Live Updates As IG Michael Horowitz Testifies on Alleged FISA Abuse in Trump-Russia Probe

The Justice Department's inspector general, Michael Horowitz, testified Wednesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the origins of the FBI's probe into the 2016 Trump campaign and possible links to Russia, which was a precursor to former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian election meddling.

The 480-page report, released Monday, had the following takeaways:

  • The FBI's Russia probe was justified and not biased.
  • There was no evidence of "political bias or improper motivation" when a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant was obtained to surveil Trump campaign aide Carter Page, or when investigating campaign chairman Paul Manafort, campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos and national security adviser Michael Flynn.
  • However, the FBI's surveillance program, and how it obtains FISA warrants, is peppered with errors, the report stated, including "17 significant errors or omissions in the Carter Page FISA applications."
  • The controversial "Steele dossier" was not used to open the FBI's probe into several former Trump campaign officials.
  • Christopher Steele, the dossier's author and a former British intelligence officer, had a personal relationship with a Trump family member, reportedly Ivanka Trump.

Democrats and Republicans were both quick to declare the report a victory for their respective positions on the matter. Democrats asserted that the report debunked theories touted by Trump and Republicans that the FBI probe was an attempt to undermine his candidacy—or an attempted "coup," as Trump has characterized it.

Republicans, meanwhile, pointed to the FBI's misconduct in its probe of several Trump campaign officials and said it corroborated Attorney General William Barr's claim that "spying" on the campaign occurred.

This story is no longer being updated.

Michael Horowitz testifies to Congress
Michael Horowitz, inspector general for the Justice Department, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 11. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty

No evidence Obama wiretapped candidate Trump, Horowitz says, contradicting president

In a 2017 tweet by Trump, the president claimed he'd "[j]ust found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory."

But Horowitz said his investigation "didn't find any evidence the FBI had tapped any other phones or anything else" other than Page with a FISA warrant.

On Wednesday, Trump repeated a past claim that the FBI spied on his campaign, tweeting: "They spied on my campaign!"

Michael Horowitz testifies to Congress
Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to guests at the Obama Foundation Summit on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology on October 29 in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty

Horowitz rejected the label it was "spying," telling Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) he characterizes it as "illegal surveillance. It's not court-authorized surveillance under FISA."

"Illegal surveillance means they did it," Graham argued. "So, all this stuff that they didn't illegally surveil Trump's campaign, they did."

Horowitz reveals ongoing probe into Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani

The government watchdog said he's "very concerned" about leaks from FBI agents in the New York field office to Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney, and others regarding the bureau's probe into Hillary Clinton's email use in the run-up to the 2016 election. Horowitz said that the leaking is part of an "ongoing investigation."

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) suggested the leaks prompted former FBI Director James Comey to publicly announce the reopening of the investigation into Clinton's emails just before the election.

Michael Horowitz testifies to Congress
Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, speaks to the Organization of Iranian American Communities during a march outside the United Nations headquarters in New York on September 24. ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty

Horowitz said that his investigation discovered that some agents "violated FBI policy" but that it remains difficult to "prove the actual substance of the communications between the agents and the reporters or the individuals."

"But we can prove the contacts, and under FBI policy you need authorization if you're going to disclose information and have certain contacts," he added.

"We stand by our finding" despite claims by AG Barr, Horowitz says

Despite Barr's claim that the inspector general's report "makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation" of Trump's campaign "on the thinnest of suspicions," Horowitz said he and his investigators "stand by our finding."

Asked by the top Democrat on the committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), if Barr provided further evidence to support his claim, Horowitz said no.

Michael Horowitz testifies to Congress
Attorney General William Barr speaks about the FBI's investigation into possible Russian connections to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign during The Wall Street Journal's annual CEO Council meeting on December 10. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty

FBI Director Christopher Wray has acknowledged that misdeeds were committed by his agency but said the Trump-Russia probe was launched with "authorized purpose and with adequate factual predication."

Horowitz sees no evidence of "political bias," undercuts claim of a spy in Trump campaign

The inspector general reiterated his report's conclusion that he "did not find any documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the FBI's decision to conduct these operations" in the Trump-Russia probe.

Horowitz added that the opening of the investigation was legitimate. He also said there was "no evidence" of an attempt to place a covert agent within the Trump campaign or to "recruit members" from within the campaign, undercutting a charge that's been made by Trump and his allies.

Horowitz did, however, highlight the omissions and inaccuracies by the FBI that were contained in its FISA warrant applications.

"[T]he FISA applications made it appear as though the evidence supporting probable cause was stronger than was actually the case," Horowitz said. "We also found basic, fundamental and serious errors during the completion of the FBl's factual accuracy reviews."

Horowitz listed several recommendations to prevent future grievances, including a re-evaluation and development of better protocols in applying for FISA warrants. Current department policies "are not sufficient to ensure appropriate oversight and accountability when such operations potentially implicate sensitive, constitutionally protected activity, and that requiring department consultation, at a minimum, would be appropriate," he said.

"We are deeply concerned that so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate, handpicked investigative teams on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations," Horowitz said.

Michael Horowitz testifies to Congress
Ranking member Dianne Feinstein during a Senate Judiciary confirmation hearing for a federal appeals court judge on February 5. Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty

Feinstein: "There is no deep state"

Feinstein batted down the notion that there was a "deep state" within the intelligence community that sought to prevent Trump's election. The ability to have an inspector general who "tells it as they see it," she said, "is a saving grace."

Trump and Republicans have "used this to dismiss the entire Russia investigation as a 'witch hunt' and a 'hoax,'" Feinstein said. "The IG report repeatedly refutes those claims. This was not a politically motivated investigation. There is no deep state. Simply put, the FBI's investigation was motivated by facts, not bias."

Michael Horowitz testifies to Congress
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham holds up a copy of the Steele dossier as Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department's inspector general, testifies before the committee on December 11. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty

Graham rips FBI's Trump-Russia probe but acknowledges that Russia—not Ukraine—meddled in 2016 election

Graham lambasted the FBI's handling of the Trump-Russia counterintelligence probe.

"Whether you like Trump, hate Trump, don't care about Trump, you look at this as more than a few irregularities," he said. "Because if this becomes a few irregularities in America, then God help us all."

He also said the agency should reform the way in which it obtains secret FISA warrants for surveillance.

"I have serious concerns about whether the FISA court can continue, unless there is fundamental reform," Graham said. "We have to address an underlying system."

Graham, taking a less partisan approach to the report's findings, acknowledged that Ukraine—not Russia—was responsible for election interference in the 2016 election. In doing so, he undercut a discredited conspiracy theory touted by some of his GOP colleagues that Ukraine was somehow involved.

"It wasn't the Ukrainians. It was the Russians," he said. "So the concern that the Russians were messing with the campaigns was a legitimate concern" by the FBI.