Former President Barack Obama may have been aware the FBI was surveilling Donald Trump’s presidential campaign based on Russian election interference claims, the newly released audit by the inspector general at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) revealed.
In DOJ IG Michael Horowitz’s report, then-FBI Director James Comey said although Obama did not explicitly ask for an investigation into Trump, he urged the FBI to warn soon to be president of the surveillance that was taking place through counterintelligence defensive briefings.
Comey expressed reservations to the DOJ IG about approving the Page FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] request that enabled the investigation of the Trump campaign. The former FBI director expressed concern the source for the FISA request was a Hillary Clinton-linked partisan source — Christopher Steele – whose information “had not yet been corroborated.”
Notes taken by FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe during a July 2016 meeting suggested Obama knew it was Trump who was under suspicion and in the FBI crosshairs, not his pal Hillary Clinton.
The IG report revealed:
Comey told us that he received no requests from the White House to investigate members of the Trump campaign or inquiries about whether the campaign was involved with the efforts by the Russians to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections.
Comey said that he recalled generally the administration’s interest in what the FBI was doing as a member of the USIC [United States Intelligence Community] to understand and defeat Russia’s efforts to interfere with the elections. In fact, according to [then Crossfire Hurricane Section Chief Peter] Strzok, the White House requested a briefing from the USIC in the fall of 2016 about actions the Russians were taking to interfere in the elections.
Comey said [that during a 2016 meeting] he thought it was important that the president know the nature of the FBI’s efforts without providing any specifics. Comey said although he did not recall exactly what he said, he may have said there were four individuals with “some association or connection to the Trump campaign.”
Comey stated that after he provided this information, no one at the meeting responded or followed up with any questions. Comey did not recall specifically when this meeting took place, but believed it may have been in August 2016. We were unable to determine whether this meeting was part of the same meeting reflected in McCabe’s notes discussed above.
Obama reportedly suggested the FBI should provide counterintelligence defensive briefings to the candidates of the 2016 presidential election, advising them of Russian efforts to interfere in the campaign.
The DOJ IG Michael Horowitz’s report added:
The notes [taken by McCabe in July 2016] do not provide any further details about what Obama said regarding defensive briefings, and McCabe told us he did not recall that any further details were provided to him.
However, McCabe said he surmised from his notes that the briefings under discussion were to be given to the Trump campaign [not Hillary Clinton].
That suggests that Obama knew it was Trump who was under suspicion of working with the Russians.
Horowitz’s report, however, noted:
The FBI participated in ODNI [Office of the Director of National Intelligence] strategic intelligence briefings that were provided to members of both the Trump campaign and the Clinton campaign, including the candidates, in August and September 2016. However, those were not defensive briefings and did not address the allegations [about Russia trying to interfere in the U.S. elections] contained in the FFG [Friendly Foreign Government] information.
Obama’s former Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Sally Yates suggested the FBI may have briefed the White House on Crossfire Hurricane or the Carter Page FISA.
Comey admitted the U.S. government obtained the Carter Page FISA based on uncorroborated information provided by a source linked to Hillary Clinton — Christopher Steele.
Crossfire Hurricane refers to the codename for the counterintelligence probe undertaken by the FBI in 2016 and 2017 into alleged linked between Trump associates and his campaign and Russia.
Both Yates and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch indicated the FBI did not brief them on Crossfire Hurricane even though the AG is the agency’s boss. The FBI is a component of the DOJ, then-led by Lynch.
“[Counterintelligence Division (CD) Assistant Director (AD) E.W. “Bill” Priestap, who approved the opening the Russian collusion hoax investigation into Trump] told the OIG that the FBI does not routinely brief ongoing cases to the White House,” the inspector general reported.
“With the exception of mass shootings, major terrorist attacks, or intelligence that suggests an imminent attack on the United States,” he added.
“Priestap said that due to certain national security considerations, information from ongoing investigations might also need to be briefed to the White House by the [FBI] Director,” he also said.
Ultimately, the FBI’s FISA warrant system for spying on Americans is a mess.