DOJ watchdog expected to say FBI erred, but absolve top leaders of anti-Trump bias: report

A Justice Department watchdog is expected to strongly criticize FBI officials for being careless in their pursuit of obtaining wiretaps on a former Trump campaign aide during the start of the Russia probe, but not find they were acting with a bias toward President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Anita Hill to Iowa crowd: 'Statute of limitations' for Biden apology is 'up' Sen. Van Hollen releases documents from GAO investigation MORE, The New York Times reported Friday afternoon.

But the highly anticipated report from the Department of Justice inspector general (IG) is also expected to say top agency leaders did not act with a bias toward against President Trump in terms of how they undertook the probe.

In particular, the DOJ IG, Michael Horowitz, faulted Kevin Clinesmith, a lower-level lawyer, for altering an email that bureau officials then incorporated in their effort to renew a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant on Carter Page. 


The DOJ watchdog has referred his findings about Clinesmith, who resigned two months ago, to prosecutors for a potential criminal charge, the Times reported.

Horowitz also reportedly found omissions and errors in documents seeking the wiretap for Page, who had served previously on the Trump campaign and was suspected of working as an unregistered foreign agent in 2016.

And while the Times reports that Horowitz will sharply rebuke the top brass at the FBI over their handling of the counterintelligence probe — which was examining whether members of the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia— his investigation did not find that anti-Trump bias among senior leaders like former FBI director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyNYT: Justice investigating alleged Comey leak of years-old classified info Bernie-Hillary echoes seen in Biden-Sanders primary fight Rosenstein on his time in Trump administration: 'We got all the big issues right' MORE, deputy director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeMcCabe accuses Trump officials of withholding evidence in lawsuit over firing McCabe: Being accused of treason by Trump 'quite honestly terrifying' Horowitz report is damning for the FBI and unsettling for the rest of us MORE, and former counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok influenced the investigation.

While the report, set to be publicly released Dec. 9, appears to confirm long-held GOP allegations that officials did not follow the proper protocols in obtaining the Page FISA warrant, the report also disputes their allegations that individuals like Comey, McCabe and Strzok acted on biases towards the president.

Horowitz's report also debunks claims that the so-called Steele dossier compiled by the former British spy Christopher Steele was used by officials to launch the investigation, as well as allegations that some of the information came from the CIA officials.


Democrats and Republicans are likely to seize on different parts of the report, particularly at a time when House Democrats' impeachment inquiry is looming over the Trump administration. 

The FBI obtained a FISA warrant on Page in October of 2016 and renewed the wiretap three subsequent times.

And during one of those renewal processes, Clinesmith is said to have altered an email from an official working at another federal agency by adding his own personal assertion to a message laying out several factual assertions, allowing his view point to appear as if was the author of the email rather than his own, the Times reports.

This manipulated email was then added into a group of documents Clinesmith compiled for another FBI official to read ahead of them signing an affidavit that is given to the surveillance court, which attests under the penalty of perjury that the information in the wiretap application is both "true and correct." 

Clinesmith, who worked on both the investigation into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Hill.TV's Saagar Enjeti defends Tulsi Gabbard's lawsuit against Hillary Clinton Trump to hold rally on eve of New Hampshire primary MORE's email server and the Russia probe, was removed from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE's team after Horowitz discovered text messages sent from officials that disparaged Trump.

Horowitz's referral has reportedly been sent to Connecticut U.S. Attorney 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 was assigned by Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham Barr DOJ says surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Page lacked evidence Senators press DHS over visa approval for Pensacola naval base shooter Democrats sharpen case on second day of arguments MORE to probe the origins of the Russia investigation. The referral suggests that Durham's inquiry could turn into a criminal investigation.