ABC Defends FBI’s Error-Filled Russia Investigation of Trump’s Campaign

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The Justice Department’s Inspector General report examining the origins of the Russia investigation was released on Monday. And in spite of “serious management failures” and “no satisfactory explanation” as to why certain actions were taken, the IG suggested there was no anti-Trump bias. Of course, certain members of the liberal media pounced such as ABC chief Justice correspondent Pierre Thomas.

Yet, CBS senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge (formerly with Fox News) and NBC Justice correspondent Pete Williams seemed skeptical of the conclusion as they focused heavily on the IG’s criticisms of the FBI. It was reporting that said more about them as journalists than it did about their respective networks.

After years of President Trump calling it a deep state, saying the FBI was anti-Trump when it launched an investigation into possible ties between his campaign and Russia, tonight, the long-awaited independent report, the Justice Department's inspector general revealing there was no evidence of a witch hunt,” Thomas declared confidently.

While Thomas did note that the IG found “serious ‘errors and omissions’” from FISA warrant applications, he spent more time touting the conclusions that went against President Trump’s accusations:

Determining the FBI had enough evidence pointing to "Either a federal crime or a threat to national security, or both" to justify the probe at the height of the election. And that the agents who made the final decision to launch the investigation were not influenced by political bias.

“The President's defenders have accused FBI agents of conspiring against him, pointing to anti-Trump text messages. But the IG report also found other agents exchanging pro-Trump messages at the same time, and later, celebrating the 2016 election,” he added.

 

 

In stark contrast, on NBC Nightly News, Williams didn’t pull punches when reporting on the FBI’s subpar investigation. Unlike Thomas, Williams seriously called out how poor the FBI’s FISA applications were when trying to spy on then-Trump campaign aide Carter Page and the use of the anti-Trump dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele.

“The report says the FBI's court application made statements about Steele that were, quote, ‘inaccurate, incomplete, and unsupported’ overselling his values as a source and glossing over the fact that many claims he made were not checking out,” Williams reported. He also seemed to rhetorically raise an eyebrow when noting the IG “got ‘no satisfactory explanation’ about how all these mistakes happened.”

Williams ended the video portion of the segment by highlighting the ongoing criminal investigation of the FBI’s handling of the Russia investigation, and the ominous rebuttal from the attorney heading up that probe (click “expand”):

WILLIAMS: Trump’s attorney general, William Barr did not go nearly that far, but in a written statement, he said, the report makes clear that the FBI “launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions,” which did not justify the steps the FBI took.

Months ago, Barr appointed a U.S. attorney in Connecticut, John Durham, to conduct a separate review. And in a highly unusual statement today, given that his investigation isn't done, Durham echoes the Attorney General, saying he does not agree with the Inspector General about how the FBI’s investigation was opened was opened in the first place.

Meanwhile, over on the CBS Evening News, Herridge also spent a significant portion of her report focusing on the IG’s criticisms. “The report was heavily critical of the FBI, finding fault in the four surveillance applications for Trump campaign aide Carter Page, citing ‘17 significant inaccuracies and omissions’ in the warrant request, including exculpatory evidence favorable to Page,” she reported.

“The report also criticized the FBI's reliance on Christopher Steele's dossier, used by agents to justify parts of the investigation, saying much of this information was ‘uncorroborated,’” she added.

ABC and Thomas completely failed to address the IG’s comments on the FBI’s use of the discredited Steele dossier and seemed to knock AG Barr for his skepticism of the report.

The transcripts are below, click "expand" to read:

ABC’s World News Tonight
December 9, 2019
6:32:03 p.m. Eastern

DAVID MUIR: Good evening and it's great to have you with us here to start another week. And we begin tonight with the high stakes report out today. President Trump has long claimed a deep state, that was he was spied on. Tonight, the Inspector General’s report finally out, into the origins of the Russia investigation, and the report finding no anti-Trump bias, saying the investigation’s launch was justified.

Tonight here, we have one-on-one with the President's own hand-picked FBI director, Christopher Wray, and we ask about claims of a deep state. And what the Inspector General also found, some, quote, “errors and omissions” when it came to applying for surveillance. ABC's chief Justice correspondent Pierre Thomas leading us off tonight with the report and the one-on-one.

[Cuts to video]

PIERRE THOMAS: After years of President Trump calling it a deep state, saying the FBI was anti-Trump when it launched an investigation into possible ties between his campaign and Russia, tonight, the long-awaited independent report, the Justice Department's inspector general revealing there was no evidence of a witch hunt.

Determining the FBI had enough evidence pointing to "Either a federal crime or a threat to national security, or both" to justify the probe at the height of the election. And that the agents who made the final decision to launch the investigation were not influenced by political bias.

