Prosecutor tells watchdog he doesn’t have evidence Russia probe a setup
The Justice Department’s inspector general found no evidence that US intelligence agencies tried to plant spies in the Trump campaign, undercutting a repeated claim from President Donald Trump and his allies, people familiar with a draft of the report due out Monday tell CNN.
Michael Horowitz, the Justice inspector general, consulted US intelligence agencies as well as John Durham, the prosecutor conducting a broad investigation into the intelligence used to start the Russia investigation, to ask whether they could provide any evidence to back up the spy claim.
Durham and the intelligence agencies responded that they couldn’t provide any such evidence.
The Washington Post first reported the IG’s outreach to Durham.
Attorney General William Barr has voiced concerns about some of the intelligence activities at the start of the Russian election interference investigation, particularly what he termed as spying on the Trump campaign. He has taken specific interest in Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud, who has been the subject of reports on conservative media stories alleging he was a spy planted by the FBI or US intelligence agencies. Barr and Durham traveled earlier this year to Italy, where Mifsud was based, to seek help from Italian authorities. The Italian Prime Minister later downplayed the importance of the Barr interactions.
Mifsud had interactions with George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser, whose activities prompted the FBI to open its Russia election interference investigation. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in 2017 to making false statements to the FBI.
Horowitz also asked intelligence agencies to search internal systems for records that Misfud had worked as an asset for Western spy agencies — a claim spread by Papadopolous and conservative allies of the President. The agencies told Horowitz that Misfud was not an asset, one of the people familiar with the report said.
Horowitz’s report is expected to conclude that the FBI’s investigation was legally predicated, despite errors and potential wrongdoing by some lower-level FBI employees involved in it, CNN reported last month.
The report is also expected to conclude that Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, was appropriately targeted for surveillance and the FBI appropriately disassociated itself from Christopher Steele, a former British spy who’s the author of the infamous dossier about Trump, after leaks and contacts with the media were uncovered.
But despite this, Barr — a longtime skeptic of the Russia probe, and particularly the FBI’s tactics to investigate Trump campaign associates — has told conservative allies Horowitz’s report won’t be the last word on the matter.
Instead, the attorney general has told allies to wait for Durham’s investigation, which he believes will be more complete.
Durham is a Trump appointee who has investigated numerous public corruption cases under Republican and Democratic administrations.
He was appointed by then-Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate corruption surrounding the use of FBI informants in Boston in the late 1990s, and later called on to investigate the CIA’s destruction of videotapes of detainee interrogations in 2008.
CNN’s Paul LeBlanc and Laura Jarrett contributed to this report.