They claimed it would explain everything. According to President Trump and his media allies, the Justice Department’s inspector general report would provide far-reaching justification for Trump’s claims that he was targeted by a conspiracy of “deep state” law enforcement officials operating with political bias against him. But the 434-page report, compiled by inspector general Michael Horowitz and released Monday, found no such thing. Instead, it found that while “serious performance failures” took place during the 2016 investigation into Russian election interference, the FBI was justified in investigating Trump campaign officials because of their ties to Russia.
Horowitz concluded that the FBI opened its investigation into the leaked Democratic National Committee emails after receiving a tip from the Australian government. The intel revealed that Trump campaign adviser George Papadopolous had drunkenly told an Australian diplomat that a Russian operative had offered him damaging information about Hilary Clinton. The FBI used this information “to predicate the opening of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation,” Horowitz said, using the FBI’s name for the probe. Horowitz determined that this decision was appropriate.
This report put the kibosh on months of fevered speculation from right-wing politicians and media figures that the report would provide a clear statement that Trump was the victim of bias by FBI officials — an unfounded conspiracy theory that people like Sean Hannity have termed “spygate.” In a fact-based world, the Horowitz report would put the issue to bed. But for the Trump-victimization-industrial-complex, momentary disappointments can be easily swept aside; there’s always something else coming down the pipeline to get worked up about. Just like with the excitement from the president’s supporters last fall around a single memo conjured by Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, which turned out to be a total dud, the actual content of the Horowitz report is less important than the media theater of waiting and hype.
“I do think the big report to wait for is going to be the Durham report,” said Trump last week, referring to a forthcoming Justice Department report from U.S. Attorney John Durham. The president appears to be already downplaying the Horowitz report, even though his allies had spent months hyping it up. “That’s the one that people are really waiting for,” he said of the Durham document.
Additionally, Trump has taken to attacking his own officials who’ve endorsed the report written by his own administration. On Tuesday morning, he tweeted, “I don’t know what report current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was reading, but it sure wasn’t the one given to me,” after the FBI chief endorsed the conclusions of the Horowitz report. Trump added, “With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken despite having some of the greatest men & women working there!” It calls to mind what happened the last time Justice Department officials disagreed with Trump.
In Trump’s view, the only correct belief for a law enforcement official is one that backs up his pre-existing conclusion that a vast conspiracy network is working against him. Fortunately for him, he now has a more amenable co-pilot in Attorney General William Barr, the current head of the Justice Department. On Monday, Barr issued a statement disagreeing with Horowitz’s conclusions and attacking the 2016 FBI investigation.“The FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken,” Barr said.
Expect this same exact circus to roll into town when the Barr-sanctioned Durham report is released. It’ll be another round of fevered speculation, increasingly far removed from the minds of anyone not steeped in the president’s home-brewed alternate reality.