WASHINGTON (CN) — The Justice Department’s inspector general released a 434-page report Monday refuting Republican claims that the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election was based on political motives.
The report details the origins of the investigation, code name Crossfire Hurricane, condemned by President Donald Trump as a Democrat-led coup at the heart of the government’s top investigative agency.
The investigation focused on campaign advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, as well as former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump has long claimed the investigation was biased against his campaign and people within the FBI who wanted to see his campaign fail launched the probe. The report from Inspector General Michael Horowitz has been hotly anticipated in a Washington fiercely divided over the events inside the FBI that set off the investigation opened on July 31, 2016.
Across some 170 interviews with more than 100 witnesses and review of 1 million documents from the FBI and DOJ shelves, Horowitz’s report for the most part does not back up Trump’s claims.
“We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the decisions to open the four individual investigations,” the report states.
Despite the report’s findings, Trump held fast to the claim the investigation was corrupt.
“It’s an embarrassment to our country,” Trump said from the White House. “It’s dishonest, it’s everything that a lot of people thought it would be, except far worse.”
The report found probes into the investigation’s most high profile names - Papadopoulos, Flynn, Manafort and Page - were justified under DOJ and FBI policy. The decision to investigate Papadopoulos and launch Crossfire Hurricane was based on information gained from an ally, presumably Australia, while the details undergirding the probes into Flynn, Manafort and Page came from government databases and “open source searches.”
The salacious Steele dossier played no role in opening the FBI investigation, according to the report.
“We found no evidence the Steele election reporting was known to or used by FBI officials involved in the decision to open the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.”
The top FBI counterintelligence official, Bill Priestap, signed off on Crossfire Hurricane while still investigating Russia hacking the Democratic National Committee’s emails.
Priestap opted not to brief the Trump campaign that it was under investigation, over concerns that doing so would alert campaign officials possibly working with Russia who could change tactics or “otherwise seek to cover-up his/her activities, thereby preventing us from finding the truth,” according to the report.
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told Horowitz’s team that he reached a similar conclusion.
“He said that the DNC was a victim of hacking and the FBI had known that the DNC was not responsible for the hacks for some time,” the report states.
The report makes clear that hostile statements toward then-candidate Trump unearthed in senior FBI investigators’ texts and emails – including those between Lisa Page and Peter Strzok – did not affect Crossfire Hurricane operations.
Horowitz found similar messages laced with political bias in support of Trump. The day after the president's 2016 election win, a handling agent texted "Trump!" to a co-handling agent for a confidential human source, who replied, "Hahaha. Shit just got real."