Watchdog: Steele dossier 'had no impact' on opening of 2016 probe

Watchdog: Steele dossier 'had no impact' on opening of 2016 probe
© Greg Nash

Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz said during a Wednesday hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the dossier prepared by former British spy Christopher Steele did not prompt the original DOJ investigation into members of the Trump campaign.

Horowitz appeared to discuss his report, released Monday, which found that 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 the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) as part of its efforts to monitor former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page

“Can we speak for a moment to the Steele dossier, the Steele file in this case? I believe you have a pretty definitive statement on what impact that had on the initiation of that investigation. What was your conclusion?” Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinOvernight Energy: EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Trump budget calls for slashing funds for climate science centers | House Dems urge banks not to fund drilling in Arctic refuge Democratic senators criticize plan that could expand Arctic oil and gas development Democratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe MORE (D-Ill.) asked.

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“In terms of the initiation of the investigation, it had no impact,” Horowitz responded. “It was not known to the team that opened the investigation at the time they opened it.”

“So you’ve concluded in several different ways that there’s no evidence of political influence for the opening of this Crossfire Hurricane investigation?” Durbin asked, with Horowitz responding in the affirmative.

The handling of the so-called Steele dossier of opposition research on President TrumpDonald John TrumpAdvisor: Sanders could beat Trump in Texas Bloomberg rips Sanders over Castro comments What coronavirus teaches us for preventing the next big bio threat MORE has been a leading point of criticism for Republicans concerned about the DOJ's probe.

Durbin also asked Horowitz about a bill sponsored by himself and Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeCongress set for clash over surveillance reforms The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' MORE (R-Utah) that would give the IG's office the authority to investigate DOJ attorneys, saying, “It seems to me to be obvious” that they should have that authority.

“Do you know what the theory is behind their being separate?” he asked Horowitz.

“This is a legacy of history. Back in 1988 when the IG was created at Justice, the compromise was that attorneys would be carved out, and we would have jurisdiction over everybody else,” Horowitz responded, noting that the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration were once similarly carved out before then-Attorney General John Ashcroft brought them under one umbrella in 2002.

“We’re the only IG that can’t review conduct of all the employees in our organization, including attorneys,” Horowitz said.