1/ The Justice Department inspector general’s report concluded that the Russia probe was justified. The 434-page report from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found the FBI had an “authorized purpose” when it initiated its investigation into possible coordination between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia, rejecting conservative allegations that top FBI officials were motivated by political bias and illegally spied on Trump advisers. Trump called the evidence in the report “far worse than I ever thought possible” and the FBI’s actions a “disgrace,” because – he claimed – “they fabricated evidence and they lied to the courts.” Horowitz, however, “did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the decisions,” but noted “serious performance failures” by some FBI officials. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNN / USA Today / Axios)

2/ Attorney General William Barr rejected the conclusion that the FBI’s probe into Russian interference was justified, calling it “an intrusive investigation” into Trump’s campaign that was based “on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken.” Barr added that “the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory.” John Durham, the federal prosecutor Barr appointed to run a separate criminal investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation, backed the attorney general’s assessment, saying “we advised the inspector general that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions.” FBI Director Chris Wray, meanwhile, called it “important that the Inspector General found that in this particular instance the investigation was opened with appropriate predication and authorization.” (NBC News / ABC News / New York Times)

  • William Barr approved the public release of additional information about Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled a dossier on Trump. Steele was not given any additional details about which information the DOJ plans to release, nor was he told how the information would affect the report’s portrayal of him. Steele spent two days meeting with representatives of the Justice Department in London to voluntarily cooperate with their probe in June this year and followed up with further conversations via Skype.(New York Times / CNN / ABC News)

  • 📌 Day 1050: Attorney General William Barr’s handpicked prosecutor told the Justice Department’s inspector general that he found no evidence that U.S. intelligence agencies had planted spies in the Trump campaign. Barr tasked U.S. Attorney John Durham with investigating the origins of the Mueller probe, as well as Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud, who conservative media outlets allege was a spy planted by the FBI or U.S. intelligence agencies. As part of a separate investigation, Durham was contacted by Michael Horowitz, the DOJ’s inspector general, and asked whether Mifsud, who had early contact with the Trump campaign, was an intelligence asset. Durham informed Horowitz’s office that his investigation had produced no evidence to support the allegation. Horowitz’s report concludes that the FBI had adequate cause to launch its Russia investigation. (Washington Post / CNN / The Hill)

  • 📌 Day 1042: The FBI never placed undercover agents or informants inside Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to a draft of the Justice Department’s inspector general report. Michael Horowitz’s report on the FBI’s handling of the Russia investigation is due on Dec. 9. Trump and his supporters have repeatedly alleged that FBI officials not only spied on the campaign but that Obama had ordered Trump’s phones tapped. The report is also expected to debunk allegations that the FBI relied on information from Christopher Steele’s dossier of damaging, unverified information about Trump to open the investigation. (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 1037: A report from the Justice Department’s inspector general didn’t find anti-Trump bias at the FBI when it obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to look into Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser. According to a draft copy of Michael Horowitz’s report, there were errors and omissions in the documents related to wiretapping Page and that a low-level lawyer altered an email used to seek a renewal of the wiretap. Kevin Clinesmith attached additional material to the bottom of an email from an official at another federal agency, which contained several factual assertions. Horowitz concluded that the altered document did not impact the overall validity of the surveillance application, but referred his findings about Clinesmith to prosecutors for a potential criminal charge. Clinesmith left the Russia investigation in February 2018. Overall, the draft report concludes that the FBI had enough evidence for opening the investigation, that Joseph Mifsud, a Russia-linked professor who told a Trump campaign official that Russia had damaging information on Hillary Clinton in the form of hacked Democratic emails, was not an FBI informant, and that none of the evidence used to open the investigation came from the CIA or dossier of Trump-Russia ties compiled by Christopher Steele. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Washington Post)

