IG Horowitz rips FBI 'failure' in Russia probe, says nobody vindicated by report

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This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," December 11, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS]

Michael Horowitz, DOJ inspector general: We found no evidence that the initiation of the investigation was motivated by political bias. It gets murkier; the question gets more challenging, Senator, when you get to the FISA.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas: See, I can tell you when I was at DOJ, if someone said, “Let's tap Hillary Clinton” or “Let's tap Bill Clinton or John Kerry,” the people there would have said, “What in the hell are you talking about?” What was going on here -- this wasn't Jason Bourne; this was Beavis and Butthead.

Michael Horowitz: We concluded the current department and FBI policies are not sufficient to ensure appropriate oversight and accountability.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.: Well, it’s as if J. Edgar Hoover came back to life, the old FBI, the FBI had a chip on its shoulder and wanted to intimidate people and find out what was going on in your life, and the law be damned.

[END VIDEO CLIPS]

Bret Baier, anchor: Senator Lindsey Graham running the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the inspector general's report, a lot of questioning, a long hearing again today. This after the attorney general weighed in on the findings in a number of different interviews:

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP]

Attorney General Bill Barr: The core statement, in my opinion, by the IG is that these irregularities, these misstatements, these omissions, were not satisfactorily explained, and I think that leaves open the possibility to infer bad faith. I think it's premature now to reach a judgment on that, but I think further work has to be done, and that’s what Durham is doing.

[END VIDEO CLIP]

Bret Baier: The attorney general wasn’t in this hearing, but essentially, he was, because Democrats brought him up a lot, including Senator Kamala Harris, back from the campaign trail, saying the IG should investigate the AG.

Let's bring in our panel: Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist; Jim Messina, Democratic strategist and CEO of the Messina Group; and Susan Ferrechio, chief congressional correspondent for The Washington Examiner. Okay, Susan, what do you take from this marathon here?

Susan Ferrechio, The Washington Examiner: Well, I think when the report first came out there was some feeling of vindication or even elation amongst Democrats that this showed no bias in the opening of the investigation, but I think a lot of cold water was thrown on that between the Barr interview and today's testimony on Capitol Hill with Horowitz and the questioning from Republicans. That really threw a lot of questions out there about all these mistakes made. Even Horowitz said at one point he can understand why people would question whether there might be bias when there are so many mistakes leading up to the investigation of a presidential candidate. And Democrats asked many questions of the witness, trying to make their case that this was all valid all the way through, and Horowitz would repeatedly shoot them down and say, “You know what? I can't really say that. I can't really say any of this is valid,” and it now opens a question. Was there really media bias? And he even said at one point he can't say 100 percent it wasn't there; he just didn't find any evidence for it.

Bret Baier: Yeah, and that was a topic on both sides. Here’s Senator Ted Cruz on the email part of it, the fraudulent email.

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP]

Sen. Ted Cruz: A lawyer at the FBI creates fraudulent evidence, alters an email. That is in turn used as the basis for as the basis for a sworn statement to the court that the court relies on. Am I stating that accurately?

Michael Horowitz: That's correct. That is what occurred.

[END VIDEO CLIP]

Bret Baier: Jim, what's the sense you think of Democrats coming out of this IG report on how they're looking at it?

Jim Messina, Democratic strategist: Well, look, it's a Rorschach test for how you believe politics. Democrats believe that this shows very clearly the president was absolutely wrong. His campaign wasn't spied upon. That the Republican inspector general said very clearly there was no political motivation. Republicans believe this is a flawed process and the FBI screwed this up and they were right to raise the kind of issues she discussed earlier. I think the broader question as the former White House deputy chief of staff is: I don't care who it is, who the president is, who the president isn't. If the FBI believes that an aide close to potential president of the United States has been infiltrated by a foreign government, it should investigate.

Bret Baier: Somebody who did not come out well in this hearing was Jim Comey, the former FBI director. And I'm going to get you to comment, but I want to play this about the Steele dossier, specifically my previous interview and what Horowitz said today.

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS]

James Comey, former FBI director: My understanding was his work started funded by oppo, as oppo research funded by Republicans. My understanding was the activity was begun that Steele was hired to look into was first funded by Republicans, then picked up, the important thing was, picked up by Democrats opposed to Donald Trump.

James Comey: I don't know that the FISA application has been released. My recollection was it was part of a broader mosaic of facts that were laid before the FISA judge to obtain a FISA warrant.

Bret Baier: There was a lot more than the dossier and the FISA application?

Jim Comey: My recollection was there was a significant amount of additional material about Page and why there was probable cause to believe he was an agent of a foreign power. And the dossier was part of that but was not all of it or a critical part of it is my recollection.

Male Speaker: We concluded that the Steele reporting played a central and essential role in the decision to seek a FISA order.

[END VIDEO CLIPS]

Bret Baier: OK, Mollie:

Mollie Hemingway, The Federalist: Yes, I would say few people come off looking as poorly as James Comey does after what happened in this report. There were so many things that James Comey said that were inaccurate about the dossier and its use. Remember that the FBI and DOJ knew that the dossier was complete and utter bunk by January 2017. He is in interviews even recently talking about the validity of the dossier.

I want to dispute idea that this is a Rorschach test of some kind. It's absolutely true that the media did originally spin this as somehow vindicating of the FBI and DOJ. That should have been completely put to rest through a reading of the report, but also by watching today's hearing. One of the very first questions asked was, is this vindicating of James Comey? Michael Horowitz said this doesn't vindicate anyone who had anything to do with this FISA. And that is very important. It was really good to hear someone. You know, Horowitz is a Democratic appointee. He's very sober and understated, and for him to lay out this case of all the wrongdoing done throughout every step of the process of surveilling Carter Page, I just want to make another point here. It's kind of ludicrous to say that surveillance, electronic surveillance, wiretaps, human informants, overseas intelligence assets, national security letters are not spying. It is perfectly fine for someone like Horowitz to use the legal term of surveillance. I think the rest of us can go ahead and acknowledge that spying.

Bret Baier: Susan, where does this go until we get John Durham, which probably is not going to come until spring or summer, according to the AG. And in the middle here, as we look live on Capitol Hill, the House is marking up the articles of impeachment. Starts at the top of the hour here. This process goes on, and we have this hearing. What is it? How does it all fit together?

Susan Ferrechio: They are kind of not going to affect each other for the moment and the House is going to impeach. Send the articles to the Senate they're going to dismiss it. Everybody's going to move on. But, I think, when you say it's completely unrelated to impeachment, I mean, the president felt targeted since the day he took office. And I personally think that led to his behavior with the Ukraine president trying to dig up what happened in 2016. So, it's all connected that he felt targeted, felt spied upon. Everyone's replaying his tweets from early on, saying I was spied upon. And now that he's validated there, you know, there's going to be a criminal investigation by the FBI looking into what happened. Horowitz has referred it that way. But on Capitol Hill, we're not going to really know anything more in terms of the next steps on whether this was really a biased investigation from the beginning until the Durham report comes up. That Is very much anticipated.

Bret Baier: Politically, though, as we head down this impeachment road, Jim, is there danger for Democrats, or do you think the political onus is on Republicans?

Jim Messina: I think it's both, right. In this process, everyone's going to get messy. The sitting president of the United States is going to get impeachment by the House of Representatives. That is not good for your reelection chances. There's 31 Democrats sitting in Republican held districts that have to worry about this as well. You've got senators like Cory Gardner and Susan Collins, who are going to be in states where Donald Trump's not going to win and have to cast a really tough vote. Both parties are going to have political issues coming out of this.

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