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FBI Director Christopher Wray’s Response to IG Report on Trump-Russia Probe

Director Christopher Wray provided the following letter to the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General in response to the report titled “Review of Four FISA Applications and Other Aspects of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane Investigation,” released today. 

December 6, 2019

The Honorable Michael Horowitz
Inspector General
U.S. Department of Justice
Washington, D.C. 20530

Dear Inspector General Horowitz:

FBI Director Christopher Wray, via FBI.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) Report titled, “Review of Four FISA Applications and Other Aspects of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane Investigation” (Report).

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) appreciates the OIG’s crucial independent oversight role and the thoroughness and professionalism your office brought to this work. The Report’s findings and recommendations represent constructive criticism that will make us stronger as an organization. We also appreciate the Report’s recognition that the FBI cooperated fully with this review and provided broad and timely access to all information requested by the OIG, including highly classified and sensitive material involving national security.

The Report concludes that the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation and related investigations of certain individuals were opened in 2016 for an authorized purpose and with adequate factual predication. The Report also details instances in which certain FBI personnel, at times during the 2016-2017 period reviewed by the OIG, did not comply with existing policies, neglected to exercise appropriate diligence, or otherwise failed to meet the standard of conduct that the FBI expects of its employees — and that our country expects of the FBI. We are vested with significant authorities, and it is our obligation as public servants to ensure that these authorities are exercised with objectivity and integrity. Anything less falls short of the FBI’s duty to the American people.

Accordingly, the FBI accepts the Report’s findings and embraces the need for thoughtful, meaningful remedial action. I have ordered more than 40 corrective steps to address the Report’s recommendations. Because our credibility and brand are central to fulfilling our mission, we are also making improvements beyond those recommended by the OIG. And where certain individuals have been referred by the OIG for review of their conduct, the FBI will not hesitate to take appropriate disciplinary action if warranted at the completion of the required procedures for disciplinary review.

Below is a summary of the actions we are taking, which we describe in more detail in the attachment to this letter.

Read more »

IG Report Says FBI Had ‘Authorized Purpose’ to Probe Trump Campaign, But Did Some Things Wrong

IG Michael Horowitz, via DoJ.

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department inspector general’s report dismissed some conservatives’ longstanding allegations about the investigation into the Trump campaign — including that top FBI officials were motivated by political bias and illegally spied on Trump advisers. At the same time, the report that examined the FBI’s probe into connections between Trump campaign advisers and Russia found  serious faults in other areas, the Washington Post reports.

The 434-page report from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found the FBI had an “authorized purpose” in investigating the campaign. But it went on say that applications the FBI made to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page contained “significant inaccuracies and omissions” and that agents “failed to meet the basic obligation” to ensure the applications were “scrupulously accurate.”

Michael R. Bromwich, a lawyer for fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, noted the inspector general “found an ample factual basis for the launching of the Russia investigation,” and that those errors that were documented “took place at multiple layers below” McCabe, the Post reports.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said the inspector general had “completely demolished” some of conservatives’ assertions about the origins of the probe, though his investigators did find some problems.

The ACLU weighed in, issuing a statement:

“When the Justice Department’s Inspector General finds significant concerns regarding flawed surveillance applications concerning the president’s campaign advisors, it is clear that this regime lacks basic safeguards and is in need of serious reform. While the report found that there wasn’t an improper purpose or initiation of the investigation, it also found significant problems that are alarming from a civil liberties perspective. For instance, the litany of problems with the Carter Page surveillance applications demonstrates how the secrecy shrouding the government’s one-sided FISA approval process breeds abuse. The concerns the Inspector General identifies apply to intrusive investigations of others, including especially Muslims, and far better safeguards against abuse are necessary.”

“The system requires fundamental reforms, and Congress can start by providing defendants subjected to FISA surveillance the opportunity to review the government’s secret submissions. The FBI must also adopt higher standards for investigations involving constitutionally protected sensitive activities, such as political campaigns.”

 

Read report

Trump Taps Secret Service Official As New Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations

President Trump, via White House

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

President Trump tapped Anthony Ornato, deputy assistant director of the Secret Service, as his new deputy chief of staff for operations.

Trump announced the move on Twitter on Saturday, saying Ornato “will do a fantastic job!”

Ornato will replace Daniel Walsh, who is leaving the post to take a job in the private sector.

“Thank you to Dan Walsh for his great service, and congratulations to Tony!” Trump tweeted.

