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Justice Dept. watchdog: No bias, but 'so many' FBI errors in Russia inquiry

By
Daniel Uria
Michael Horowitz, inspector general for the Justice Department, testifies before the Senate judiciary committee. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Michael Horowitz, inspector general for the Justice Department, testifies before the Senate judiciary committee. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 11 (UPI) -- Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz told a Senate committee on Capitol Hill Wednesday that a lengthy review turned up no evidence that federal agents were biased or acted improperly during their two-year, mistake-laden investigation of Russia and President Donald Trump's campaign.

In testimony before the Senate judiciary committee, Horowitz followed up the 476-page report he issued Monday, which said FBI surveillance efforts on campaign adviser Carter Page were not biased or politically motivated. The report said FBI efforts complied with Justice Department and FBI policy and accusations of bias lacked "documentary or testimonial evidence."

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As he said in the report, the inspector general acknowledged his review "identified significant concerns with how certain aspects of the investigation were conducted and supervised" -- particularly the bureau's "failure to adhere to its own standards of accuracy and completeness" with regard to Page's surveillance.

"We also identified what we believe is an absence of sufficient policies to ensure appropriate department oversight of significant investigative decisions that could affect constitutionally protected activity," he added.

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The panel's ranking Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, said at the hearing the Justice Department's Russia investigation was "motivated by facts."

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"There is no 'deep state.' Simply put," she added.

The investigation ultimately concluded there was no direct evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 campaign. The inquiry led by special counsel Robert Mueller did outline several occasions during which Trump may have tried to obstruct the investigation, however.

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Horowitz ordered the review last year, which sought to address complaints by Trump that the bureau unlawfully spied on members of his 2016 campaign and were improperly motivated to help Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The president argued the actions conflicted with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

While dismissing accusations of bias, the Horowitz report did say aspects of the FBI surveillance were rife with errors -- illustrating 17 inaccuracies contained in three FISA applications that appear to have inflated the bureau's justification for Page's surveillance. He called the mistakes "basic and fundamental" that he found "deeply" concerning.

"So many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate, hand-picked investigative teams -- on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations," he said, adding that his office has not yet been given "satisfactory explanations" for the errors.

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Horowitz told the Senate panel his office will now perform audits to ensure the bureau complies on FISA applications from now on.

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FBI Director Christopher Wray described the report as "constructive criticism that will make us stronger as an organization" -- a characterization that drew criticism from Trump.

"With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken despite having some of the greatest men and women working there!" the president tweeted.

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