The New York Times previewed — or pre-empted — the release of Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s Dec. 9 report by claiming Wednesday it will show “no evidence” of spying on the Trump campaign.
Citing “people familiar with the draft,” the Times reported:
The Justice Department’s inspector general found no evidence that the F.B.I. attempted to place undercover agents or informants inside Donald J. Trump’s campaign in 2016 as agents investigated whether his associates conspired with Russia’s election interference operation.
The Times sources “familiar with the draft” are likely to have been subjects of the investigation, who are typically invited to preview a draft of the Inspector General’s report prior to its release.
CNN — which employs former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was fired for leaking to the media and misleading internal investigators — published a similar report last week. It claimed the Inspector General’s report would show that the investigation into Trump’s suspected Russia collusion was justified, but that “lower-level employees made a series of mistakes” in applying for a warrant from the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court.
Despite claiming that the report would show “no evidence” of spying, the Times article acknowledged that the FBI planted informants in meetings with the campaign, though it calls these “typical law enforcement activities”:
Mr. Trump and his allies have pointed to some of the investigative steps the F.B.I. took as evidence of spying, though they were typical law enforcement activities. For one, agents had an informant, an academic named Stefan A. Halper, meet with Mr. Page and Mr. Papadopoulos while they were affiliated with the campaign. The president decried the revelation as an “all time biggest political scandal” when it emerged last year.
The F.B.I. did have an undercover agent who posed as Mr. Halper’s assistant during a London meeting with Mr. Papadopoulos in August 2016. And indeed, another Trump adviser, Peter Navarro, reportedly pushed Mr. Halper for an ambassadorship in the Trump administration.
The Times also reported that despite claims by Attorney General William Barr that the FBI had used other informants, “the F.B.I. had not deployed those people to gather information on the Trump campaign itself.”
The Times also continues to object to President Trump’s claim in March 2017 that “Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower,” though Trump used quotation marks, and the Times itself had reported on Inauguration Day — in a front-page, banner headline — that Trump aides had been “wiretapped” as part of the FBI’s Russia investigation.
Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
In its preview of the Inspector General’s report — which the Times admitted it has not seen firsthand, adding that the report is still just a draft — the Times also differed with the CNN report in that it expects Horowitz to “sharply criticize F.B.I. leaders for their handling of the investigation in some ways,” and not just junior employees.
The Times named “a front-line lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, 37,” as the target of a reported criminal investigation that has resulted from the Inspector General’s inquiry. Clinesmith is alleged to be the lawyer responsible for altering a key document in the application for the FISA warrant to spy on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
In addition, the Times said that the report would contradict claims by George Papadopoulos to have been set up by the FBI, though it would also fault the FBI for failing to provide exculpatory information on him to a FISA judge.
The report, the Times concluded, “is likely to give new ammunition to both Mr. Trump’s defenders and critics in the long-running partisan fight over the Russia investigation,” undermining President Trump’s hopes for vindication.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has invited Horowitz, an Obama appointee, to testify publicly about the report at the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Graham chairs, on Dec. 11. Horowitz has reportedly accepted the invitation.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.