//Horowitz report spotlights little-known FBI brokers function in Russia probe, Flynn case

Horowitz report spotlights little-known FBI brokers function in Russia probe, Flynn case

Inspector Common Michael Horowitz’s long-awaited report this week on FBI and Justice Division surveillance abuses doesn’t present the identify of an unidentified FBI supervisory particular agent (SSA) who made a collection of obvious oversights in the bureau’s so-called “Crossfire Hurricane” probe into the Trump marketing campaign.

Nevertheless, a evaluate of Horowitz’s findings leaves little doubt that the unnamed SSA is Joe Pientka — somebody who might quickly play a outstanding function within the ongoing prosecution of Michael Flynn, as the previous Trump nationwide safety adviser fights to overturn his responsible plea on a single cost of creating false statements.

Particularly, Horowitz’s report states that “SSA 1” was one of many FBI brokers to interview Flynn on the White Home on Jan. 24, 2017, in a seemingly informal dialog that may later type the premise for his legal prosecution.

It was beforehand reported that the interviewing brokers have been Peter Strzok, who was later fired by the FBI for misconduct and anti-Trump bias, and Pientka, whom Strzok previously identified as his notetaker for the Flynn interview. Flynn’s lawyer has additionally talked about Pientka’s function throughout previous court proceedings. Of the 2 brokers, solely Strzok is brazenly named within the Horowitz report, which strongly signifies that the opposite is Pientka.

The agent, Horowitz’s report makes plain, could have helped mislead the Overseas Intelligence Surveillance Court docket (FISC) about materials information regarding former Trump adviser Carter Web page and British ex-spy Christopher Steele, whose unverified file performed a central function within the FBI’s warrant to surveil Web page.

Web page has not been charged with any wrongdoing, although the FBI flatly referred to as him a international “agent” in its surveillance warrant software. And former Particular Counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia investigation, which concluded earlier this yr, discovered no proof that the Trump marketing campaign had engaged in a legal conspiracy with Russians to affect the 2016 election, regardless of a number of outreach efforts by Russian actors.

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On Aug. 1, 2016,  simply after the official inception of the FBI’s investigation into the Trump marketing campaign, Strzok and Pientka traveled abroad to satisfy with the Australian officers who had spoken with Trump adviser George Papadopoulos in Might of that yr. The officers had overhead Papadopoulos point out his now-infamous dialog with Joseph Mifsud about options of potential Russian leaks of Hillary Clinton’s emails, apparently touching off what would grow to be the Russia probe.

Pientka was given a supervisory function on the Crossfire Hurricane staff, overseeing brokers and reporting on to Strzok. The particular agent created the digital sub-file to which the Steele reviews can be uploaded and, in keeping with Horowitz, these reviews have been used to assist the possible trigger within the Web page FISA purposes.

Then, on Sept. 23, 2016, Yahoo Information revealed an article describing U.S. authorities efforts to find out whether or not Web page was in communication with Kremlin officers. The article appeared to carefully observe data from one in every of Steele’s reviews. Because of this, one FBI case agent who reported to Pientka believed Steele was the supply, in keeping with Horowitz.

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Pientka apparently thought the identical, as his notes from a Sept. 30, 2016, assembly mentioned: “Control issues — reports acknowledged in Yahoo News.” When questioned by Horowitz’s workplace, the agent defined he was involved — however undecided — that Steele was the Yahoo Information supply.

The drafts of the Web page FISA software, nonetheless, inform a unique story. Horowitz discovered that till Oct. 14, 2016, drafts state that Steele was accountable for the leak that led to the Yahoo Information article. One draft particularly states that Steele “was acting on his/her own volition and has since been admonished by the FBI.”

These assertions, which might have pointed to political motivations by their supply quickly earlier than the 2016 presidential election, have been modified to the next: Steele’s “business associate or the law firm that hired the business associate likely provided this information to the press.”

Horowitz discovered no information to assist this evaluation.

Former Trump adviser Carter Page was falsely accused of being a "foreign agent" in the FBI's secret surveillance warrant.

Former Trump adviser Carter Web page was falsely accused of being a “international agent” within the FBI’s secret surveillance warrant.

And, even after receiving “extra details about Steele’s media contacts, the Crossfire Hurricane staff didn’t change the language in any of the three renewal purposes concerning the FBI’s evaluation of Steele’s function within the September 23 article,” Horowitz discovered.

On Oct. 11, 2016, Steele met with then-State Division official Jonathan Winer and Deputy Assistant Secretary Kathleen Kavalec. Steele knowledgeable Kavalec {that a} Russian cyber-hacking operation focusing on the 2016 U.S. elections was paying the culprits from “the Russian Consulate in Miami.” Kavalec later met with an FBI liaison and defined to them that Russia didn’t have a consulate in Miami. “SSA 1” was knowledgeable of Steele’s incorrect declare in regards to the Russian Consulate on Nov. 18, 2016, however the FISA courtroom was by no means offered this data, in keeping with the IG report.

Moreover, the agent was conscious of Web page’s denials to an FBI confidential human supply (CHS) that he knew Russian officers Igor Sechin and Igor Divyekin – officers that Steele alleged Web page had secret conferences with in Moscow in July 2016. In reality, Horowitz discovered that SSA 1 “knew as of October 17 that Web page denied ever figuring out Divyekin.”