(…)

THOMAS: But the Inspector General says FBI officials made serious “errors and omissions” in applying for surveillance warrants to monitor the communications of a Trump campaign associate, Carter Page.

Adding: agents "failed to meet the basic obligation to ensure the applications were scrupulously accurate." They did not tell DOJ attorneys about information that may have weakened their case for surveillance. The President pounced.

(…)

THOMAS: The President's defenders have accused FBI agents of conspiring against him, pointing to anti-Trump text messages. But the IG report also found other agents exchanging pro-Trump messages at the same time, and later, celebrating the 2016 election.

(…)

MUIR: And Pierre, tonight, we know Attorney General William Barr, really in a move similar to what he's done in the past, he's now speaking out against the findings of an independent investigation and siding with the President tonight.

THOMAS: David, tonight, Barr is blasting the Russia probe's origins, saying the Justice Department and the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that were insufficient to justify the steps taken. Barr's launched a separate investigation that is now criminal, but the FBI director telling me today he agrees that the I.G.'s findings that the launch was, in fact, legal.

(…)

 

CBS Evening News
December 9, 2019
6:34:33 p.m. Eastern

NORAH O’DONNELL: And there’s no evidence of political bias. That is the conclusion of a hotly anticipated report about the start of the Russia investigation that says the FBI didn't plot against President Trump. But the report also uncovered serious flaws in the investigation. Our Catherine Herridge is diving into the details.

[Cuts to video]

CATHERINE HERRIDGE: The nearly 500-page report from the Justice Department's Inspector General concluded “the FBI acted with authorized purpose” when it opened the investigation into the Trump campaign's Russia ties.

(…)

HERRIDGE: The report was heavily critical of the FBI, finding fault in the four surveillance applications for Trump campaign aide Carter Page, citing “17 significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the warrant request, including exculpatory evidence favorable to Page.

A.G. WILLIAM BARR: I think spying did occur. Yes, I think so.

HERRIDGE: Attorney General Bill Barr, a staunch defender of the President, took issue with his own Inspector General's report, saying it was, “clear the FBI launched an intrusive investigation on the thinnest of suspicions.”

The report also criticized the FBI's reliance on Christopher Steele's dossier, used by agents to justify parts of the investigation, saying much of this information was “uncorroborated.”

But in one twist, Steele, who has been attacked repeatedly by the President, told the Inspector General he was favorably disposed toward the Trump family before he began his research, and even had a personal relationship believed to be with Ivanka Trump.

(…)

 

NBC Nightly News
December 9, 2019
7:06:20 p.m. Eastern

LESTER HOLT: Meantime, the Russia investigation came roaring back today with lingering question whether the FBI was politically motivated to launch its investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign. Tonight, an answer the Justice Department's Inspector General saying while the FBI made mistakes, it had good reason to open that investigation. Here’s Pete Williams.

[Cuts to video]

PETE WILLIAMS: In a highly anticipated report, two years in the making, the Inspector General found when the FBI secretly opened an investigation into possible Russian influence of the Trump campaign in July 2016, it followed the rules about launching that kind of case. The report said it found no evidence of political bias and said the FBI had a legitimate purpose in looking at whether there was a threat to national security.

But it was harshly critical of the FBI’s court application for permission to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign advisor, saying there was “serious management failures.” The FBI relied heavily on an unverified anti-Trump dossier assembled by Christopher Steele, a former British spy hired by an outside group to conduct research on Trump and Russia.

The report says the FBI's court application made statements about Steele that were, quote, “inaccurate, incomplete, and unsupported” overselling his values as a source and glossing over the fact that many claims he made were not checking out.

The Inspector General reached no conclusions behind the FBI’s motive behind these repeated failures but said it got “no satisfactory explanation” about how all these mistakes happened.

(…)

WILLIAMS: Trump’s attorney general, William Barr did not go nearly that far, but in a written statement, he said, the report makes clear that the FBI “launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions,” which did not justify the steps the FBI took.

Months ago, Barr appointed a U.S. attorney in Connecticut, John Durham, to conduct a separate review. And in a highly unusual statement today, given that his investigation isn't done, Durham echoes the Attorney General, saying he does not agree with the Inspector General about how the FBI’s investigation was opened was opened in the first place.

[Cuts back to live]

The Inspector General, tonight, says he's ordering a new investigation into how the FBI applies for these secret surveillance warrants and the FBI director says he has already ordered changes in how that process works.

NB Daily Campaigns & Elections 2016 Presidential Bias by Omission Conspiracy Theories Political Scandals Trump-Russia probe Broadcast Television ABC World News Tonight CBS CBS Evening News NBC NBC Nightly News Video Pierre Thomas Catherine Herridge Pete Williams Donald Trump

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