Ornato will serve as one of the three deputies to acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

DOJ Watchdog Report Set for Release Today, Dismisses Trump’s Claims of FBI Spying

IG Michael Horowitz, via DoJ.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department’s internal watchdog is set to announce today that top FBI and DOJ officials did not illegally spy on Trump’s campaign in 2016, delivering a blow to one of the president’s most repeated and unfounded conspiracy theories.

The report examined the investigation into possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia and found that the FBI had sufficient evidence to open the probe ahead of the 2016 election, according to several media accounts.

Michael Horowitz, the DOJ’s inspector general, concluded that the FBI did not improperly launch the investigation, dismissing Trump’s wild claims that the bureau turned rogue in an effort to smear his campaign.

The report, however, is expected to document mistakes by some FBI and DOJ officials. But none of the missteps changed the course of the investigation, the report is to conclude.

Nevertheless, Trump likely will seize on the missteps to bolster his unproven claims.

Weekend Series on Crime History: The Watergate Break-in

Spokane Man Charged with Threatening to Kill FBI Agents, Federal Judges

Scott Joseph Franklin

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

A Spokane man is accused of threatening FBI agents, a federal courthouse and federal judges in letters he wrote while in jail for threatening to blow up another courthouse.

Scott Joseph Franklin pleaded not guilty Wednesday to sending threatening letters to the U.S. District Court in Washington state. The letters were written in jail, where he has been lodged since he was convicted in 2013 of threatening to bomb a courthouse.

In the latest case, a U.S. District Court clerk said she received the handwritten letters in October, and they listed Franklin as the sender, according to federal court records obtained by KXLY. He also signed one of the letters, “cordially; Scott J. Franklin.”

“When I get out, I’m killing every agent of FBI and ever [sic] Federal Judge within your federal courthouse in Downtown Spokane,” he wrote.

Franklin’s letter’s described his plans to build a bomb “so powerful to blow a 2 block radiant [sic].”

In one letter, he states, “You can’t charge me with mailing threatening communications under Title 18 U.S.C. because that letter is a promise I swear to god and this is no joke, for real.”

In a jailhouse interview with federal agents, Franklin admitted he wrote the letters, saying, “I was gonna do exactly what I said… I was going to try to figure out how to make a bomb and blow up the [expletive] building.”

Franklin has been charged with a federal count of mailing threatening communications.

Amid Fierce Criticism, Homeland Security Abandons Plans to Photograph American Travelers at Airports

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Facing a firestorm of criticism, Homeland Security is abandoning plans to expand the federal government’s facial recognition system by requiring all travelers, including Americans, to be photographed if they are leaving or entering the country.

Homeland Security was expected to propose the regulation change in July, igniting privacy concerns and trepidation about the accuracy of facial recognition technology.

Homeland Security officials responded by saying it no longer plans to move forward with the plan.

“There are no current plans to require U.S. citizens to provide photographs upon entry and exit from the United States. CBP intends to have the planned regulatory action regarding U.S. citizens removed from the unified agenda next time it is published,” the agency said in a news release.

Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., who was among the toughest critics, had pledged to introduce legislation to stop the proposal.

Facial recognition technology has come under intense criticism from local, state and federal lawmakers because of its lack of accuracy, especially when applied to people of color.

Reputed Gang Member Sentenced to Nearly 17 Years for Shooting ATF Agent in Face

Ernesto Godinez

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

A reputed gang member who shot an ATF agent in the face in Chicago last year was sentenced to nearly 17 years in prison Wednesday.

A federal jury found Ernesto Godinez guilty in June in the shooting of Kevin Crump, who was nearly killed when a bullet tore through his neck and exited between his eyes on May 4, 2018.

Godinez, 29, was sentenced to 16 years and 8 months in prison, CBS News reports.

Calling the attack “brazen, callous, and cowardly,” federal prosectors said Crump is lucky to be alive.

“The depravity of the defendant’s crime is remarkable. A sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment is the only fair answer here, both to punish this reprehensible crime and to protect the community he endangered time and time again,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing recommendation.

Police said Crump was placing a tracker on Godinez’s car when the reputed gang member ambushed the agent and opened fire. Prosecutors said Godinez, who was arrested three days later, believed he was shooting a rival gang member.

Surveillance cameras captured Godinez before and after the shooting.

Godinez’s attorney acknowledges his client was in the area the morning of the shooting, but insists Godinez was not involved in the shooting. The 12-member jury didn’t buy that.