DOJ watchdog: Durham said ‘preliminary’ FBI Trump probe was justified

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Justice Department Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz said that John DurhamJohn DurhamBarr criticizes FBI, says it’s possible agents acted in ‘bad faith’ in Trump probe Democrats rip Barr over IG statement: ‘Mouthpiece’ for Trump Barr: Horowitz report shows FBI launched Trump campaign investigation on ‘thinnest of suspicions’ MORE, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut conducting a separate probe into the origins of the Russia investigation, told him he believed the FBI would have been justified in opening a “preliminary investigation” into associates of the Trump campaign in 2016, but not a full investigation.

Senators questioned Horowitz Wednesday during a Judiciary Committee hearing about Durham’s terse public statement, issued shortly after the IG’s report was released Monday, disagreeing with some of its conclusions “as to predication and how the FBI case was opened.”

Horowitz told the committee that he was “surprised” by the statement and noted that he met with Durham, who is spearheading the Justice Department’s separate inquiry into the origins of the Russian interference probe, in November to discuss his findings.

“We did discuss the opening issue. He said that he did not necessarily agree with our conclusion about the opening of a full counterintelligence investigation, which is what this was,” Horowitz said under questioning from Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinHillicon Valley: Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling | Tech legal shield makes it into trade deal | Impeachment controversy over phone records heats up | TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling Houston police chief excoriates McConnell, Cornyn and Cruz on gun violence MORE (D-Calif.).

“But there is also an investigative means by which the FBI can move forward with an investigation, it’s called a preliminary investigation,” Horowitz continued. “[Durham] said during the meeting that the information from the friendly foreign government was, in his view, sufficient to support the preliminary investigation.”

Horowitz said that some of the steps the FBI took in its investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia — dubbed “Crossfire Hurricane” — would have been allowed under a preliminary investigation.

Horowitz’s more than 400-page report says the FBI had an adequate predicate for launching the counterintelligence investigation into associates of the Trump campaign, but it is also heavily critical of the FBI’s handling of a surveillance warrant to wiretap former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Horowitz has referred evidence he found that an FBI lawyer altered a document used to obtain the Page warrant to Durham for possible criminal prosecution.

Horowitz reiterated Wednesday that the FBI opened the investigation in July 2016 after receiving information from a friendly foreign government about George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosTrump can’t cry foul on FISA – unless he’s suddenly a civil libertarian Misfired ‘Hurricane’: Comey’s team abused Carter Page and the FBI Former FBI general counsel wants apology from Trump MORE, another ex-Trump campaign adviser, saying the Russians had harmful information on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field Trump supporters at Pa. rally ‘upset’ after Democrats introduce impeachment articles Hillary Clinton documentary to premiere at Sundance MORE.

Durham and Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrHillicon Valley: Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling | Tech legal shield makes it into trade deal | Impeachment controversy over phone records heats up | TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings Giuliani: Trump asked me to brief Justice Department, GOP lawmakers on Ukraine trip Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling MORE both issued statements disagreeing with Horowitz’s conclusion about the investigation being justified on Monday.

“Our investigation has included developing information from other persons and entities, both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S.,” Durham said Monday. “Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened.”

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Connecticut declined to comment on Wednesday.

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