There are so many storylines in the Justice Department’s highly anticipated inspector general report that’s it’s going to take a long time to sift through them all. Yet most major headlines Thursday went something along the lines of, “DOJ watchdog report finds no proof bias affected FBI’s Clinton probe.”
While this may be technically true, the report itself is a damning indictment of the professionalism and bias of the FBI. Three findings in particular should make everyone skeptical about actions of the DOJ, regardless of what they think of Special Counsel Bob Mueller or President Trump.
I’ve not written a word about the missives between Trump-skeptic lovers at the FBI, because it’s as unreasonable to expect law enforcement agents wouldn’t hold opinions about a highly contentious political race as it is to bar those government employees from expressing those opinions in private (they’d just hide them, anyway). But of all the texts between Lisa Page and Peter Strzok that have been uncovered by investigators, the IG report’s newest finding is the most astonishing.
For one, there is now incontrovertible evidence that a lead agent investigating a presidential candidate discussed interference with an election.
Page: “(Trump’s) not ever going to become president, right? Right?!”
Strzok: “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”
According to the IG, Strzok claims he doesn’t remember sending the text, BUT he also somehow remembers that text was “intended to reassure Page that Trump would not be elected, not to suggest that he would do something to impact the investigation.”
Now, texts don’t necessarily prove an agent acted unprofessionally. Maybe Strzok was showing off to his lover. Maybe Strzok was blowing off steam. But if a law enforcement agent charged with scrutinizing your business says he’s going to “stop you” — on top of dozens of other statements demonstrated high levels of prejudice, including one self-righteous exchange where he praises himself for being in a position to stop the Trump “menace” — would you consider that person professionally unbiased? There’s no reasonable argument that can guarantee that this agent’s work was uncontaminated by his animosity for Trump.
It should also be noted that despite the widespread assertion on social media, the IG, who was “deeply troubled by text messages exchanged between Strzok and Page,” did not exonerate the duo’s behavior in the Russia investigation. And Strzok played an important role in the launching the FBI “collusion” efforts. In fact, the IG has referred five FBI employees for investigation.
The Reaction of the DOJ
If this text did nothing to undermine the integrity of the investigation, why didn’t the DOJ turn it over to congressional investigators? Why didn’t the DOJ inform investigators about Strzok’s improper conduct? Did someone erase this specific line before handing over the other texts to Congress? Who okayed it, and why?
Was it a matter of national security? Because Acting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein seems to operate under the impression that the FBI is above oversight, accusing legitimate investigations of extorting him when asking for documents and reportedly threatened those investigators with subpoenas. His actions increasingly seem like political considerations.
Former FBI director James Comey’s actions are roundly condemned in the report. The IG concludes he violated long-standing procedure and policy, and basically did whatever his capricious idealism told him to do. The more you read the IG report, the more obvious it becomes that Comey had absolutely no basis for clearing Hillary.
Page texted Strzok at one point about the possibility of using fewer agents to interview Clinton, since “she might be our next president,” and they don’t want to upset her. (Not that it really mattered, since the investigatory conclusions were reached before the end of the witness interviews). Comey functioned under the same rules.
In the eyes of liberals, Comey’s sin was sending a letter to Congress when new evidence in the server case emerged. But, by that point, Comey had no choice but to tell Congress, which he likely did unilaterally. If the Huma Abedin/Anthony Weiner laptop kerfuffle had been leaked, Comey would have looked like he was actively political.
Would Comey have done the same if he believed Trump had a chance to win? That’s a different story.
But one of the most glaring instances of bias was Comey’s initial June 2016 performance, where he scolded, and then cleared, Hillary. In the initial draft of the statement the FBI had assessed that it was “reasonably likely” that hostile actors had gained access to Clinton’s private email server, but that had been changed to “possible.” In July, the FBI once again told journalists that there was no evidence that a foreign power had hacked Hillary’s server.
In the IG report, however, we learn that Strzok knew a month before, in May, that a foreign power had almost surely read emails — at least one of them classified. “It is more accurate to say,” he wrote, “that we know foreign actors obtained access to some of her emails (including at least one Secret one) via compromises of the private email accounts of some of her staffers.” Agents even struggled to find a way to recommend not charging Hillary. At one point, an agent advocates making no recommendation at all indicting the former secretary of state, which was an option for Comey.
Imagine what that Comey press conference sounds like if he was forced to admit that Hillary’s attempts to circumvent transparency — including not only the reckless emailing of classified and top secret documents, but also the subsequent destruction of evidence — had resulted in a foreign power obtaining classified information? Very different.
There is plenty of more evidence of embedded bias.
Now, Special Counsel Bob Mueller may uncover loads of illegality connected to Trump, or maybe he won’t. But the fact is, despite the efforts of Trump critics to claim criticism is unpatriotic, Americans have a right to be skeptical about the Clinton investigation and the impetus of the Russia collusion investigation after this report. The FBI and the DOJ were employing people who acted unprofessionally and incompetently at best, and indefensibly biased at worst.