The intelligence briefing the FBI gave to Trump campaign officials in 2016 was a pretext to collect evidence for the bureau’s probe into alleged links to Russia, the Justice Department’s inspector general said Wednesday.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz said the campaign of Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton received an identical briefing, but that was not used to gather information for an investigation.
The FBI was not conducting a counterintelligence investigation into the Clinton campaign.
“The briefings were identical but one was for investigative purposes and one was purely for the intelligence briefing,” Mr. Horowitz said in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
FBI officials never told the Trump campaign its suspicions that Russia had infiltrated it. Instead, they used their meeting to gather information on then-candidate Donald Trump and Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
Mr. Horowitz said the briefing was used to bolster its probe into the Trump campaign, dubbed Operation Crossfire.
“The incident, the event, the meeting was a briefing and the FBI considered and decided to send that agent there to do the briefing,” he told the panel. “So the agent was actually doing the briefing but also using it for the purpose of investigation.”
During a blistering 40-minute opening statement, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham blasted the FBI for failing to warn the Trump campaign of their suspicions it had been infiltrated by Russians.
Mr. Graham said the FBI had a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants for Carter Page, George Papadopoulos and Mr. Flynn, but never gave Mr. Trump a warning about them.
“[The FBI] never made any effort to brief Donald Trump about suspected problems within his campaign,” Mr. Graham said. “Nothing about Carter Page. Nothing about Papadopoulos. Nothing about other people that they thought might be working with the Russians. Why did they not tell them that?
“The reason is simple: The FBI was spying on Trump’s campaign, they were not working to protect him,” he continued. “In contrast, Hillary Clinton’s campaign was given a proper defensive briefing which further shows the FBI had political bias and their motive was to get Hillary elected president while simultaneously taking down Trump.”