p.m.

Rep. Mike JohnsonJames (Mike) Michael JohnsonHouse vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King House passes stopgap bill with B in funding for Trump's wall New chairman looks to improve RSC’s messaging in minority MORE (R-La.) questioned Horowitz on whether he might have felt it is his duty to shield the FBI and DOJ in the event that he did find evidence that political bias had impacted the bureau's investigative decisions.

“If your report had concluded that the evidence showed that improper considerations including political bias of FBI agents did directly affect certain investigative decisions, do you think that would’ve risked eroding the American people’s trust in our justice system and the people’s faith in our institutions?” Johnson asked.

“It could’ve had, I guess, even a greater impact. I think this has an impact, standing alone,” Horowitz replied.

“Would you agree that it stands to reason that a man in your position might be tempted to rationalize a report that political bias did not affect the Clinton investigation as somehow serving a greater good of not completely undermining the country’s faith in our FBI?” Johnson continued.

Horowitz, however, defended his report’s findings, saying he and his team used their best judgment to make the assessment, which concluded no direct influence on the investigation from bias on the team.

“I look at this evidence and my team looks at this evidence — based on our judgments, our best judgments on this. We don’t pull our punches because of concerns of how it would seem or appear,” the inspector general replied.

“I think anybody who tells me that having just completed an investigation where I called the former FBI director ‘insubordinate’ and issued a report about the deputy director lying under oath — I don’t think anyone can accuse us of pulling our punches on that,” Horowitz continued.

He noted that they produced a lengthy 500-page report so that the public could make their own judgments about their findings.

- Olivia Beavers

 

Dem claims during hearing Republicans are going to try to fire Rosenstein on Friday

1:16 p.m.

In a outburst during the hearing, Rep. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeEx-interpreter for US troops in Afghanistan released from ICE custody Former staffer accuses Jackson Lee of retaliation after rape claim Texas governor, top lawmakers tell Trump not to use hurricane relief funds to build border wall MORE (D-Texas) claimed Republicans are planning a Friday attempt to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinBarr’s first task as AG: Look at former FBI leaders’ conduct 5 myths about William Barr William Barr's only 'flaw' is that he was nominated by Trump MORE, the top Justice Department official overseeing the Mueller probe.

Jackson made the claim after interrupting GOP Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanMcCarthy, allies retaliate against Freedom Caucus leader Republicans request update on investigation into ex-FBI official accused of leaks GOP lawmakers rip Dems for calling Cohen to testify MORE's (Ohio) line of questioning with a “parliamentary inquiry” that asked whether their hearing was dealing with the inspector general's report or Republicans’ attempt to undermine Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's Russia probe.

“Is it not appropriate to raise the question as to what is the germaneness of the gentleman’s line of questioning and whether or not we are dealing with the report of Mr. Horowitz or we are dealing with the Republicans’ attempt to undermine the Mueller investigation. And as well, to fire Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, which they are planning to do on Friday,” she said.

Jordan had been asking Horowitz to examine why officials, who brought the controversial “Steele dossier" to the secretive surveillance court, did not disclose who had funded the memos at the time they were looking to obtain FISA warrants on Trump campaign aides. Republicans have charged that the "Steele dossier" initially prompted the Russia investigation, and that it proves fundamental bias because the information was partially funded by Democrats. 

Gowdy did not recognize her inquiry, and Jordan resumed his questioning.

- Olivia Beavers

 

Jordan: Why didn't we see 'We'll stop it' text sooner? 

12:13 p.m.
 
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), one of the FBI's fiercest critics, pushed Horowitz on why Congress did not see what he described as the "most explosive" text messages from FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page — an August 2016 missive where Strzok tells Page "we'll stop it" in response to concerns that Trump would become president. 
 
"If you uncovered it a month ago, why didn't we see it until last Thursday?" Jordan asked, referring to the day when the inspector general's report was made public. 
 
