If RealClearInvestigations’ sources accurately describe Inspector General Michael Horowitz’ upcoming report, it’s no wonder Donald Trump fired James Comey. According to two sources reportedly briefed on the upcoming Horowitz report, the former FBI director repeatedly lied about not targeting Trump in his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Comey also had what amounted to a spy in the White House, raising the specter of J. Edgar Hoover all over again:
Sources tell RealClearInvestigations that Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz will soon file a report with evidence indicating that Comey was misleading the president. Even as he repeatedly assured Trump that he was not a target, the former director was secretly trying to build a conspiracy case against the president, while at times acting as an investigative agent.
Two U.S. officials briefed on the inspector general’s investigation of possible FBI misconduct said Comey was essentially “running a covert operation against” the president, starting with a private “defensive briefing” he gave Trump just weeks before his inauguration. They said Horowitz has examined high-level FBI text messages and other communications indicating Comey was actually conducting a “counterintelligence assessment” of Trump during that January 2017 meeting in New York.
In addition to adding notes of his meetings and phone calls with Trump to the official FBI case file, Comey had an agent inside the White House who reported back to FBI headquarters about Trump and his aides, according to other officials familiar with the matter.
RCI’s Paul Sperry goes into considerably more detail, so be sure to read all of his report. How much of this actually ends up in Horowitz’ finished version is anyone’s guess. Usually, these reports get passed around to various impacted department heads for feedback and revisions. Sperry notes that the report isn’t expected out until September, which means edits and revisions might still take place. And, curiously, Sperry doesn’t offer much of anything at all on what is supposed to be central to Horowitz’ investigation — the use of the Steele dossier to get a FISA surveillance warrant on Carter Page. Either that part might be a dud, or perhaps Horowitz is playing that one a little closer to the vest.
If Sperry’s sources are accurate, and if Horowitz can document all this, hoo boy. The allegation that Comey repeatedly lied to Trump about his status in Comey’s probe may not be impossible to explain; if Trump was suspected of espionage, the FBI wouldn’t have wanted him to know it too soon. The problem with this explanation is that the FBI had no evidence of any such suspicion. The Horowitz report will supposedly confirm that, but Robert Mueller has already done that work for Horowitz. Under those circumstances, Comey acted with significant insubordination to his superior and constitutional officer, which matters even if Comey didn’t like Trump or think he should be president.
Spying on Trump by coopting one of his aides hikes that to a level not seen since the FBI’s bad old days. It’s true that the FBI has the main charter for domestic counterespionage activities, but the FBI is not supposed to spy on elected officials — not without bulletproof substantiation of a threat. And again, we know now that the FBI never had even a reasonable suspicion to spy on Trump.
At least in RCI’s telling, the FBI under Comey had reverted to its J. Edgar roots and was attempting to manipulate the American political system for its director’s ends. If that’s also Horowitz’ telling, then Comey’s firing averted a disaster. This also provides significant context for the claims of obstruction of justice against Trump in the Mueller report. If Comey had corrupted the FBI in this manner, Trump was well within his authority to put an end to it and not to cooperate with a poisoned FBI operation targeting his administration.
The rest of us will have to wait until September to get a read of Horowitz’ take on these issues. If RCI proves prophetic, will the media narrative on the Russia-collusion investigation reflect those changes if they arise in September?