Forget the Punditry; the IG’s Report is a Bombshell
On June 15, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz released his 565-page report on the FBI and Justice Department Hillary Clinton email investigation. President Trump and various supporters have expressed outrage that Horowitz did not go further in frying former FBI Director James Comey or declaring the obvious political bias he otherwise documents in the the Clinton investigation. These are legitimate issues and there is a legitimate question as to whether Horowitz softened the language in his report because of Justice Department pushback. These issues will be fully explored when the IG testifies in Congressional hearings next week. Nonetheless, the report is a bombshell even if written in carefully parsed Justice Department lawyer language. If we were not in the middle of an insurrection against the Trump presidency, it would cause an immediate halt to Robert Mueller’s investigation. Proof that the report is a bombshell can be seen in the new-found outrage of Congressman Trey Gowdy, who only a couple weeks back was found cowering under the skirts of Paul Ryan as things got hot about British interference in the U.S. election in the form of FBI / MI6 informant Stefan Halper. In response to the IG report, Gowdy stated,
“the report also conclusively shows an alarming and destructive level of animus displayed by top officials at the FBI. Peter Strzok’s manifest bias trending toward animus casts a pall on this investigation. Bias is so pernicious and malignant as to both taint the process, the result, and the ability to have confidence in either.” By finding that James Comey was “insubordinate” and operating far outside Justice Department rules and prosecutorial ethics in his actions in the Clinton email investigation, the IG has provided a bulletproof factual refutation of any attempt by Robert Mueller to charge that the President obstructed justice when he fired James Comey. The Comey firing, in turn, was the factually thin and constitutionally suspect peg for Mueller’s appointment as special prosecutor.
Mueller, true to form, is firing back: he has leveled new obstruction of justice charges against Paul Manafort and on June 16 succeeded in convincing U.S. District Judge Amy Jackson in Washington, D.C. to send Manafort to jail pending trial for alleged witness tampering. The New York Attorney General, who has collaborated with Mueller, filed charges seeking to dissolve the President’s charitable foundation, and pressure has increased on Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to either flip on the President or face Manafort’s fate.
WHAT HOROWITZ DISCOVERED
Horowitz’s report, although limited strictly to the Clinton email investigation, reveals a corrupt DOJ and FBI beyond the comprehension of most Americans. Here are the key things the Inspector General found.
FBI case agent Peter Strzok and his mistress FBI lawyer Lisa Page exchanged numerous text messages demonstrating overt hostility to Donald Trump, and, in the case of Peter Strzok, the Inspector General found that Strzok’s overt hostility could have influenced his investigative actions. This is a fact which is being uniformly lied about by the news media. As opposed to media portrayals of these lovebirds as just two street FBI agents expressing personal opinions, the Report finds that Strzok vowed to his lover, Page, that he was going to “stop Trump.” Previously, as the result of the Inspector General’s work, texts between Strzok and Page were revealed intimating that they considered the Russia investigation was an FBI “insurance policy” against Trump. Peter Strzok was the lead case agent on both the Clinton and Russiagate investigations and, with Page, was part of Mueller’s initial prosecutorial team. The lead case agent directs all investigative actions in a case. In the body of the IG report, James Comey personally endorses Strzok as one of the few FBI agents capable of conducting a complex counterintelligence investigation such as Russiagate. Page, was former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s special legal counsel with previous experience in anti-Russian operations. There is a major fight about improper DOJ redaction of other Strzok/Page emails by the DOJ as produced to the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees which will be fueled by these revelations. In addition, overtly biased texts about Trump were exchanged by five other FBI employees, including one attorney previously assigned to the Mueller investigation. These texts ridiculed Trump supporters as “poor or middle class” dumb slobs and racist country bumkins, reflecting the entitlement of the Justice Department’s professional class which is displayed throughout the IG’s report. One of them, the attorney assigned to the Mueller investigation until this year, even declared allegiance to the infamous Trump “resistance.” They have been referred to the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility for discipline and possibly criminal referral. More about Strzok and Page will most certainly be revealed when the IG releases his report about Russiagate.
The initial Clinton email investigation, which began in 2015, was permeated by extraordinarily soft investigative tactics, including consensual interviews rather than compulsory process to obtain evidence, exempting the personal devices of Secretary Clinton’s senior aides from examination, unusual immunity and production agreements for Clinton’s senior aides, and allowing two attorneys to attend Clinton’s witness interview despite the fact that these attorneys were themselves key witnesses in the probe. The Inspector General’s report reveals that the prosecutors in the case were said to be “intimidated” by Clinton’s attorneys and worried about retribution should Clinton become President. The decision not to charge Clinton, while supported by prior Department of Justice precedent, is at odds with many other cases involving exposure of classified information. More significantly, as President Trump has pointed out, the Clinton investigation did not involve targeting lawyers, raiding lawyer’s offices, arrests and detentions for purposes of interviews and intimidation, extraordinarily aggressive use of the false statements statutes, no-knock searches, illegal leaks of classified information, classified surveillance, or use of informants and provocateurs for purposes of entrapment — all of which have been employed in the Russiagate investigation against Trump.
