Klobuchar goes on attack, grills Horowitz on Russian interference

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Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., went on the offensive during the Senate Judiciary Committee's questioning of Justice Department Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz on Wednesday, shifting the focus of the hearing from the failures of the FBI during its Russia investigation by grilling Horowitz on the ongoing threat of Russian election interference.

While Republicans used their time during the hearing to hammer the investigation over their use of inaccurate and misleading evidence to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant for Carter Page, Klobuchar used her time to illustrate how Russia was and remains a real threat heading into the 2020 election.

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"I think it's important to put this discussion in context with what happened in the 2016 election, which is why we are here today," she said. "It is now undisputed by our intelligence agencies that Russia invaded our democracy. Not with bombs, or jets, or tanks, but with a sophisticated cyber-mission to undermine the underpinnings of our very democracy."

She then looked to the race she hopes to participate in, the 2020 presidential election, and recalled a warning from former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates.

"He said that, in fact, Russia has been emboldened to do this again," she said.

A former prosecutor, Klobuchar then asked a rapid-fire series of questions about Russian interference -- past, present and future.

"Do you think that interference in our elections by a foreign government constitutes a national security threat?" she asked.

"Yes, I do," Horowitz said.

"Does anything in your report call into question the finding in the Special Counsel's report that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in a sweeping and systematic fashion?" she asked.

"No it does not," Horowitz said, saying that he cites former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report in his own report.

"Does anything in your report call into question the assessment of FBI Director [Christopher] Wray that Russians' interference in our elections is ongoing, and that its interference in the 2018 midterms [was] a, quote, 'dress rehearsal,' end quote, for the 2020 elections?" she asked

"No, it doesn't," he answered.

"Does anything in your report call into question the finding in the Special Counsel's report that quote 'the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome?'" Klobuchar asked.

Horowitz said he "did not take issue" with any of Mueller's report.

This line of questioning came after Klobuchar took aim at President Trump, who is facing possible impeachment over his request for Ukraine to investigate Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. She echoed Committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who stated earlier in the hearing that it was Russia, not Ukraine, that interfered.

Klobuchar then referred to the recent testimony from former National Security Council official Fiona Hill during the impeachment inquiry.

"She said anyone that is repeating this lie is basically peddling in Russian propaganda," Klobuchar said.

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At the conclusion of her time, Klobuchar asked Horowitz if he agreed with Attorney General Bill Barr's belief that the Russia investigation was launched based on "the thinnest of suspicions."

While Horowitz said that there was "sufficient predication" for opening the Russia probe, he did make clear that this was a "low threshold."