Republican lawmakers had a rare opportunity to publicly question Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz Wednesday at a House Oversight Subcommittee on Government Operations hearing. The panel – focused mainly on the inspector generals – diverted during the hearing to questions regarding Horowitz’s recently completed report on alleged FISA abuse by the FBI and his recently released scathing report on former FBI Director James Comey.
Further, Horowitz told the panel he has communicated with Connecticut Attorney John Durham, who was appointed by Attorney General William Barr to investigate the FBI’s handling of the probe into President Trump’s campaign.
Under questioning from Rep. Jody Hice, R-Georgia, Horowitz said he had met with Durham but declined to discuss their conversations citing that Durham’s investigation is “a separate entity.”
He also declined to comment on whether Durham had similar concerns with regard to the Horowitz’s FISA investigation. Horowitz reaffirmed that his most recently completed report on alleged FISA abuse is currently undergoing a classification review by officials at the DOJ and FBI.
The report contains classified material but Horowitz told Hice that he was “not going to get into percentages” as to how much has been classified.
“It’s ultimately up to them, to decide what’s going to be marked, how its going to be marked, or how it’s not going to be marked,” said Horowitz, regarding classified material contained in the report.
“We may weigh in once we see it back as to what our views are, as too if there are any disagreements,” he said. “These rarely go in a one straight line process.”
As important, Hice asked Horowitz to clarify what he meant in his recent report, which stated that former FBI Director James Comey setting a ‘dangerous example’ for the FBI. The Justice Department declined to prosecute Comey, citing that the charges were not strong enough to bring forward a criminal case. The decision was criticized by some who contend failure to prosecute Comey was an example of how senior government officials are not held accountable for their actions.
Horowitz had referred Comey for prosecution.
“We were particularly focused on the providing of information on the memo that was really a recording of his meeting, investigative meeting, to a journalist to put into a newspaper,” said Horowitz. “That particular memo did not have classified information.”
Horowitz said the concern with Comey was his use of the memos to alter the direction of the investigation because he didn’t agree with how it was developing, in this case Trump.
He said “I’ve had this example of federal prosecutors in corruption cases previously, where the law enforcement agents you’re working with worked on a matter may think the decision was not made for the right reasons.”
“And our concern was empowering FBI directors, and frankly any FBI employee or other law enforcement official with the authority to decide that they’re not going to establish norms and procedures because in their view they’ve made a judgement that the individuals they’re dealing with can’t be trusted,” Horowitz told the panel.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, also referred to Horowitz’s Comey report. He focused particularly on the meetings that took place before and after Comey met with Trump in January, 2017 to brief the then president elect on the now debunked dossier. According to the report Comey had met with key players of his team, including former FBI General Counsel James Baker, former Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, Comey’s former Chief of Staff FBI Special Agent James Rybicki, and others, prior to his meeting with Trump in New York in January, 2017.
The IG report named the key players but did not disclose the names of the supervisory agents, which Jordan said he believed were former FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok and former FBI Attorney Lisa Page.
Horowitz said he couldn’t recall but alluded that there may be other names that have not been disclosed to the public and cited “privacy rights.”
Comey briefed Trump for the first time on the more salacious aspects of Steele’s report that has now been proven false.
According to Horowitz’s report Comey had memorialized the meeting on a secure laptop with the then president elect after leaving Trump Tower. More importantly, he had been briefed before and after by his FBI team to do so.
Jordan recanted that the decision to do so was due to concerns that the “president elect might misrepresent something later on.”
Horowitz replied, “if I recall, that was one of the reasons.”
“Even though the very guy in there giving the briefing meeting is misrepresenting a fundamental fact to the president of the United States, tell him he’s not under investigation when they are actually trying to set the president up in my opinion and get information from the president,” Jordan said.