Much has been happening with IG Horowitz’s internal investigation of the “Russia” probe, as Christopher Steele reportedly sat for about 15 hours of testimony and some within the DOJ have recently come out of the woodwork to testify (or “clarify” previous testimony) as well. Horowitz doesn’t have subpoena power for those outside government, so Steele must have found testifying to be in his own best interest. He was already on record, in testimony given in a British court, saying that he didn’t know whether the information in his “dossier” was true or not, so if this new testimony is inconsistent with that, he could be charged with perjury in the U.K.
For some context to the IG’s look at Steele, The New York Times reports that by January of 2017, when Trump was sworn in, FBI agents had interviewed one of Steele’s main sources --- “a Russian speaker from a former Soviet republic” --- and came to doubt the reliability of his information, suspecting that he had “added his own interpretations.” (No kidding.) It appears the FBI was sort-of doing its job of verifying Steele’s sources, or at least going through the motions, but they were not able to.
Of course, by then they had long known Steele himself was not reliable, either. Yet when the FBI renewed the FISA warrant two more times to spy on Carter Page –- recall that Rod Rosenstein at the DOJ signed off on the last one –- they failed to inform the FISA court of this. The original application and each renewal had the word “VERIFIED” printed on the cover page in bold letters; this was untrue.
The IG report on FISA abuse at the FBI is, by some accounts, getting into the “final draft” stage, so the question becomes, what will we see? Jason Chaffetz writes for FOX News that there may be a transparency problem, as the report first goes to the Justice Department, where the FBI and other intel agencies will have input on which information to release and which to withhold. Even the IG himself has had trouble prying information out of these agencies, as their nature is to protect themselves from exposure or embarrassment.
Unfortunately, that kind of quiet, close-to-the-vest strategy seems to be FBI Director Christopher Wray’s default position. Don’t be surprised if he tries to keep information classified to protect the Bureau. He might be extremely resistant to making certain evidence public.
Recall that when IG Horowitz uncovered the Strzok-Page texts, it was after the FBI had said they were not retrievable. To his credit, Horowitz didn’t accept that and created a “work-around,” using special software from the Defense Department, to recover them himself. It seems to me that this lack of transparency on the part of the FBI should also be addressed in the report, or in a separate one.
Of course, in the end it will be Attorney General Bill Barr’s decision as to what we see and what remains classified, and I get the impression he’ll opt for transparency wherever possible. The President could make the final decision if he so chose, but he has given the authority to Barr and will likely stay out of it. Also, as Chaffetz points out, those who know they’re going to be implicated in the report may start leaking a sanitized version of events to get ahead of the story and protect their own reputations. Better to ignore that and wait for the whole thing.