Horowitz told Jordan that his office only recovered the message in May, and, under questioning from Jordan, that it was then turned over to the office of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. 
 
Jordan claimed that Rosenstein "made a decision to wait a month" before allowing Congress to see the message — something he said has been a systemic problem. 
 
A small cadre of House Republicans have been wrangling with the Department of Justice for months as they seek records related to the bureau's ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. 
 
- Katie Bo Williams

 

Horowitz: Treatment of Clinton was not consistent with FBI policy and practice 

11:47 a.m. 

Horowitz said that former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonElise Stefanik seeks to tackle GOP’s women ‘crisis’ ahead of 2020 Russian pop star linked to Trump Tower meeting cancels US tour Graham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies MORE did not receive favorable treatment from the FBI, but said the FBI's treatment of her was not consistent with past policy practices. 
 
 
Horowitz was referring to former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyGraham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies Barr’s first task as AG: Look at former FBI leaders’ conduct Dems revive impeachment talk after latest Cohen bombshell MORE's decisions to decline to speak publicly in 2016 about investigations into Russian election interference and the Clinton Foundation. 

- Julia Manchester

 

 

Goodlatte pushes Horowitz on Obama White House interviews

11:22 a.m.
 
Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) pushed Horowitz on whether his office sought interviews with Obama White House officials, including the former president himself. 
 
Horowitz said he did not believe investigators had sought testimony from either former President Obama, former senior advisor Valerie Jarrett or former White House chief of staff Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughSenate Intel leaders ask judge not to jail former aide amid leak investigation Live coverage: Justice IG testifies before House on report criticizing FBI Ex-Obama chief of staff: Obama's Russia response was 'watered down' MORE
 
- Katie Bo Williams
 

Top Judiciary Dem questions why GOP continues to attack Clinton

11:10 a.m.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, blasted his Republican colleagues for their continuous attacks on Hillary Clinton.

“Why is it that, no matter how many times we litigate this question, House Republicans can think of nothing better to do than endlessly investigate Hillary Clinton for the same conduct?” Nadler asked in his opening remarks.

“Why is it that after the Department of Justice and the FBI concluded it should not charge Secretary Clinton with a crime, rather than accepting the conclusion as we would in most criminal cases, the Judiciary and Oversight majorities launched an investigation into the Department of Justice and the FBI?” he added.

Nadler suggested conservatives’ intense focus on Clinton has impacted their ability to govern.

“Why is it that, here and now, in June of 2018, we are still talking about Hillary Clinton’s emails at all? I suspect it has something to do with the way Republicans have squandered their opportunity to govern, and the consequences of abdicating that responsibility.”

- Olivia Beavers

 

Judiciary chair says Congress must cover what IG report does not: the Clinton decision

10:50 a.m.

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) says the public deserves to know what the report did not include, citing Horowitz's "refusal" to look at whether a given decision was the "most effective."

“It is critical for the public to also hear what was not included in the report due to the IG’s refusal to question ‘whether a particular decision by the BFI and DOJ was the most effective choice,’” Goodlatte read in his opening remarks.

This includes the “questionable interpretation” by DOJ and FBI officials of the law surrounding mishandling of classified information, Comey’s draft letter exonerating Clinton weeks before he had interviewed her, “indiscretions” involving FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page that were “not handled appropriately at the time FBI management learned of them,” as well as ties between top FBI officials and the Clintons. 

Horowitz in his report said the inspector general's office did not weigh in on a particular decision because “our role as an OIG is not to second-guess valid discretionary judgments made during the course of an investigation, and this approach is consistent with the OIG’s handling of such questions in past reviews.”

“The question we considered was not whether a particular investigative decision was the ideal choice or one that could have been handled more effectively, but whether the circumstances surrounding the decision indicated that it was based on considerations other than the merits of the investigation. If a choice made by the investigative team was among two or more reasonable alternatives, we did not find that it was improper even if we believed that an alternative decision would have been more effective,” the report says.

