As reported by Real Clear Politics
As Democrats mull how far to push the impeachment envelope against President Trump after Robert Mueller found no evidence of collusion with Russia in the 2016 election but punted on obstruction of justice charges, another investigation could further blunt their attempts to oust the president from office or damage his re-election chances.
Amid calls from Trump and his supporters to “investigate the investigators,” Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz has been hard at work over the last year looking into the sources and methods the FBI used to begin surveillance of a one-time Trump campaign adviser based at least in part on discredited information gathered by a former British spy.
That packet of intelligence, known as the “Steele dossier,” contains salacious and unsubstantiated details about Trump’s alleged romps with Russian prostitutes, along with business and political quid pro quos with Russian officials.
Attorney General Robert Barr said the inspector general is wrapping up his probe and could release a final report as early as next month.
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From Washington Examiner
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is investigating the FBI’s reliance on the unverified dossier produced by British ex-spy Christopher Steele in the surveillance of a Trump campaign associate “despite questions about [Steele’s] credibility.”
Citing unnamed sources, the Wall Street Journal reports Horowitz “is homing in on” and “has been asking witnesses about” the FBI’s “treatment of information” provided by Steele, described as a “key source”, who was used to obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page.
This is part of Horowitz’s broad investigation into alleged FISA abuse and more.
Steele’s dossier was funded in part by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign through the Perkins Coie law firm and opposition research group Fusion GPS, which had reached out to and contracted Steele.
The new Wall Street Journal report says the inspector general’s office “has been asking why the FBI continued to cite Steele as a credible source in the renewal applications.” And a specific focus of Horowitz’s team is apparently “a news report cited extensively in the [FISA] applications that appeared to bolster Steele’s credibility… [which] said U.S. intelligence officials were investigating allegations similar to those Steele had raised.”
The “news report” was written by Yahoo News journalist Michael Isikoff, who said he was stunned when he learned that his September 2016 article for Yahoo News was used in the FISA applications targeting Carter Page to bolster Steele’s credibility, despite his source being Steele himself. Iskoff said “it’s self-referential” and “it seems a little odd that they would cite the Yahoo News story about the matter they are investigating themselves based on the same material that had been separately presented to the FBI.”
Isikoff personally met with Steele in person in September 2016. Also at the meeting was Isikoff’s “old friend” Glenn Simpson, the co-founder of Fusion GPS. The three of them talked about Trump and Russia and Steele provided him with some of his research.
Isikoff now admits that everyone should have been more cautious about Steele’s information. “I think it’s fair to say that all of us should have approached this, in retrospect, with more skepticism, particularly when we didn’t know where it was coming from,” Isikoff said. “We knew that Steele compiled it, but that Steele did not hear these allegations himself. Somebody else heard them from others and then passed them along. That’s thirdhand stuff, which is not usually the kind you want for publishing.”
In the FISA renewal applications, which spanned until June 2017, the FBI continued to insist that it didn’t think Steele was Isikoff’s source even though Steele himself had said that he was by the spring of 2017.
The Wall Street Journal report says “investigators have also asked about an internal FBI evaluation of Steele’s credibility that found his reporting had been ‘minimally corroborated’ even as it also said he had provided information ‘of value’ to the U.S. intelligence community.” The report says “the evaluation was reflected in a ‘human source validation report’ written by a unit of the FBI after the bureau cut off its relationship with Steele in October 2016… because of his disclosures to the media about his work for the FBI.”