US President Donald Trump said on Friday that a government watchdog report on the origins of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, which engulfed two years of his presidency, will be “historic”.
Trump made the comment about the upcoming report by the Justice Department’s inspector general, which will determine whether the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) misused its surveillance authorities, while appearing on the conservative Fox News Channel’s Fox & Friends programme.
“The word is it’s historic,” Trump said of the report.
“That’s what I hear. If it’s historic, you’re going to see something,” Trump said.
He declined to say how he knew.
In October, US media reported that the inspector general’s investigation had shifted from an administrative review to a criminal investigation, raising concerns the president and his allies may be using the power of government to go after his opponents.
On Thursday, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, in a letter sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, said that the much-anticipated report will be released on December 9 “barring unforeseen circumstances”.
Inquiry into the investigation
Since March 2018, Horowitz’s team has been looking into the origins and practices of the FBI’s investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who eventually took the lead on the FBI’s inquiry, released a report in April that confirmed a coordinated and widespread effort by Russia to interfere in the elections.
In regards to Trump, Mueller said the inquiry did not find “sufficient evidence” that he or his team colluded with Russia. The report also did not conclude that Trump was guilty of obstructing the investigation, but did not exonerate him either.
Horowitz has said the new report will examine how closely the FBI stuck to the law and rules when it went to a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court beginning in 2016 to obtain authorisation to conduct electronic monitoring of “a certain US person”, believed to by the Trump campaign’s foreign policy adviser.
The inspector general’s report will also contain the findings on an FBI lawyer who was being investigated for allegedly altering a document related to surveillance of a Trump campaign adviser in 2016, US media has reported.
The report is also expected to determine how closely the FBI relied on information provided by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who compiled a controversial “dossier” on alleged links between Trump and Russia for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Democratic Party lawyers.
The FBI cited reporting by Steele in documents sent to the Foreign Intelligence court when it sought permission to monitor Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page, though other information used by the FBI in such applications remains classified.
Trump and Republican allies have linked the current impeachment inquiry into the president’s dealings with Ukraine with the FBI’s investigation into Russian collusion, characterising both as partisan ploys.
During his wide-ranging television appearance on Friday, Trump doubled down on a largely debunked theory that Ukrainians might have hacked the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) network in 2016 and framed Russia for the crime.
“They gave the server to CrowdStrike, which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian,” Trump said, referring to a security firm hired by the DNC. “I still want to see that server. The FBI has never gotten that server. That’s a big part of this whole thing.”
A day earlier, former White House adviser Fiona Hill, while testifying publicly in the House impeachment inquiry, had told legislators that the theory was a “fictional narrative” that played into Russia’s hands and urged officials not to perpetuate.
The House impeachment inquiry is looking into whether Trump sought help from a foreign government for his own political gain, specifically an investigation into 2020 Democratic Hopeful Joe Biden and his son, as well as a probe into the 2016 presidential election. Legislators are trying to determine whether trump withheld congressionally approved military aid from Ukraine in a pressure campaign for the investigations.
Trump also defended using his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as an unofficial envoy to Ukraine. White House and State Department officials had complained that Giuliani blurred the line between official government business and the president’s political objectives, according to witness testimony in the probe.
“He’s like an iconic figure in this country for two reasons. He was the greatest mayor in the history of New York and he was the greatest crime fighter probably in the last 50 years,” Trump said.
“When Rudy Giuliani goes there and you hear it’s a corrupt country, I mean, it means a lot,” he said.