“Thus, a determination by the OIG that a decision was not unreasonable does not mean that the OIG has endorsed the decision or concluded that the decision was the most effective among the options considered."

- Olivia Beavers

 
 
Cummings slams family separations: 'We will not keep kids in child internment camps'
 
10:42 a.m. 
 
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) slammed the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy of separating families who illegally cross the U.S. border on Tuesday, saying the U.S. should not allow child internment camps. 
 
"Even if you believe people entered our country illegally. Even if you believe they have no valid asylum claims in their own country. Even if you believe immigration should be halted entirely, we all should be able to agree that in the United States of America we will not intentionally separate children from their parents. We will not do that. We are better than that. We are so much better," Cummings yelled during the hearing. 
 
"We should be able to agree we will not keep kids in child internment camps indefinitely and hidden away from public view. What country is that?" he continued yelling. 
 
"We do not need legislation. This is a policy. And understand this: This was a policy invented, implemented and executed by President Donald Trump." 
 
"And so in conclusion, Mr. Chairman, we need you. Those children need you. And I'm talking directly to my Republican colleagues. We need you to stand up to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump claims media 'smeared' students involved in encounter with Native American man Al Sharpton criticizes Trump’s ‘secret’ visit to MLK monument Gillibrand cites spirituality in 2020 fight against Trump’s ‘dark’ values MORE," Cummings said, appearing to choke up. 
 
"We need you to join us in telling him that we reject this mean policy. We need you to tell him to abandon this policy." 

- Julia Manchester 

 

Gowdy hammers FBI and DOJ in fiery opening remarks

10:17 a.m.

The House Oversight and Government Reform committee chairman launched into a fiery open statement condemning top officials at the FBI and DOJ for acting out of bias and animus.

“This inspector general’s report should conjure anger, disappointment and sadness in everyone who reads it. This IG report lays bare the bias, the animus, the pre-judging of facts by senior FBI agents and senior attorneys,” Gowdy said.

“And attempts to minimize and mitigate this bias are so antithetical to what we want and deserve in our law enforcement officers,” he continued.

Gowdy also hammered on the “dangerous shifting of the burden” where those affected by bias have to prove how that bias negatively affected them.

He added that the conduct of these officials clearly shows bias.

“These agents were calling her president before they were even interviewed. They were calling for the end of the Trump campaign before the investigation even began. They were calling for impeachment simply because he happened to be elected. That is bias.”

- Olivia Beavers

 

Protesters right off the bat 

10:07 a.m.
 
Just moments after House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyCongress must take the next steps on federal criminal justice reforms Lynch testimony marks final interview of GOP-led probe Comey defends FBI actions on Flynn in House interview MORE (R-S.C.) gaveled in the hearing, Judiciary Committee ranking member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) took the mic to speak out against President Trump's zero tolerance policy that has been heavily criticized for separating immigrant children from their families at the border. 
 
Republicans in the packed hearing room muttered and called "out of order!"
 
Then, as Gowdy silenced Nadler, a small group of protesters — several of whom were women holding squalling babies — stood to chant "families belong together!" 
 
The Capitol police escorted the protesters from the room and moments later, Gowdy launched into a fiery opening statement. 
 
- Katie Bo Williams
 
 
Justice IG about to begin House grilling

9:57 a.m.

Justice Department Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz is testifying Tuesday before House lawmakers on a critical report from his office that faulted the FBI for its actions during the 2016 presidential race.

His joint hearing before the House Judiciary and House Oversight and Government Reform committees comes just one day after senators grilled him for hours on his report’s findings, which were deeply critical of FBI and DOJ leadership.

The report released last week found former FBI Director James Comey deviated from department norms with his decisionmaking. It also criticized a senior counterintelligence agent for texts that revealed a bias against President Trump, but the report did not find evidence that political bias influenced the FBI's decisions in its investigation into then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server.

- Olivia Beavers