By Robert A. Vella
President Trump’s hostile reaction to the Inspector General report, which refuted his delusion about a “deep state” conspiracy opposed to his presidency, has triggered a civil war of sorts inside the Department of Justice. Attorney General William Barr – who heads the DOJ – is pandering to Trump’s megalomania, while FBI Director Christopher Wray is pushing back along with other honest career professionals in the department who only want the truth and justice to prevail (see: Christopher Wray, basically: Don’t Listen to Trump’s Ukraine Conspiracy Theories). Think about that, folks. The nation’s top criminal prosecutor and the nation’s top law enforcement officer are taking opposite sides in a heated controversy created by a madman who is doing the bidding of a foreign adversary (i.e. Russia).
Vladimir Putin must really be enjoying this.
Others are joining the fray including Senate Republicans who want to grill the Inspector General, and a central target of Trump’s conspiracy theory who is defending the report he authored on Russian collusion during the 2016 U.S. election.
We’ll also cover the latest opinion polls, another dubious executive order by President Trump, and today’s other headlines.
Civil war inside the DOJ
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is set to testify Wednesday about his findings that the FBI investigation of President Trump’s 2016 campaign featured “serious performance failures” but was not motivated by political bias.
The inspector general is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee two days after releasing a 434-page report analyzing the FBI investigation, launched in the summer of 2016 to determine if anyone in the Trump campaign was conspiring with Russia to interfere in the presidential election.
The report has exposed major disagreements among Trump, Attorney General William P. Barr, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Horowitz, and lawmakers are likely to press the inspector general further on the areas where there are disputes.
Horowitz, whose review looked into the role that [former British Intelligence officer Christopher] Steele’s dossier played in the FBI investigation, determined that the FBI did not rely upon Steele’s reporting in opening the investigation, according to his report released on Monday. However, Horowitz noted that the FBI relied heavily on Steele’s reporting for its FISA applications to conduct surveillance on [former Trump campaign aide Carter] Page.
Responding to the IG report, which questioned the reliability of Steele’s reporting and reprimanded the FBI for failing to reassess the validity of the information, Steele said releasing information about sources is “highly risky” for their safety and for others involved, and that if they had been given an opportunity to respond to interviews in a private manner, the statements would be “put in a very different light.”
Steele’s team also alleged in the statement that contrary to the IG report’s “apparent suggestion” that none of his reporting about Page has been corroborated, Page’s own statements as well as special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, released earlier this year, supported some of the key aspects of his firm’s research [i.e. Orbis Business Intelligence, and Fusion GPS].
Steele also refuted the IG report’s description of himself as a confidential human source — in other words, an FBI informant — saying that though he had provided investigative work for the FBI as a contractor, he is prohibited from serving as a confidential human source for the FBI because of his obligation to his former government employer — the British government.
Related story: Lisa Page sues DOJ, FBI over alleged privacy violations
The survey shows 39 percent of independent voters approve of Trump’s job performance, while 56 percent said they disapprove.
The new approval rating among independent voters is down from 44 percent in early November.
Trump’s job approval rating also saw a dip among Republican voters, dropping 3 points to 85 percent compared to the previous poll.
Nate Silver’s 538 blog currently has Trump’s aggregate job approval numbers at 41.8% approve and 53.4% disapprove, and the aggregate impeachment numbers at 48.1% in support and 44.8% opposed.
Another dubious executive order
WASHINGTON — President Trump plans to sign an executive order on Wednesday targeting what he sees as anti-Semitism on college campuses by threatening to withhold federal money from educational institutions that fail to combat discrimination, three administration officials said on Tuesday.
But critics have complained that such a policy could be used to stifle free speech and legitimate opposition to Israel’s policies toward Palestinians in the name of fighting anti-Semitism. The definition of anti-Semitism to be used in the order, which matches the one used by the State Department, has been criticized as too open-ended and sweeping.
For instance, it describes as anti-Semitic “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination,” and offers as an example of such behavior “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”