3/ The House Judiciary Committee held its last hearing before considering articles of impeachment. Lawyers for Democrats and Republicans presented the case for – and against – impeaching Trump. Democrats described four “critical” findings: 1/ Trump used the power of his office to pressure Ukraine’s newly-elected president to interfere in the 2020 presidential election for his personal and political benefit; 2/ Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and withheld military aid from Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden; 3/ Trump’s conduct undermined the U.S. election process; 4/ Trump directed an effort to obstruct Congress’ impeachment inquiry into his conduct. A lawyer for the Democrats called “Trump’s persistent and continuing effort to coerce a foreign country to help him cheat to win an election is a clear and present danger to our free and fair elections and to our national security.” The Republican counsel, meanwhile, accused Democrats of pursuing an “artificial and arbitrary political deadline” to overturn the 2016 election and impeach Trump’s before the Christmas holiday. The Judiciary Committee is expected to publicly debate and compose final versions of articles of impeachment as soon as Thursday, with a full House vote next week. (Bloomberg / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

  • TAKEAWAYS: From today’s House Judiciary impeachment hearing.

  • Attorney General William Barr told Trump that Giuliani has become a liability. Barr also warned that Giuliani was not serving Trump well as his personal attorney. (Washington Post / CNN)

  • Trump said Giuliani wants to testify before impeachment investigators about his recent trip to Ukraine. Trump added that Giuliani will “make a report” of his findings to submit to Barr and Congress. (Politico / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 1049: Rudy Giuliani traveled to Europe to meet with several former Ukrainian prosecutors in an effort to defend Trump against the impeachment inquiry. Giuliani traveled to Budapest to meet with former Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, before going to Ukraine to meet with a number of other former prosecutors, including Viktor Shokin and Kostiantyn H. Kulyk. It was Giuliani’s earlier interactions with some of the same Ukrainians that setup the impeachment inquiry in the first place and led to an investigation by federal prosecutors into whether Giuliani violated federal lobbying laws. (New York Times / CNN)


Notables.

  1. The Supreme Court left a Kentucky law in place that requires doctors to perform ultrasounds, show fetal images, and play audio of the fetal heartbeat to women before abortions. The justices did not offer an explanation for their decision to refuse to hear the challenge to a lower court ruling that upheld the Kentucky restrictions. The ACLU argued that the Kentucky statute had no medical basis and was designed only to coerce a woman into opting out of having an abortion. The law will now take effect. (NBC News / Politico / ABC News / Bloomberg)

  2. The U.S. government has taken more than 1,100 children from their parents since the end of Trump’s family separation policy. (The Intercept)

  3. Trump told a Jewish audience that they had “no choice” but to vote for him or else the Democrats will “take 100 percent of your wealth away,” referring to the proposed tax on the richest Americans. Jewish groups denounced Trump’s anti-Semitic tropes, calling the remarks “deeply offensive” and his use of stereotypes “unconscionable.” The Jewish Democratic Council of America said the remarks “only reinforce our belief […] that Donald Trump is the biggest threat to American Jews.” (USA Today / Washington Post / Rolling Stone / Times of Israel)

  4. The U.S. ambassador to Denmark prevented a NATO expert from speaking at an international conference because the expert was critical of Trump. Stanley Sloan was scheduled to give the keynote speech at a conference celebrating the 70th anniversary of NATO, but he was told the day before he was set to leave for Copenhagen that the U.S. embassy had vetoed his participation. As a result, the event was cancelled altogether. (New York Times)

  5. Amazon blamed Trump for exerting “improper pressure” on the Pentagon when it awarded a military cloud computing contract to Microsoft. The company argued that Trump has “made no secret of his personal dislike” for Jeff Bezos and his ownership of the Washington Post. Trump has blamed Bezos for unfavorable coverage of his administration, despite the Post operating with editorial independence. The complaint contends that Trump “used his office” to prevent AWS from winning the contract when he “intervened directly in the very final phases of the two-year procurement process.” (CNBC / Wall Street Journal / Politico / Washington Post)

  6. Trump complained that water conservation laws have resulted in Americans “flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times as opposed to once” and that “they end up using more water.” Trump said the EPA was investigating the “situation.” Use of low-flow toilets started in the 1990s after George HW Bush signed the Energy Policy Act – a 1992 law that required new toilets to have water-saving designs. (The Guardian / New York Times / CNN)


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