Did the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice use their awesome powers to interfere in the 2016 election? The recent release of the Lisa Page transcripts takes us one step closer to understanding how politics corrupted the two critical investigations that influenced the 2016 election: the Clinton email scandal and the investigation into the Trump-Russia hoax.
Page, an FBI lawyer at the time who served directly under the now-disgraced former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, clearly revealed herself as an early Russia hoax true believer on a team of “saviors” blind to the bigger picture in both investigations. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key revelations in her testimony to Congress and their chilling warnings about the integrity of future American elections.
The Fix Was In
“Midyear Exam,” the code name for the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information using a private server and email address, formally closed on July 5, 2016, with a public announcement by James Comey, then the FBI director. Page confirmed there was little question about the outcome from early in the investigation.
Readers recall President Obama’s 2015 “60 Minutes” interview in which he articulated a pre-conclusion hauntingly similar to the July 5, 2016, final announcement exonerating Clinton. Obama suggested that Clinton had made a “mistake,” and never intended to violate the law. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that Page told Congress, “Every single person on the team, whether FBI or [sic] knew far earlier than July that we were not going to be able to make out sufficient evidence to charge a crime.”
While Comey claimed he did not coordinate the decision to exonerate Hillary Clinton with the political appointees in the Department of Justice, Page contradicted this assertion. Among the Department of Justice attorneys overseeing the Clinton-email investigation: John Carlin. He is the notorious DOJ attorney who misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court about widespread illegal and unconstitutional spying on Americans that so troubled the court and the National Security Agency that the NSA supposedly shut down the powerful surveillance program to remove the temptation from bureaucrats.
Readers remember that disgraced FBI agent Peter Strzok, McCabe, and others began working on Comey’s speech exonerating Clinton long before she even submitted to an investigative interview. Page told Congress that the DOJ set the standard by which Clinton could be held criminally liable as “intentional” because a “gross negligence” standard (in the DOJ’s view) would be unconstitutionally vague. The DOJ simply redefined the FBI’s burden of proof too high to reach any other outcome.
The DoJ Meddled with FBI Techniques
Page told Congress that the DOJ meddled in the Clinton investigation over the FBI’s objection. She and other agents sought to interview Clinton in a two-on-two arrangement. Instead, both sides were allowed to bring a host of participants and observers. This allowed Clinton to get her story straight, in real time, with other fact witnesses.
Page testified that she felt the FBI lacked the leverage to restrict the Clinton team. When asked whether Clinton could have been prevented from bringing people to assist her if she had been required to appear before a grand jury, Page acknowledged that in such a situation Clinton would have been forced to answer questions without any assistance, including a lawyer.
For some time, the DOJ was criticized for not allowing the FBI to use grand jury subpoenas to compel testimony in the Clinton email probe. Page said she and “everyone” in the FBI objected to the format that allowed Clinton to appear with other fact witnesses, but that somebody in the DOJ directed otherwise. Page did not know who, which means that the person who exercised this authority has so far escaped public accountability.
Page also objected to the government bringing several of its representatives. She and the rest of the FBI favored a standard two-on-two format preferred in interviews. She felt the large contingent of government participants made the government appear to have “loaded for bear or guns blazing,” with an army of agents and lawyers.
Look Ma, No Leaks!
Rep. Sheila Jackson (D-TX) asked Page a series of questions suggesting if Page or Strzok really wanted to stop Trump from getting elected, it would have been as simple as leaking the existence of the FBI investigation. Jackson argued that the absence of FBI leaks about the investigation proved that Page and Strzok set aside their personal feelings about candidate Trump to investigate dispassionately.
This is wrong. As fellow Federalist writer Margot Cleveland identified in her own research, the existence of the investigation not only leaked, but the FBI felt the need to also leak the absence of any clear evidence linking Trump to Russia.
At least two FBI officials are or have been investigated for leaking to the press during the 2016 election cycle: McCabe and former General Counsel James Baker. McCabe is believed to have leaked information confirming an investigation into the Clinton Foundation. Baker is believed to have leaked something to David Corn, who was among the first reporters to break Trump-Russia collusion stories prior to the election. Corn denies using Baker as a source for the pre-election Trump-Russia dossier story.
Nevertheless, Jackson has something of a point. There were Trump-Russia collusion leaks in the run-up to the election but these arguably happened in spite of, not because of, the FBI. Indeed, Democrats were outraged by the perceived double standard at the publicity surrounding the Clinton investigation versus the relative discretion that the Trump campaign received in the Russia investigation. Ironically, it was this outrage that led to a call for the very inspector general investigation that revealed the Strzok-Page texts with pro-Clinton bias.
It’s Only Bias If You Disagree with Me
In her testimony Page repeatedly congratulated herself on her lack of bias, arguing that prioritizing the Trump-Russia collusion scandal over the Clinton scandal was the logical outcome of weighing the seriousness of the two allegations. She said, “And with respect to how threatening that would be––again, if it were true––the notion that there might be more emails that have not previously been seen that existed on Hillary Clinton’s email server just simply don’t even enter into the realm of the same room of seriousness.”
Page and the FBI generally missed the point of the Clinton scandal. The most serious problem with Clinton’s mishandling of the emails was not the leak of potentially classified information but that the whole purpose of the email server in the first place may have been to hide a large-scale influence-for-sale operation from a cabinet post. The voting public had an interest in knowing whether the same operation would be scaled up to the U.S. presidency. This is why the Midyear Exam investigation was arguably more critical to the future of the republic than the Russia investigation.
Did Page ever see any political bias in the FBI? Her answer revealed everything. The only bias she perceived was anti-Clinton sentiment. She revealed, “I am aware of senior FBI officials talking to subordinate FBI officials on the Hillary Clinton investigative team who unquestionably had anti-Hillary sentiment, but who also said: ‘You have to get her…. We’re counting on you.'”
These officials, Sandy Kable and Randy Coleman, had an early role in the Clinton email investigation but at the time they made these statements “were no longer in a position of authority over the Clinton investigation.” This leaves one to wonder whether the FBI policed anti-Clinton bias in the investigation but not pro-Clinton, anti-Trump bias.
Similarly, Page saw no indication her anti-Trump bias influenced the Trump-Russia investigation. In her mind, FBI agents frequently despise targets because of their criminal behavior. Her enmity towards Trump was no different than that she might feel towards a child molester or another target of an FBI investigation.
Obviously, if an FBI agent hates a target because of the suspected crime and it later turns out that the crime never happened, one expects that enmity to evaporate. If, as in the case of Page, the enmity starts with Trump’s boorish but not illegal behavior, her enmity will persist whether or not the facts bear out the Russia collusion hoax. Thus, there’s a huge difference between an agent being passionate about fighting crime by investigating a target and an agent wanting to use a criminal investigation to get a target.
The good news for America is that the Page transcripts indicate the anti-Trump FBI agents appear to have drunk the Russian collusion Kool-Aid but didn’t brew it. In contrast to senior DOJ attorney Bruce Ohr, who pushed the Trump-Russia theory that his own wife was paid to work on, the FBI seems to take some pains to prevent its work on the Russia-collusion case from affecting the election. This is why former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) found it necessary to send an October 31, 2016, open letter to the FBI accusing the FBI of sitting on “explosive” information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump and the Russian government.