The report established that the special counsel’s office was complicit in the FISA abuse, the probe was a witch hunt, and its report was a cover-up for systematic government malfeasance.
Here I'll hit what I regard as the highlights.
First, of course, is the matter of the fourth FISA application--a renewal application. That happened on Mueller's watch. FISA renewal applications don't simply piggyback on the previous applications. The same duty of accuracy and full disclosure applies equally to each renewal, as does the obligation to demonstrate that the previous FISA orders are producing new intelligence of value. We now know, of course, that FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith actually falsified documents that were part of that fourth application. Will Clinesmith take a big hit for Team Mueller? We'll find out.
Beyond that, Horowitz documents that when Team Mueller demonstrably identified new information that invalidated the Steele evidence that was relied upon, this information was concealed from the FISA court for many months. The same applies to concealing the fact that, far from being a Russian agent, Carter Page was a US intelligence asset.
Second, the OIG report discovered something that, if it didn't exactly shock me, definitely caused me to sit up and take notice, to even involuntarily raise my eyebrows:
... after June 2017, “an agent from the Special Counsel’s Office became Ohr’s final point of contact through November 2017.” Thus, Mueller’s team made a concerted decision to continue to use Ohr to obtain “intel” from Steele—a decision the IG condemned.
In fact, the special counsel’s use of Ohr appears even more problematic than the FBI’s prior mishandling of their meetings with Ohr: At least prior to Mueller’s appearance, the FBI documented the details of their conversations with Ohr in FD-302 forms, but as the IG report noted, while Ohr continued to communicate with Steele through the end of November 2017 and passed on the details of those conversations to the FBI, “the FBI did not memorialize any meetings its agents had with Ohr after the Crossfire Hurricane investigation was transferred to the Special Counsel’s Office in May 2017.”
Further, while the special counsel’s team continued to meet with Ohr during this time, no one from Mueller’s group informed DOJ leadership of Ohr’s involvement in the investigation nor his meetings with Steele until “after Congress requested information from the Department regarding Ohr’s activities in late November 2017.”
I had previously thought that, once the 302s of Joe Pientka's contacts with Ohr stopped, so did the contacts. Not so!
Remember how Crossfire Hurricane was predicated on the idea that there was a de facto "enterprise"--an informal but cohesive entity--operating within the Trump campaign to collude with Russia? Uh, looks like there was an illegal enterprise of sorts going on within the FBI and DoJ--and Team Mueller! All FBI investigation must be documented. FBI agents are not allowed to operate what we referred to as "hip pocket sources." This is a huge no-no. Pientka has to be in deep, deep, doo-doo. As with Clinesmith, I find it non-credible that Clinesmith and Pientka undertook these patently illegal actions totally on their own. Who knew what, when?
Finally, Cleveland expands on what has been previously reported regarding key prosecutors who wound up on Team Mueller, who were secretly involved in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation before Team Mueller came into existence. Since the details are a bit complicated, I'll try to summarize them.
The FBI, it appears, had initiated a money laundering investigation on Paul Manafort, which coordinated with a prosecutive group at DoJ known as MLARS (Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section). Recall that three DoJ lawyers who had no involvement with Crossfire Hurricane nevertheless met with Bruce Ohr, Chris Steele, Peter Strzok, and Lisa Page (no doubt acting as Andy McCabe's representative) before the first FISA application. I believe that meeting was to brief Steele on what was still needed to get the FISA on Carter Page. Those three DoJ lawyers were Bruce Swartz, Zainab Ahmad, and Andrew Weissman (who became the de facto manager of Team Mueller). See Must Read: Bruce Swartz, Textbook Swamp Dweller, in which I covered much of this ground.
Horowitz reports that, unbeknown to MLARS those same DoJ attorneys--Ohr, Swartz, Weissmann, and Amhad--were being briefed on the Manafort investigation. Why? They had no need to know. Horowitz offers the suggestion that
“given their high-ranking positions in the Department, their ‘unusual level of interest’ in the Manafort investigation could create a perception that the Department was investigating Manafort for inappropriate reasons.”
Huh! "Inappropriate reasons." Maybe political reasons?
It gets worse.
Not only was MLARS unaware of their 'unusual level of interest,' but DAG Sally Yates was also kept in the dark. For the best of motives, according to these plotters:
Ohr, Swartz, Ahmad, and Weissmann also told the IG that they had not advised their supervisors of their meetings concerning Manafort, and senior department officials were also unaware of them. Swartz stated “that he specifically did not advise political appointees leading the Criminal Division of the meetings,” because he sought to keep “the MLARS investigation from being ‘politicized.”” While Weissmann claimed that “he thought not telling Department leadership was an ‘incorrect judgment call,’” he did not remember telling Swartz or Ahmad that, and instead kept their conversations concerning Manafort secret.
The IG report noted that “after [Obama Deputy Attorney General Sally] Yates learned during her OIG interview of the meetings involving Ohr, Swartz, Ahmad, and Weissmann,” she stated “that a decision not to advise political appointees ‘trouble[d]’ her because the Department does not ‘operate that way.’” There is not “a career Department of Justice and a political appointees’ Department of Justice. It’s all one DOJ,” Yates told the IG.
Doesn't operate that way? Uh, I beg to differ! And presumably it operated that way while Rod Rosenstein was in charge, too.
The IG agreed with these concerns, stating “Department leaders cannot fulfill their management responsibilities, and be held accountable for the Department’s actions, if subordinates intentionally withhold information from them in such circumstances,” such as Weissmann had.
A separate enterprise within DoJ? Sure looks like that to me.
None of this passes the laugh test, although I suspect Barr and Durham may have had a good laugh when they read that. Who else thinks that Durham will be leaning on Strzok and Page about this, with the idea of building a case against these DoJ attorneys? Those are far bigger fish than Strzok and Page.