The Justice Department’s inspector general issued an initial report Friday, finding no evidence that justice department officials revealed the identities of the Trump campaign aides whose communications had been swept up in surveillance intercepts, but that its review focused only on those communications and not what the officials did with the information once it had been made public.
That lack of information raised questions about whether anyone within the Justice Department tried to retroactively bolster charges against Mr. Trump’s campaign with that knowledge, which may have been a motive for memos written by the former FBI director James B. Comey before the inauguration calling on the DOJ to “reboot” its case.
The watchdog found “no indication of malfeasance” at the department, but focused on those intercepts where Mr. Trump aides’ names had been included as part of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to spy on a foreign target. In those cases, the inspector general said the department identified the identities of the officials, both before and after publication of the former FBI director’s memos, as required by law.
But the inspector general’s report also reported that the department played down news reports in January 2017 that Mr. Comey and other officials had played a role in recommending that the Obama administration seek a secret surveillance warrant to probe communications between associates of Mr. Trump and Russian government officials.
In a detailed 10-page memo to the Justice Department, Inspector General Michael Horowitz said that he had interviewed “all nine Department officials” who played a role in that decision and that “it is clear from those interviews that the Department did not seek to mask the identities of any U.S. person in the intelligence reporting.”
An additional nine department officials interviewed by the inspector general said that they did not have knowledge that Mr. Comey and others ever discussed suppressing the name of a Trump associate.
Mr. Horowitz determined that the department’s officials did not purposely try to conceal the identities of Mr. Trump’s aides.
“In reality, we have found no evidence that any Department official ‘unmasked’ [Michael] Flynn, or discussed the content of intercepted communications with anyone at the White House or in the White House staff,” Mr. Horowitz wrote in his memo to the department.
Still, Mr. Horowitz said that the department’s approach in the initial days after the news reports raised questions about whether certain officials had protected the identities of Trump aides.
The inspector general’s review focused on an intelligence report published days after the news reports came out in January 2017. Mr. Horowitz wrote that the department did not speak about the report to federal investigators assigned to handle the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Trump’s campaign, calling into question the department’s decision not to mention the report to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is looking into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
Mr. Horowitz is expected to issue further reports addressing the department’s related actions and policy questions over the past year.
The IG’s review focused on a wide range of intelligence reports, emails and handwritten notes from various Department officials in the weeks and months following the news reports.
The review covered any instances where the department revealed the identities of any Trump aides, and was conducted by the inspector general’s office rather than any specific department executive. The investigations included interviews with current and former department officials, and reviewed records including Justice Department memos.
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