In a blow to the GOP and to some who had been expecting a much harsher report on the FBI investigation into then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016, the greatly anticipated Horowitz Report by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz (shown above center) found “no documentary or testimonial evidence” that the FBI showed political bias in its investigation, as many media outlets are reporting.
But — hang on.
U.S. Attorney John Durham begs to differ.
Horowitz “identified at least 17 significant errors or omissions in the Carter Page FISA applications and many errors in the Woods Procedures,” which guide the FBI’s FISA process, as the 476-page report notes. Horowitz’s findings provide the president and his allies “fodder in their criticism of FBI and DOJ officials who investigated him,” the Washington Examiner pointed out, “while Democrats, who have defended the FBI’s actions, are engaged in an impeachment effort examining whether the president abused his office.”
The Horowitz Report generally exonerates then-FBI Director James Comey and former Assistant Director Andrew McCabe — and blames “clerical errors” for any mistakes made by the FBI.
It also reports that the FBI had a legitimate reason for investigating the Trump campaign, though no official of that campaign has ever been charged with any offense directly related to collusion with the Russian government.
The report also dismissed charges that the FISA court approval for the surveillance of Trump campaign aide Carter Page was unwarranted, even though the data that led to it was from the completely discredited Steele dossier.
The so-called Steele dossier was paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign for president and the Democratic National Committee.
Those facts on the basis of the probe would seem to conclude bias on the part of the FBI.
But in politics, facts matter much less than political perception.
But in a late-breaking twist that may put some step back into the GOP stride, in an unprecedented action Durham publicly criticized the conclusions of the Horowitz Report.
Attorney General Bill Barr also spoke out strongly and said he disagrees with the Horowitz findings.
See this tweet just below:
Bill Barr is deeply unhappy with the IG report, obviously. Wow. pic.twitter.com/3ArKaGBWwL
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) December 9, 2019
Dems will quickly use the Horowitz Report as another cudgel to beat the president on impeachment and as a general message.
They will claim that since this is a report directly out of the Trump Department of Justice, Trump and the GOP cannot claim it is biased against the president.
Horowitz’s report will resurrect the Democrat line on Russian collusion, regardless of the final report issued by then-special prosecutor Robert Mueller.
Check out these tweets.
Horowitz: Steele dossier played 'a central and essential' role in FBI decision to seek order to wiretap Carter Page. pic.twitter.com/yc2tdi2ZLC
— Byron York (@ByronYork) December 9, 2019
Inspector General Michael Horowitz finds FBI probe into Trump campaign was justified, but not perfect https://t.co/v7HU22xGjG
— TIME (@TIME) December 9, 2019
The bright spot for the GOP, aside from the just reported comments above, is that this is in some respects yesterday’s news.
It will have little effect on Senate numbers for acquittal or conviction on impeachment if and when the president goes on trial after the House finishes its partisan push against the president.
It will also have almost no effect on the 2020 presidential campaign.
But expect the Democratic howling to begin again on Russian collusion and the supposed victimization of James Comey and Andrew McCabe.
Both of them will use this report to burnish their credentials as leftist martyrs.
This is not a dispositive defeat for the GOP or the president.
It’s a public relations black eye, but it’s possible the fallout from John Durham’s reaction disputing the credibility of the Horowitz Report will change that.