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“This inconsistency was additionally not famous through the Woods Procedures on the next FISA renewal purposes, and not one of the three later FISA renewal purposes included Web page’s denials to the CHS,” Horowitz wrote, referring to the FBI’s observe of reverifying information in its FISA software earlier than in search of renewals.

SSA 1 additionally had the duty for “confirming that the Woods File was full and for double-checking the factual accuracy evaluate to substantiate that the file contained acceptable documentation for every of the factual assertions within the FISA software,” in keeping with Horowitz.

However Horowitz discovered quite a few cases “through which factual assertions relied upon within the first FISA software focusing on Carter Web page have been inaccurate, incomplete or unsupported by acceptable documentation, primarily based upon data the FBI had in its possession on the time the applying was filed.”

Specifically, the FBI misled the FISC by asserting that Steele’s prior reporting “has been corroborated and utilized in legal proceedings.” Horowitz’s evaluate discovered there was no documentation to assist this assertion; Pientka advised Horowitz they “speculated.”

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Pientka was additionally conscious that Steele had relayed his data to officers on the State Division, and he had documentation displaying Steele had advised the staff he offered the reviews to his contacts on the State Division. Regardless of this, the FISC was knowledgeable that Steele advised the FBI he “only provided this information to the business associate and the FBI.”

After Steele was terminated as an FBI supply for leaking to the media, there was a gathering with Crossfire Hurricane staff members and Justice Division official Bruce Ohr, whose spouse had been employed by Steele employer Fusion GPS. Pientka advised Horowitz that Ohr doubtless left the assembly with the impression that he ought to contact the FBI if Steele contacted him; Ohr advised Horowitz that Pientka grew to become his preliminary level of contact when relaying Steele’s data to the FBI.

The FBI’s probe into Flynn was opened Aug. 16, 2017, and Pientka was chosen to supply an Aug. 17, 2017, FBI safety briefing to the Trump marketing campaign as soon as the FBI was knowledgeable that Flynn can be in attendance. In accordance with Pientka, the briefing gave him “the opportunity to gain assessment and possibly have some level of familiarity” with Flynn. He was there to “record” something “specific to Russia or anything specific to our investigation.”

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Pientka discovered the chance to work together with Flynn “useful” as a result of he was in a position to evaluate Flynn’s “norms” from the briefing with Flynn’s conduct at his Jan. 24, 2017, interview. It was this evaluation that purportedly helped lead Pientka to conclude that Flynn was not mendacity when questioned about his interactions with the Russians after the election and his calls with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

With Strzok’s termination from the FBI, Pientka is probably the one remaining FBI witness towards Flynn.

Horowitz’s descriptions of Pientka’s conduct got here as U.S. Legal professional John Durham announced Monday that he did not “agree” with a number of the inspector basic’s conclusions, beautiful observers whereas additionally highlighting Durham’s broader legal mandate and scope of evaluate. Durham is specializing in international actors in addition to the CIA, whereas Horowitz concentrated his consideration on the Justice Division and FBI.

“Based mostly on the proof collected to this point, and whereas our investigation is ongoing, final month we suggested the Inspector Common that we don’t agree with a number of the report’s conclusions as to predication and the way the FBI case was opened,” Durham mentioned in his assertion, including that his “investigation is just not restricted to growing data from inside element elements of the Justice Division” and “has included growing data from different individuals and entities, each within the U.S. and outdoors of the U.S.”

Pientka is hardly the one bureau worker to return below scrutiny. Previous to the FBI’s warrant software to watch Web page, the FBI reached out to the CIA and different intelligence businesses for data on Web page, Horowitz found. The CIA responded in an e-mail by telling the FBI that Web page had contacts with Russians from 2008 to 2013, however that Web page had reported them to the CIA and was serving as a CIA operational contact and informant on Russian enterprise and intelligence pursuits.

An FBI lawyer then doctored the CIA’s e-mail about Web page to make it appear as if the company had mentioned solely that Web page was not an energetic supply. And, the FBI included Web page’s contacts with Russians within the warrant software as proof he was a international “agent,” with out disclosing to the key surveillance courtroom that Web page was voluntarily working with the CIA regarding these international contacts.

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For a number of years, Democrats and analysts at The New York TimesThe Washington Post and CNN have repeatedly claimed that key claims in the Clinton-funded anti-Trump file had been corroborated and that the doc was not crucial to the FBI’s warrant to surveil Web page. Horowitz repudiated that declare, with the FBI’s authorized counsel even describing the warrant to surveil Web page as “primarily a single supply FISA” wholly depending on the file.

Among the many unsubstantiated claims within the file: that ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen traveled to Prague to conspire with Russian hackers; that the Trump marketing campaign was paying hackers figuring out of a nonexistent Russian consulate in Miami; {that a} lurid blackmail tape of Trump existed and may be in Russian possession; and that Web page was bribed with a 19 % share in a Russian firm.

The FBI declined Fox Information’ request for remark late Friday.

Wilson Miller contributed to this report.