Soon after Monday’s release of the 476-page inspector general’s report on the Carter Page FISA applications and aspects of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane Investigation, former FBI Director James Comey took to Twitter to promote his op-ed in the Washington Post.
“So it was all lies. No treason. No spying on the campaign. No tapping Trumps [sic] wires. It was just good people trying to protect America,” Comey tweeted, with a link to his opinion article that demanded “those who attacked the FBI for two years should admit they were wrong.”
Comey’s spin is laughable. And there will be time in the days and weeks ahead to highlight the many failures of the DOJ and FBI revealed in the minutia of IG Michael Horowitz’s report. For now, though, let’s focus on a different detail exposed by Horowitz’s investigation into Crossfire Hurricane—that Comey falsely testified that the FBI had not launched an investigation into the Trump campaign.
Comey made that claim just more than a year ago, when he testified before the House Judiciary and Government Reform and Oversight committees. During that December 2018 hearing, Rep. Trey Gowdy posed this question to Comey: “Late July of 2016, the FBI did, in fact, open a counterintelligence investigation into, is it fair to say the Trump campaign or Donald Trump himself?”
“It’s not fair to say either of those things, in my recollection,” Comey retorted. “We opened investigations on four Americans to see if there was any connection between those four Americans and the Russian interference efforts. And those four Americans did not include the candidate.”
Comey later reiterated this claim, stating, “I was briefed sometime at the end of July that the FBI had opened counterintelligence investigations of four individuals to see if there was a connection between those—any of those four and the Russian effort.”
However, contrary to Comey’s claim that the FBI had not opened a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign, the IG report makes clear that the FBI did just that when it launched Crossfire Hurricane on July 31, 2016. While in August 2016 the FBI did initiate four separate investigations into individuals connected to the Trump campaign, the IG report explained that Crossfire Hurricane was an “umbrella counterintelligence investigation” that did not identify any subjects or targets. Instead, Crossfire Hurricane sought “to determine whether individual(s) associated with the Trump campaign are witting of and/or coordinating activities with the Government of Russia.”
In fact, as the IG report explained, “some of the early investigative steps taken by the Crossfire Hurricane team immediately after opening the investigation were to develop profiles on each subject; send names of, among others, individuals associated with the Trump campaign to other U.S. government intelligence agencies for any further information.” The IG report further noted that the FBI had classified Crossfire Hurricane “as a ‘sensitive investigative matter,’ or SIM,” “because it involved a campaign and ‘people associated with a campaign.’”
The details included in the IG missive on the various investigative steps taken further illustrates the targeting of the Trump campaign, and possibly even Trump himself. Horowitz reported “that in August 2016, a supervisor of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation participated on behalf of the FBI in a strategic intelligence briefing given by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to candidate Trump and his national security advisors. The FBI viewed the briefing of candidate Trump and his advisors as a possible opportunity to collect information potentially relevant to the Crossfire Hurricane and Flynn investigations.”
The IG report added that after the briefing, the FBI “supervisor memorialized the results of the briefing in an official FBI document, including instances where he was engaged by Trump and Flynn, as well as anything he considered related to the FBI or pertinent to the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.”
So, not only did the Obama administration’s FBI target the Trump campaign in the heat of the 2016 presidential election, but they used an intelligence briefing of candidate Trump to gather “evidence,” and even memorialized Trump’s comments in official FBI documents related to the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.
Average Americans writhe at the idea of the FBI investigating a political opponent. But when the revelation is buried in nearly 500 pages of bureaucratic bloviation, the impact is not nearly the same as, say, the FBI director verbally acknowledging on television that his organization had launched an investigation into the Republican presidential candidate’s campaign. That might not be treason, but “not treason” isn’t exactly a standard of conduct to celebrate.