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Despite Probe of ‘Low-Level’ Ex-FBI Lawyer, Carter Page Surveillance Had ‘Proper Legal and Factual Basis’: Officials


It’s has long been argued from the right that the Russia probe’s origins were illegal in nature, and the surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page has often been cited as an example of this. But even as it’s being reported on Friday that a former FBI lawyer will potentially be criminally investigated by John Durham for altering a FISA surveillance application, it’s also being reported that this “low-level” individual’s alleged misconduct “did not alter [Inspector General Michael] Horowitz’s finding that the surveillance application of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page had a proper legal and factual basis.”

That’s the word from “officials” speaking on the contents and conclusions of Horowitz’s report in advance of its release. We learned this week that the Department of Justice’s much anticipated Inspector General report on potential surveillance abuses by the FBI will officially be released on Dec. 9.

Per the Washington Post:

The Justice Department inspector general has found evidence that an FBI employee may have altered a document connected to court-approved surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser, but has concluded that the conduct did not affect the overall validity of the surveillance application, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.


The employee was forced out of the FBI after the incident was discovered, two U.S. officials said. Horowitz found that the employee erroneously indicated he had documentation to back up a claim he had made in discussions with the Justice Department about the factual basis for the application. He then altered an email to back up that erroneous claim, they said.

In summary: this lawyer was “low-level,” was ousted from the FBI after the incident was found out, and the alleged misconduct is troubling enough to be investigated criminally but didn’t affect the “overall validity” of Carter Page surveillance.

It remains to be seen if there will be even larger issues exposed by Horowitz’s report. It’s worth noting that an amusing correction at the bottom of the Washington Post story rubbished a detail that would have only provided more fodder for those who believe the FBI launched an illegal coup to take down the president:

Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously stated that the FBI employee being investigated for altering a document worked underneath former Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok. The employee was a low-level lawyer in the Office of General Counsel and did not report to the deputy assistant director.

Conservatives and other allies of President Donald Trump have long believed there was something nefarious afoot when those multiple FISA warrants were approved, but as Law&Crime previously noted, the judges who okayed that surveillance were all appointed by Republican presidents.

Horowitz is slated to discuss the report before lawmakers on December 11. The IG recently previewed his progress in an October letter to members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

“As I noted in my September 13 letter, we began the process of finalizing our report for release by providing a draft or our factual findings to the Department and the FBI for classification determination and marking,” Horowitz wrote. “This process is consistent with our usual practice when an OIG report involves classified information. Given that our draft report is lengthy, and concerns sensitive national security and law enforcement matters, we understood that it would take the Department and the FBI some time to work through and appropriately mark the entire report.”

That letter continued:

I can report to that the process is ongoing and nearing completion, and we are working through these issues constructively with. both the Department and the FBI. The goal from my standpoint is to make as much of our report public as possible. I anticipate that the final report will be released publicly with few redactions.

Given the constructive progress that has been made during the classification review process, I do not now anticipate a need to prepare and issue separate classified and public versions of the report. As you know from our prior work, if for some reason that assessment changes, consistent with the Inspector General Act, we will inform our oversight committee of any concerns that we have.

Colin Kalmbacher contributed to this report.

[Image via Image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.