In the Clinton affair, the Obama White House publicly declared that Clinton was innocent of any wrong-doing, although no one claimed that somehow Obama was “obstructing” the FBI’s investigation with these comments, a claim made each time President Trump speaks. Attorney General Loretta Lynch met with former President Bill Clinton on the tarmac of the Phoenix, Arizona airport, in the middle of the Clinton investigation and then did not recuse herself from further participation in the investigation. Allegedly, the FBI was also presented with a document, still classified, asserting that Russian intelligence had conversations involving Loretta Lynch in which the Attorney General declared her intent to whitewash and exonerate Clinton. In that context, James Comey decided that he alone could provide public credibility for the DOJ decision not to charge Clinton. He conducted an extraordinary press conference on July 5, 2016 in which he announced that Clinton would not be charged but that she had been “extraordinarily careless” and negligent with respect to classified information found on her private email server. According to the IG’s report, in the course of this exoneration of Clinton, Comey did not accurately portray essential facts about the Clinton case. Moreover, Comey had begun drafting this statement of exoneration long before Hillary Clinton’s interview and long before other essential steps were taken in the case. Comey’s press conference violated numerous Justice Department policy and ethical rules governing prosecutorial conduct. He deliberately kept the persons actually legally responsible for making this decision, the Justice Department prosecutors, in the dark about his plans for the press conference. The IG called Comey’s actions a complete contravention of Justice Department rules and declared him “insubordinate.” He found that while Comey’s actions were not “politically biased,” they were based on saving his own skin. Comey was concerned to exonerate his reputation in the Clinton investigation from present and future political criticism. As Alan Dershowitz points out, this motive is far worse in many respects than overt political bias. Comey abused the public trust for purposes of personal gain.
In September 2016, the New York FBI secured the personal laptop of Anthony Weiner, the disgraced sex addict and husband of close Clinton aide Huma Abedin. (Weiner had been caught sexting a minor). On the computer were tons of Clinton emails, including some which were marked classified. The New York case agent and his supervisor told FBI headquarters about this on September 30, 2016, but headquarters, including Deputy Director McCabe and case agent Peter Strzok sat on the new information. It was only when the New York FBI Weiner case agent, fearing that he was being set up as a fall guy, pounded repeatedly on the doors of the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York (barely escaping being gaslighted as a hopelessly paranoid psychotic by his superiors) that the FBI decided to act in examining the Weiner computer. Again, Comey decided to take extraordinary action. He alerted the Congress, 11 days before the Presidential election, that the Clinton email investigation was being reopened in order to examine the laptop, resulting in media leaks which Comey knew would occur. The Inspector General reports that Strzok had decided that the Russiagate investigation against Trump took priority over addressing the new Clinton investigation and that was the reason for his disinterest in the new Clinton information. This decision was approved by other DOJ officials and, in the context of Strzok’s declared jihad against Trump, was, in all probability, permeated by political bias. Again, the Inspector General attributes Comey’s actions, in violation of prosecutorial ethics and Justice Department rules, to his personal arrogance and personal reputational concerns, rather than overt bias. This writer, however, believes, based on the same factual presentation, that Comey was acting in order to create the appearance of being even-handed in the midst of completely illegal and unprecedented actions taken by himself and the FBI with respect to Donald Trump.
In the course of the investigation, the Inspector General found that the FBI was permeated by relationships to the news media far outside specific Justice Department guidelines. As a reward for illegal leaks, FBI agents were showered with tickets to sporting events, dinners, and other gratuities. A chart attached to the main report shows only some of these relationships involving unnamed reporters and multiple high-level agents of the FBI. The Inspector General is conducting a separate investigation of these leaks. It is noteworthy that Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was fired as part of this investigation because he lied to the Inspector General about his role in media leaks concerning the Clinton Foundation investigation. McCabe has been referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia for possible prosecution. In the report released yesterday, the Inspector General examined whether McCabe should have recused himself from the Clinton investigation based on his wife Jill McCabe’s receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars for her campaign for Virginia State Senate against incumbent Senator Richard Black. That campaign was engineered and funded by the Clintons and former long-time Clinton operative and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. The IG found that McCabe only recused himself after a Wall Street Journal article disclosed the Clinton money flowing into Jill McCabe’s campaign. McCabe had previously received bad advice from the FBI’s ethics office who had glossed over the obvious conflict. The IG also found that McCabe ignored the recusal and acted anyway in the investigation. In addition, the IG found that Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik, the former Justice Department liaison with Congress, sought a job for his son with the Clinton campaign while participating in communications and Justice Department discussions about the Clinton investigation. Kadzik should have immediately recused himself. In addition, Kadzik communicated with John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman about internal Justice Department documents concerning an FOIA suit about Clinton’s emails.
Overall, and in appropriate context, the Inspector General’s report demonstrates completely and conclusively the political and professional bias which permeated FBI and DOJ actions regarding the Clinton email investigation. It also demonstrates, at the same time, that James Comey, the man who has declared himself the arbiter of the nation’s morality, acted only in order to salvage his own imagined reputation and persona, while violating numerous professional and ethical norms in the process. More is sure to come when the Inspector General digs into Comey’s overtly illegal actions in the Trump investigation.