An FBI lawyer since separated from the bureau faces a criminal investigation for altering a document relating to obtaining the Foreign Intelligence Service Act (FISA) Court warrant to surveil Donald Trump campaign aide Carter Page, CNN reports.
The lawyer allegedly admitted making the change to investigators for Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who referred the matter to U.S. Attorney John Durham. The longtime federal prosecutor, tasked by Attorney General William Barr with looking into the origins of the Russia collusion probe, reportedly has launched a criminal investigation into the FBI lawyer.
“The alterations were significant enough to have shifted the document’s meaning and came up during a part of Horowitz’s FISA review where details were classified,” CNN reports. The question naturally arises as to whether the details gained classified status because officials sought to hide the deception or whether the details actually rated such a designation. The heavily redacted warrant application dropped jaws upon its release by referring to opposition research as “research,” claiming a “law firm” rather than the Clinton campaign hired the investigators, and seemingly labeling former MI6 spook Christopher Steele as a “U.S. person.” The notion that an FBI employee altered a report already criticized for deception further undermines the credibility of the probe.
CNN, a committed enemy of the Trump administration, breaking the story raised speculation as to whether or not the bombshell report served as damage control for a matter that may further tarnish the investigation into the president already sullied by an FBI agent vowing to “stop” the Republican nominee, its reliance on material gleaned from a former foreign agent paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and discussions of an “insurance policy” among high-level FBI employees should Trump win the election.
On the air, CNN talking heads emphasized the seriousness of the charge in sober terms. On its website, CNN wondered whether the revelation might “further fuel Republican criticism and conspiracies,” “provide them a political boost at a moment whe[n] Democrats’ impeachment investigation into Trump’s political quid pro quo with Ukraine has battered the President,” and buttress the idea “that the FBI committed wrongdoing in its investigation of connections between Russian election meddling and the Trump campaign.”
CNN cited the opinions of unnamed witnesses interviewed by Horowitz who “expect the inspector general to find mistakes in the FBI’s handling of the FISA process.” Given the criminal investigation of an FBI employee’s admitted alterations, the accusation appears to go beyond a typo.
The inspector general will likely shed further light on the matter when he releases his report on December 9.