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Justice Dept. watchdog finds no evidence of bias in Russia inquiry

By
Clyde Hughes
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz testifies on June 19, 2018, during a House hearing concerning FBI actions in advance of the 2016 election. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz testifies on June 19, 2018, during a House hearing concerning FBI actions in advance of the 2016 election. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 9 (UPI) -- The internal watchdog for the U.S. Department of Justice said in a highly-anticipated report Monday efforts by federal authorities to conduct surveillance on a member of President Donald Trump's campaign as part of the Russia investigation were rife with mistakes, but contained nothing improper or illegal.

The 476-page report by department Inspector General Michael Horowitz answered long-standing accusations by the Trump administration that the FBI illegally spied on former campaign adviser Carter Page while searching for evidence of collusion between the team and Russia.

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It specified 17 inaccuracies involving three applications filed under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which may have inflated the bureau's justification for surveillance against Page, the report said.

Despite the errors, the report concluded the FBI did not act improperly in its activities.

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The report concludes a review Horowitz promised in March 2018 to examine the conduct of federal authorities to determine if the FBI broke or abused any rules in investigating the Trump campaign.

The president has repeatedly accused the bureau, under former President Barack Obama, of spying on him and trying to ruin his campaign. Some Republicans have claimed the bureau abused its authority when it was investigating Page. Other accusations say the FBI improperly relied on a "dossier" from a former British spy to receive legal approval for spying on Page.

In his report, Horowitz said the FBI's efforts were "in compliance with department and FBI policies," and added that he didn't find "documentary or testimonial evidence" that showed the bureau acted with political bias or improper motivation.

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Democrats have argued that the bureau acted entirely within its authority and properly examined figures in the Trump campaign.

The former spy, Christopher Steele, was a key part of the case because Republicans argued he was hired to aid the 2016 campaign of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Therefore, they said, the FBI was working in step with the Democrats in an effort to defeat Trump.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr was critical of Horowitz's report.

"The inspector general's report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken," he said.

FBI Director Christopher Wray called the report "constructive criticism that will make us stronger as an organization."

The department, led by special counsel Robert Mueller, ultimately concluded last spring that it found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, but outlined several "episodes" involving Trump that may have amounted to obstruction of justice.

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