It is long past time for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appoint a special counsel to investigate the possibility of widespread and systematic corruption, obstruction, leaking, and collusion within America’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The leadership of the FBI and Department of Justice have made clear, through their ongoing obstruction of congressional investigations and oversight, that these agencies simply can not be trusted to investigate or police themselves.
Robert S. Mueller III was appointed as a special counsel to make sure that any investigation into alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign was independent and impartial. In the same way, it is necessary for an independent special counsel to investigate alleged corruption at the FBI and Department of Justice, so the American public can once again be assured that the federal law enforcement agencies are in fact working to keep America safer rather than focused on getting revenge against political enemies.
To recap, we’ve seen the following startling developments in just the past few days:
- The revelation that two key FBI agents, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, sent each other more than 50,000 texts about their work, including regarding the Clinton and Russia probes. Strzok, the former deputy assistant director of the Counterintelligence Division, ran the Clinton investigation and interviewed key witnesses. He was also involved in the Russia investigation.
- That five months of texts between these agents are missing. The bureau claims, in the latest of strange coincidences affecting the investigation, that a technical error resulted in a failure to capture these important texts.
- The suspicious timing of the missing texts — from shortly after the election to the day that Mueller was named special counsel. These months were full of leaks from intelligence officials about the Russia probe.
- That these 50,000-plus texts aren’t even all of their texts, but just those related to the ongoing Office of Inspector General investigation. The FBI and DOJ are not sharing texts that are personal or about other cases. Since the Office of Inspector General hasn’t said it’s reviewing Russia or dossier-related cases, that leaves a lot of texts yet to be disclosed and examined by investigators.
- Communications about not keeping texts.
- A text from the day after the 2016 election suggesting the need for the first meeting of a “secret society.”
- The revelation that a Senate committee has a whistleblower who has shared information about secret off-site meetings.
- Political considerations in the timing and handling of the Clinton probe.
- Political considerations in the handling of the Trump probe.
- Strzok admitting before he joined the Mueller probe, but after he’d worked on the Russia probe for the better part of a year, that to his knowledge there was nothing there.
- That the “professor” “friend” James Comey leaked classified information to, for the purpose of it being leaked to the media to spur a special counsel, is suddenly claiming to be Comey’s attorney, which can be used as a shield from releasing information.
- That Comey’s implausible claim to have waited until after interviewing Hillary Clinton to decide to let her off the hook for mishandling classified information is contradicted by additional available evidence.
- That Attorney General Loretta Lynch only made her claim that she would defer to the FBI on prosecuting Clinton because she knew Comey would let her off, according to Page.
- The existence of a four-page memo compiled by the House Select Permanent Committee on Intelligence alleging surveillance abuse by the FBI against Trump affiliates.
These revelations are not wild speculation but based on concrete evidence that the FBI and DOJ fought tooth and nail against releasing.
Previous months saw startling allegations about the use of a scurrilous dossier to secure a wiretap against a Trump affiliate, the use of that dossier to brief congressional committees, the leaking of the existence of the dossier despite its lack of corroboration, statements that the FBI probe was an “insurance policy” because “we can’t take that risk” that Trump would be elected, and that the dossier itself was funded by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. There were also criminal leaks of top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) communications. This to say nothing of the widespread unmasking, distribution, and illegal leaking of surveillance information.
It is vital to a democratic republic that the public have faith in their law enforcement institutions. All of these developments feed the perception that there are two different law enforcement regimes — one for friends, and one for enemies. There are clear signs that Clinton benefited from a different set of rules that applied to her that didn’t apply to anyone else. There are also signs that people in federal agencies improperly used spy powers to spin up investigations and special counsels to go after political enemies.
That can’t happen.
Why A Second Special Counsel?
The current special counsel probably should have been investigating the FBI and DOJ as part of his charge into the Russia probe. Mueller has been on the case since May, and should have seen enough shortly thereafter to be concerned about various agencies’ handling of the probes.
But it also shouldn’t be surprising that he has not done much, if anything, to probe the FBI and DOJ. Mueller is the former head of the FBI and very close to Comey. Nobody can be expected to investigate his own friends and family, and asking Mueller to seriously tackle the problems that have been revealed regarding his friends at his old agency is unrealistic.
