Things went from bad to worse for President Trump, his conspiratorialists and Rudolph Giuliani specifically in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at which Inspector General Michael Horowitz appeared. The Post reports:

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Horowitz was asked by the panel’s senior Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), if Attorney General William P. Barr or his hand-picked prosecutor on the issue, Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham, offered anything to change the inspector general’s view that the FBI had a valid reason to open the probe in July 2016.
“No, we stand by our finding,” said Horowitz. . . . Horowitz said he was “surprised” to see [U.S. attorney John] Durham issue a public statement disagreeing with that part of his report. Barr also disagrees with Horowitz on the issue, and in media interviews Tuesday accused the FBI of having acted in “bad faith” by pursuing the case.

Horowitz found plenty of evidence that justified the opening of an inquiry into Russian interference, including the conduct of George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn. And in fact, the investigators were correct in launching an investigation that found hundreds of contacts between the campaign and Russia and that resulted in more than 30 indictments.

Even more damning, Horowitz explained that Durham did not exactly disagree with Horowitz’s conclusion that the investigation into Russia was justified. Rather, Durham had a technical objection, namely “a difference of opinion about whether the FBI should have opened a preliminary investigation, which puts some limitations on the investigative steps that can be taken, or a full investigation.” Once more political appointees of the Justice Department, led by Attorney General William Barr, have misled the American people to smear the intelligence community and offer a specious defense of Trump.

In other eye-popping testimony, Horowitz let on that there is an ongoing investigation into the FBI’s anti-Hillary Clinton leaks during the 2016 campaign regarding investigation into her handling of emails. “We are investigating those contacts. We’ve issued a couple of public summaries so far about people we’ve found violated FBI policy,” he said. “We have other investigations ongoing.” He also appeared to confirm publicly for the first time that one of the people receiving unauthorized leaks was Giuliani.

In other words, political bias in the FBI may have played a role in the 2016 campaign — to the detriment of Clinton. But then we already knew that former FBI director James Comey 11 days before the election re-raised the email issue without any justification, eventually finding “new” evidence was not relevant.

It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that Horowitz exonerated the FBI. Far from it, he found serious violations and lack of candor in the FISA warrant requests that did not include recognition that much of the Steele dossier was inaccurate. That said, since Carter Page was not the trigger for the investigation into Russian interference, this does not support Republicans’ ever-evolving, fact-free conspiracy theories.

In just one example of the GOP’s dishonest spin, committee chairman Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) once more excoriated FBI counsel Lisa Page and agent Peter Strzok for messages voicing their political, anti-Trump views. What he failed to mention was a finding by Horowitz that none of that figured in the conduct or conclusion of the Russia investigation. Graham seems to be deliberately omitting critical information and arguing that FBI agents are not permitted to have political opinions at odds with a politician they are investigating, a position that would lead to McCarthy-like inquiries into officials’ personal political views.

In sum, Horowitz remains resolute that the conspiracy theories are groundless. He does not, however, deliver a clean bill of health to the FBI either in the FISA process or, we now learn, in leaking anti-Clinton information.

President Trump's attempt to extort Ukraine for personal gain signals a dangerous turn for American foreign policy, says Global Opinions editor Christian Caryl. (The Washington Post)

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