Report on probe into Russia investigation may be nearly finished
WASHINGTON — Multiple witnesses who interviewed with the Justice Department Inspector General’s Office as part of its probe into the opening of the Russia investigation have been asked in recent days to come in and review portions of the draft report, a sign that the highly anticipated document is nearing publication, people familiar with the situation told CNN.
The report, which is said to scrutinize the FBI’s use of surveillance techniques against a Trump campaign adviser, is expected to be released with minimal redactions, and could land among the unfolding impeachment proceedings as a boon for Republicans who’ve accused law enforcement of abusing its power as it investigated President Donald Trump.
Investigators from the watchdog office reviewed more than 1 million records and conducted more than 100 interviews as part of the review, and in recent weeks, the Justice Department and FBI have pored over a draft of the report to determine the classification levels of the material, Inspector General Michael Horowitz has told lawmakers.
Inspectors general will usually offer witnesses an opportunity to review sections of the report that concern them, and offer comments, as a final step before completing a report. Witnesses in this case have set up times for such reviews over the next two weeks, the people familiar with the situation said, meaning the report could be released in the days before or after Thanksgiving.
The Associated Press first reported that witnesses were being contacted to review the draft report. A spokeswoman for Horowitz declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for the Justice Department.
Horowitz began his investigation in early 2018 centered on the applications submitted by the FBI in 2016 and 2017 to a secretive surveillance court seeking permission to eavesdrop on Carter Page, the campaign foreign policy adviser.
The surveillance warrants, which cite a dossier of unverified intelligence on the Trump campaign collected by former British spy Christopher Steele, have since been released and used by Trump and his allies to stand up allegations that the early investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the election was driven by politics.
Investigators from Horowitz’s office interviewed Steele over the summer as they built the report, CNN has reported.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said last week that he expects the report to be “stunning” and “damning,” and he is planning to call Horowitz to testify before his committee when the report is released.
Graham said he had spoken with Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday about the report’s status.
“I think his report is going to be stunning. I think it is going to be damning. I think it’s going to prove that the system got off the rails and we need corrective action. Where I go from there, I won’t know until I hear from [Horowitz],” Graham told Fox News.
The inspector general investigation has unfolded alongside a second review initiated by Barr this year into the beginnings of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. That review — being led by John Durham, the US attorney for Connecticut — is also grappling with questions of political surveillance and is being assisted by intelligence leaders from the CIA, the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
That so-called investigation of the investigators is said to now be a criminal probe, CNN has reported.