Similarly, an investigation into all these allegations can’t be done by a U.S. attorney, because it has to be removed from the oversight of those who have run the department for the last several years, since they will be the ones being investigated.
An investigation into all of these allegations can’t be done solely by Congress, either. As Rep. Trey Gowdy said this week, while Congress has a great deal of authority and ability to do general statutory oversight, it’s not an institution that is equipped or designed to do the nitty gritty of law enforcement. A proper investigation will serve warrants and be able to generate quick responses to subpoenas. Congress has been unable to get the FBI or DOJ to quickly comply with requests for information, sometimes waiting months or more for meager responses. This investigation requires an institution and person with authority, institutional expertise, and the tools necessary to get to the bottom of problems at Justice.
Schiff’s Case For a Special Counsel
Even Democrats have been making a good case for a special counsel, however inadvertently. When asked on CNN why the American public couldn’t just see the House Intelligence Committee memo alleging surveillance abuses, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Americans couldn’t handle it without knowing the underlying information that was too sensitive to release. He also suggested that public demand to see the memo, which has been high, was actually just another Russian operation. That turned out to be false.
But if it’s true that controversial information about the FBI’s handling of the Russia probe is too sensitive and could be misconstrued — so sensitive that Schiff voted to keep the rest of Congress in the dark about it and is fighting to make sure the public doesn’t see this information — that means it’s important enough to demand a special prosecutor.
The Leakers’ Case For a Special Counsel
As damaging and discrediting news about “potential corruption at highest levels” came out this week, leaks about the Mueller investigation started coming out. These included that FBI Director Christopher Wray reportedly threatened to resign; that Sessions was interviewed by the Mueller probe, that Mueller is ready to interview Trump, that Russian bots are the real culprits behind public demand to see the surveillance memo, that Trump reportedly asked controversial FBI official Andrew McCabe who McCabe voted for, and various other items.
These leaks tend to happen when bad news threatens the Mueller probe. But they’re perhaps ill-advised, only suggesting all the more to the politicized nature of the current investigation. A special counsel should not be seen as a threat to the Mueller probe but as a necessary help.
An investigation into potential corruption will help preserve or restore confidence in the Mueller investigation. If the results of the Mueller investigation are to be taken seriously, these questions have to be addressed. High-ranking FBI agents are in their own words undermining the entire purpose of the Mueller investigation, such as when Strzok said there’s nothing to the Russia probe prior to joining the special counsel team. Or when he had to be kicked off the team because of how his texts pointed to corruption.
Because the Mueller investigation itself was brought about by a Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton-funded opposition research document, which the FBI used despite it not being verified, as well as Comey’s leaks of classified information in retaliation for being fired, the entire investigation has a cloud over it. A special counsel could clear the air or provide clarity regarding the trustworthiness of the Mueller probe. A failure to investigate these charges would damage the country’s ability to have any objective investigation into abuses of power in the future.
Does Sessions Care About Charges Of Corruption At DOJ?
Congressional investigators and concerned citizens are growing alarmed. Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Ron Johnson, Rep. Ron DeSantis, Rep. Jim Jordan, Rep. Lee Zeldin, Rep. Mark Meadows, and many other informed members of Congress have called for a second special counsel to deal with allegations of corruption at the Department of Justice.
The political and media arms of the Democratic Party attempt to downplay the scandal, but it’s only getting worse with each new piece of information that is brought to light. The American people need to know that the attorney general cares about the charges, wants to get to the bottom of the problems, and will work to restore the integrity of this important department. The criminalization of politics in this country is undermining confidence in the republic itself.
If there are good explanations for all of these strange coincidences and lapses in judgment, the American people need to be told. If there is systematic corruption, that needs to be learned as well.
A special counsel who is not part of the current club at the top of these agencies should be appointed. The individual needs to be unimpeachable and a person of integrity who has the strength to take on an incalcitrant bureaucracy and establishment. He or she should have experience in investigating and rooting out corruption in bureaucratic agencies.