FBI analyst who helped shut down Hunter Biden inquiry earlier referred for disciplinary action
By: Jerry Dunleavy
Brian Auten, a supervisory intelligence analyst within the bureau, was referred to the Office of Professional Responsibility following Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s December 2019 report on the Trump-Russia investigation and its use of FISA surveillance against Trump campaign associate Carter Page. Shortly after the referral, Auten was involved with the bureau’s inquiry into the son of now-President Joe Biden, with his Aug. 2020 analysis being used in part to justify the decision to "shut down investigative activity."
Horowitz’s report undermined British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s dossier claims, and the watchdog criticized the DOJ and the FBI for at least 17 “significant errors and omissions” related to the FISA warrants against Page and for the bureau's “central and essential” reliance on Steele’s dossier. The DOJ watchdog said FBI interviews with Steele’s alleged main source, Igor Danchenko, "raised significant questions about the reliability" of the dossier.
Danchenko, a Russian-born lawyer, was charged with five counts of making false statements to the FBI. Auten was involved in analyzing the dossier, reviewed the Page FISAs in 2016 and 2017, and was among the FBI employees who interviewed Danchenko in January 2017, when the Russian undercut collusion claims. Horowitz indicated Auten did not pass along the fact that Danchenko had undermined the dossier when the FBI analyst circulated an intelligence memo on the dossier source in February 2017.
“The failures highlighted in that report are unacceptable — period,” Wray told the House in February 2020 when discussing Horowitz’s findings, adding that “where there are people who are still left, most of whom are effectively at the line level or at least were at the time of the inspector general report, they’ve been referred to our Office of Professional Responsibility, which is our disciplinary arm.”
Wray said at the time that everyone named in the report was referred to that office and called that body “one of the premier independent disciplinary arms in any executive agency.” He added that “if that process results in recommendations of discipline, then we’re going to impose discipline.” He has repeatedly echoed that he found the revelations in the Horowitz report “unacceptable” since then.
The FBI director added during the hearing that most of the high-level officials named in the report (such as fired FBI Director James Comey, fired deputy director Andrew McCabe, and fired agent Peter Strzok) were gone from the bureau. He also said at least some of the Page surveillance was likely illegal.
Wray noted that “there is an ongoing investigation by Mr. Durham, with which we’re actively cooperating and fully cooperating.”
The next year, Wray claimed that the disciplinary proceedings had been paused at Durham’s request.
“Because we’re cooperating fully with Mr. Durham’s investigation, at his request, we had slowed that [disciplinary] process down to allow his criminal investigation to proceed, so at the moment, that process is still underway in order to make sure that we’re being appropriately sensitive to the criminal investigation,” Wray told the Senate in March 2021.
Wray added that “the prosecution issue related to anything to do with the Horowitz report is in the hands of special counsel Durham.” Auten was the “Supervisory Intel Agent” in Horowitz’s report and is mentioned 106 times by the watchdog.
Danchenko's October trial comes after Democratic lawyer Michael Sussmann was found not guilty in May on a false statements charge of concealing his representation of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign from the FBI when he pushed since-debunked Trump-Russia collusion claims about Alfa-Bank to the bureau in 2016.
Horowitz said in 2019 that Auten “told us that he factored the Alfa Bank/Trump server allegations into his assessment of Steele's reporting.”
The special counsel has obtained one guilty plea from former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who admitted he falsified a document during the bureau’s efforts to renew FISA surveillance authority against Page. Clinesmith wrote in 2017 that Page was "not a source" for the CIA when Page was indeed an operational contact for them.
An FBI attorney told Horowitz he recalled Auten “had raised a concern that Page may have had a prior relationship with the other U.S. government agency.” Auten, however, told the watchdog that he didn’t remember raising this concern, though he had been aware Page had been a "type of source" with the CIA.
Source: The Washington Examiner