The Justice Department and the FBI rolled out a series of reforms on Tuesday intended to fortify procedures for seeking approval of intelligence-related surveillance of elected officials and campaign staff.
The announcement by Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray comes after months of complaints from President Donald Trump, who has claimed that former President Barack Obama’s administration “spied” on his 2016 campaign.
Trump has long insisted that his campaign was the victim of a political “witch hunt” — an allegation undercut by the Justice Department’s independent watchdog, who found that political motives did not factor into the FBI’s activity around the last presidential election.
The reforms “will empower the FBI to build a more robust internal compliance program … that will ensure, among other things, the accuracy of [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] applications, as well as the active oversight of applications targeting federal elected officials, candidates for federal elected office, and their staffs,” according to a Justice Department news release .
Barr and Wray have sought to shore up the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court application process since Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a report last December reviewing the FBI’s handling of a probe into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
Although Horowitz found that political bias did not influence the bureau’s actions during the investigation, he did identify various inaccuracies and omissions by FBI officials in requests for court-ordered surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
But in a review of the more than 200 errors in FISA Court applications flagged by Horowitz’s office, the Justice Department and the FBI concluded that only two of those were “material,” according to a court submission made public last month .
Still, Wray said in a statement Tuesday that Horowitz’s report “describes conduct that was unacceptable and unrepresentative of the FBI as an organization.” He added that the FBI “remains dedicated to continuously strengthening our FISA compliance efforts and ensuring that our FISA authorities are exercised in a responsible manner.”
Barr lamented the president’s treatment by federal law enforcement officials in his own statement. “What happened to the Trump presidential campaign and his subsequent Administration after the President was duly elected by the American people must never happen again,” he said.
Barr has appointed John Durham , the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to examine the origins of the Russia probe — an internal Justice Department investigation that resulted in former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith pleading guilty last month to altering an email used to seek surveillance warrants against Page.