The Department of Justice (Department) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) undertook this review to examine certain actions by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department during an FBI investigation opened on July 31, 2016, known as “Crossfire–Hurricane,” into whether individuals associated with the Donald J. Trump for President Campaign were coordinating, wittingly or unwittingly, with the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Key findings included:
- The Crossfire-Hurricane investigation was properly designated as a “sensitive investigative matter,” or SIM, by the FBI because it involved the activities of a domestic political organization or individuals prominent in such an organization.
- The Crossfire-Hurricane opening was reviewed by an Office of General Council (OGC) Unit Chief and approved by Counterintelligence Division (CD) Assistant Director (AD) E.W. “Bill” Priestap (two levels above Section Chief).
- According to AD Priestap, the combination of the Friendly Foreign Government (FFG) information and the FBI ‘s ongoing cyber intrusion investigation of the July 2016 hacks of the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) emails, created a counterintelligence concern that the FBI was “obligated” to investigate.
- Priestap stated that he considered whether the FBI should conduct defensive briefings for the Trump campaign but ultimately decided that providing such briefings created the risk that “if someone on the campaign was engaged with the Russians, he/she would very likely change his/her tactics and/or otherwise seek to cover-up his/her activities, thereby preventing us from finding “the truth.”
- We concluded that Priestap’s exercise of discretion in opening the investigation was in compliance with Department and FBI policies, and we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced his decision.
- We similarly found that, while the formal documentation opening each of the four individual investigations was approved by [Peter] Strzok (as required by the DIOG), the decisions to do so were reached by a consensus among the Crossfire-Hurricane agents and analysts who identified individuals associated with the Trump campaign who had recently traveled to Russia or had other alleged ties to Russia. Priestap was involved in these decisions.
- We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the decisions to open the four individual investigations.
- We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the FBI’s decision to seek FISA authority on Carter Page.
- We did not identify any Department or FBI policy that applied to this decision and therefore determined that the decision was a judgment call that Department and FBI policy leaves to the discretion of FBI officials.
- We also concluded that, under the AG Guidelines and the DIOG, the FBI had an authorized purpose when it opened Crossfire-Hurricane to obtain information about, or protect against, a national security threat or federal crime, even though the investigation also had the potential to impact constitutionally protected activity.
- In May 2016, during a meeting with the Friendly Foreign Government (FFG), then Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos “suggested the Trump team had received some kind of suggestion from Russia that it could assist this process with the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Clinton (and President Obama).”
- FBI officials involved in opening the investigation had reason to believe that Russia may have been connected to the Wikileaks disclosures that occurred earlier in July 2016 and were aware of information regarding Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 U.S. election.
- These officials, though, did not become aware of Steele’s election reporting (The Steel- Russia Dossier) until weeks later, and we, therefore, determined that Steele’s reports played no role in the Crossfire-Hurricane opening.
- The Crossfire-Hurricane team opened individual cases in August 2016 on four U.S. persons: [George] Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Paul Manafort, and Michael Flynn-all of whom were affiliated with the Trump campaign at the time the cases were
- We concluded that the quantum of information articulated by the FBI to open the individual investigations on Papadopoulos, Page, Flynn, and Manafort in August 2016 was sufficient to satisfy the low threshold established by the Department and:
- All of the investigative actions taken by the Crossfire-Hurricane team, from the date the case was opened on July 31 until October 21(the date of the first FISA order), would have been permitted whether the case was opened as a Preliminary or Full Investigation.
- We also concluded that, under the AG Guidelines and the DIOG, the FBI had an authorized purpose when it opened Crossfire- Hurricane to obtain information about, or protect against, a national security threat or federal crime, even though the investigation also had the potential to impact constitutionally protected issues.
- The drafting of the FISA process[i] culminated in an application that asserted that the Russian government was attempting to undermine and influence the upcoming U.S. presidential election and that the FBI believed Carter Page was acting in conjunction with the Russians in those efforts.
- Our review found that FBI personnel fell far short of the requirement in FBI policy that they ensure that all factual statements in a FISA application are “scrupulously accurate”.
- We concluded that the failures represent serious performance failures by the supervisory and non-supervisory agents with responsibility over the FISA application process.
- Accordingly, we have today initiated an OIG audit that will further examine the FBI’s compliance with the procedures in FISA applications.
- We found no evidence that the FBI used Confidential Human Sources (CHS) or Under Cover Employees (UCE) to interact with members of the Trump campaign prior to the opening of the Crossfire-Hurricane investigation.
- After the opening of the investigation, we found no evidence that the FBI placed any CHSs or UCEs within the Trump campaign or tasked any CHSs or UCEs to report on the Trump campaign. Finally, we also found no documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivations influenced the FBI’s decision to use CHSs or UCEs to interact with Trump campaign officials in the Crossfire- Hurricane investigation.
- Activities undertaken by the Crossfire-Hurricane team involving CHSs and UCEs complied with applicable Department and FBI.
[i] The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 is a United States federal law which establishes procedures for the physical and electronic surveillance and collection of “foreign intelligence information” between “foreign powers” and “agents of foreign powers” suspected of espionage or terrorism.