DOJ watchdog 'finalizing' report on misconduct allegations in Russia probe

PHOTO: Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz testifies before a House Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 19, 2018.PlayManuel Balce Ceneta/AP, FILE
WATCH News headlines today: Sept. 18, 2019

The Department of Justice inspector general is approaching the conclusion of his investigation into allegations of bias at the origins of the Russia investigation, according to a letter sent to lawmakers Friday, and has provided a draft report of its findings to the DOJ.

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Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in a letter to the chairmen of several House and Senate committees that his team has "reviewed over one million records and conducted over 100 interviews" as part of the review.

"We have now begun the process of finalizing our report by providing a draft of our factual findings to the Department and the FBI for classification determination and marking," Horowitz said. "Once we receive the marked document back from the Department and the FBI, we will then proceed with our usual process for preparing final draft public and classified reports, and ensuring that appropriate reviews occur for accuracy and comment purposes."

The IG's review initially stemmed from allegations of misconduct surrounding the FBI's surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in the investigation of Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

PHOTO: Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz testifies before a House Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 19, 2018. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP, FILE
Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz testifies before a House Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 19, 2018.

Horowitz first confirmed in March 2018 his office was investigating the matter following referrals from then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Republican members of Congress, several of whom have alleged that government investigators misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in applications to conduct the surveillance on Page. But the review has broadened over the past year and a half to include examinations of other allegations of possible misconduct by senior FBI and DOJ officials.

The investigation has reportedly reviewed how the FBI handled former British spy Christopher Steele, who authored a "dossier" that included unsubstantiated salacious allegations about President Donald Trump as well as accusations that Page was working with the Russians to boost Trump's election bid.

Page has acknowledged his extensive contacts with Russian officials, but has denied he was ever acting as a spy or against U.S. interests.

Horowitz has also examined anti-Trump texts exchanged between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, and whether they were in turn influenced by politics in their investigative work on the Russia investigation. In a separate review of the Clinton email probe, Horowitz said he found no evidence that Page and Strzok's political opinions influenced their work or the outcome of that investigation.

Several Republicans critical of former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation have said, without providing evidence, that they expect the investigation will reveal evidence of criminality at the upper echelons of the FBI and Obama Justice Department.

"I anticipate that we will see some very stark revelations of manipulation of the whole system for political purposes," Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., said in a Fox News interview earlier this month. “When you see that happen, that's when I think you're going to see references or referrals for indictments, and I think you are going to see some indictments.”

Biggs, however, did not say what information he was basing his claim on.

That speculation has been further fueled by President Trump, who has repeatedly accused DOJ and FBI leaders of "illegally spying" on him and trying to conduct a "coup," pointing to the texts between Page and Strzok.

The signal that the investigation could soon reach its conclusion follows the release last week of a report from Horowitz reviewing the actions of fired FBI Director James Comey and his decision to leak memos regarding his interactions with President Trump.

The IG found that Comey violated Justice Department and FBI policies as well as his employment agreement with the bureau, though after reviewing the findings the DOJ declined to pursue criminal charges against Comey.

ABC's Alexander Mallin, Mike Levine and Allison Pecorin contributed reporting to this article.