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Special Counsel report finds issue with FBI investigation into Trump's Russia ties

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

A report into the origins of the FBI's probe into the 2016 Trump campaign's alleged ties to Russia is out today. It takes the agency to task for those efforts, and it slams the FBI and Justice Department for failing to, quote, "uphold their important mission of strict fidelity to the law." All of that and more is in a 306-page deep dive from Special Counsel John Durham. NPR's Deepa Shivaram is with us now to talk through the investigation. Hey, Deepa.

DEEPA SHIVARAM, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: So tell us more about what Durham found in this investigation. Like, what is in this report?

SHIVARAM: Yeah, all 306 pages of it.

CHANG: (Laughter) Yeah.

SHIVARAM: This report is essentially an investigation of the investigation. You remember Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, right? So this was before it was under Mueller. It was an FBI investigation called Crossfire Hurricane. And the point of this investigation that came out today was to examine how that investigation came about. So this report from Durham took about four years. He was tapped by Attorney General Bill Barr in 2019 to lead this investigation. And what he found was that the FBI was not analytical enough or rigorous enough in their investigations, and they didn't have solid enough evidence before launching a full investigation into Trump. The report says that the FBI relied too much on information from politically affiliated people and that they didn't examine or question the motivations of the people providing that information. The report says that the process for the FBI launching this full investigation wasn't really in line with past investigations that have involved cases of potential foreign influence. They say that the speed and manner in which the FBI launched this investigation was a, quote, "noticeable departure" from how the FBI approached similar investigations involving Trump's opponent at the time, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

CHANG: Interesting. OK, well, one thing to note is that despite all of that criticism, the report doesn't really identify many recommendations or changes that the DOJ or FBI should make, right? Like, so has anything changed here in terms of process for future potentially politically sensitive investigations?

SHIVARAM: Yeah. So the report did have just one recommendation. It was on the very last page, and it said that there should maybe be an official appointed to essentially be checking the decisions made as politically sensitive investigations move forward. But other than that, there wasn't much of an outline in this report on what the FBI can do to change their process. But the FBI weighed in themselves. They responded to the report today with a statement saying that they've already taken actions to flesh out their process. They said FBI leadership has already implemented dozens of corrective actions which have already been in place. And they said that the reforms they have now, if they had been in place in 2016, these missteps, as they said in the report, could have been prevented. One of those changes, for example, is reforming the way the FBI goes about getting FISA warrants, which is basically what is needed to wiretap someone.

CHANG: Right. OK. And briefly, now that this report is out, do we have a sense of what happens next?

SHIVARAM: Well, we've already seen a tweet from the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Jim Jordan, who said he wants to bring in Durham to testify on the Hill next week. So we'll be watching for that and generally, what Republicans - including former President Trump, now candidate Trump, again - says in reaction to this. He posted on his platform Truth Social today, saying that the American people are being scammed and how he moves forward with the reaction to this investigation will be interesting and as well as how it impacts voters.

CHANG: That is NPR's Deepa Shivaram. Thank you, Deepa.

SHIVARAM: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.
Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
Alejandra Marquez Janse
Alejandra Marquez Janse is a producer for NPR's evening news program All Things Considered. She was part of a team that traveled to Uvalde, Texas, months after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary to cover its impact on the community. She also helped script and produce NPR's first bilingual special coverage of the State of the Union – broadcast in Spanish and English.
Sarah Handel
Halimah Abdullah
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