IG Won’t Call Carter Page Surveillance Spying No Matter How Many Times GOP Asks

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 11: Michael Horowitz, inspector general for the Justice Department, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on December 11, 2019 in Washington, DC.... WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 11: Michael Horowitz, inspector general for the Justice Department, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on December 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. Horowitz is answering questions regarding the report he released Monday on the FBI’s investigation into possible connections between Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and the Trump campaign. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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December 11, 2019 1:56 p.m.

Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans were hellbent on Wednesday on getting Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to equate the surveillance of a Trump campaign adviser with “spying,” the sweetheart term the GOP and even the attorney general have embraced to describe the launch of the Russia probe.

But Horowitz wouldn’t budge, opting instead to either dodge the questions or point to legal definitions.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC) pushed Horowitz to define “spying” as not having the “legal foundation to surveil somebody,” but Horowitz was careful in his response.

“It’s illegal surveillance,” he said of Graham’s hypothetical.

Later Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) attempted to push Horowitz into explaining the difference between surveillance and “spying,” but the inspector general demurred.

After Horowitz explained that the Justice Department would’ve had to show “probable cause” to get permission to surveil Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page, Cornyn pointed out there were mistakes made in the FISA process.

“The court got inaccurate, incomplete information, agreed,” Horowitz said.

“So what’s the difference between surveillance and spying,” Cornyn asked.

“Well, surveillance, and the term I’m going to use and we use in the report is what’s in the law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” he said, as Cornyn cut him off to ask, “You don’t like the vernacular?”

“I’m going to stick to what we do as IGs, which is look at the law and stick to the language that’s in the law,” he said.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) took a stab at the issue from the opposite direction during her time to question the inspector general, attempting to get Horowitz to distance himself from the use of the word. In response to one question, Horowitz said he wouldn’t speak to people in his office “about (the FBI) acting in that manner, I haven’t seen that either.”

“Does it bother you (TO?) have the attorney general using words like spying to characterize what the FBI did under an authorized process?” Hirono pressed.

“You know, as inspector general, I’m going to stick to what we do and what we said and not trying to guess the motives or ideas or thoughts of anyone else out there,” he said.

“Yeah, I don’t see you jumping up and down in glee with use of such words,” Hirono responded.

Before the hearing began on Wednesday, key Republican members of the committee went on cable news to peddle the use of the word “spying” to describe what happened when the FBI began surveilling Page because they believed he may have been working with Russia. Attorney General Bill Barr has adopted that language as well to describe the launch of the Russia probe and Trump’s used the phrase to fuel his complaints of a “deep state.”

Republicans are seizing on Horowitz’s finding from his review of the Russia investigation, that there were inaccuracies and omissions in the information the FBI brought to the FISA court to obtain a warrant to surveil Page, as evidence that “spying” on the Trump campaign occurred. While Horowitz was critical of the bureau for its handling of the initial warrant and its renewal, he also concluded that the investigation was launched properly and was not tainted by an amorphous political bias within the FBI.

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