5 Key Takeaways From The House Hearing With FBI Counterintelligence No. 2 Peter Strzok

Photo Washington Post / YouTube

Yesterday’s joint hearing in front of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees was the first public hearing Congress held with the official who launched the Russia probe two years ago.

The Federalist, by Mollie Hemingway, July 13, 2018:

An embattled FBI official who led investigations into both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump testified in a cantankerous open hearing on the Hill yesterday. Peter Strzok, formerly the second in command of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, lost his position after texts he exchanged on government systems with his also-married lover and colleague Lisa Page revealed extreme bias against President Trump and his voters.

Yesterday’s joint hearing in front of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees was the first public hearing Congress held with the official who launched the Russia probe two years ago. Here are a few key takeaways from that hearing.

1. This Is What DOJ Obstruction Looks Like

The country is two years into the FBI’s probe of whether Donald Trump colluded with Russia to steal an election. Not a single charge has been brought by the FBI or by the Office of Special Counsel alleging collusion or treason or anything close to the charges that supposedly necessitated this investigation.

Congress began asking some questions of the FBI and Department of Justice about how it was conducting the investigation. Through the oversight process, Americans learned that the infamous “dossier” that laid out a case of collusion was secretly bought and paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. This dossier was used to secure wiretaps against Trump associates (other surveillance methods, including human informants, were also used).

The dossier was fed to both the FBI and State Department. Top intelligence officials were leaking about the Russia investigation to CNN and other media outlets. A top DOJ official’s wife worked for the firm that Hillary Clinton hired to run the “Russia” operation. That firm fed their opposition research to the FBI through him.

The Senate Judiciary and House Intelligence Committees, along with the Senate Homeland Security committee, House Oversight, and House Government Reform committees, have worked hard to uncover these details and in the face of unprecedented obstruction. Requests for documents are met with stonewalling, delays, redactions, leak campaigns, and outright refusals. Threats of subpoenas are routinely made to force even minor compliance.

Despite the length of yesterday’s hearing, congressional overseers were able to elicit almost no substantive answers to the questions they asked. Strzok claimed he was not answering questions because the Department of Justice told him not to answer questions. No matter the question, Strzok refused to answer any question about his role in the Russia probe, with almost no exceptions.

The hearing was a public revelation of the stonewalling and obstruction the DOJ has enforced against congressional oversight.

2. Strzok Somehow Came Off Even Worse Than He Did In His Texts

Despite his significant role in the Russia and Clinton investigations, the only picture Americans had formed of Strzok was based on his text messages. He spoke of his loathing of President Trump, Trump’s voters, and congressional oversight. He talked of stopping Trump’s election, of insurance policies to deal with his candidacy, and fantasies of impeachment.

The texts were between him and his also married colleague, another top-ranking official in the Department of Justice. The hearing demonstrated the texts were at best an accurate reflection of the man who wrote them. If anything, the texts were understated.

Strzok chose to present himself to the world as a smug, arrogant, and peevish man. He was defensive and condescending. His answers were almost mind-blowingly implausible. It wasn’t just that he lacked good judgment or even-handedness. It’s that he didn’t seem to have a grip on reality. He kept saying he wasn’t biased, when his bias is indisputable.

He told investigators that he would like to answer a question but that his attorneys weren’t letting him. If they later told him he could answer, he’d say he didn’t remember. He implausibly said that his affair didn’t put him at risk of compromise, in contrast to his agency’s policy.

3. Democrats Run Interference

Almost immediately, Democrats on the House and Government Reform Committee attempted to shut down the hearing. When that failed, they resorted to near-constant parliamentary inquiries and objections. At one point they actually cheered and applauded Strzok, despite his ethical failings and poor judgment, which have threatened the entire Russia investigation. The man is under internal investigation for his behavior. Yet one Democrat said he’d like to offer Strzok a Purple Heart, a military decoration awarded to those wounded or killed while serving in the U.S. military.

As silly as this behavior may seem, it indicated how Democrats hope to handle all oversight of the FBI and DOJ’s handling of the Russia probe. The message went out that every hearing will be a clown-show, even by the typical grandstanding attendant to congressional hearings. Democrats on oversight committees have fought transparency of the Russia investigation, portraying it as obstruction of a legitimate probe. All signs indicate that opposition to oversight will continue.

4. DOJ Clearly Hiding Its Relationship With Democratic-Funded Smear Group

The FBI and DOJ frequently instructed Strzok not to answer substantive questions from Republicans. One line of inquiry pursued by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, was regarding communication between the FBI and Fusion GPS, the group that concocted the “Russia” dossier and messaging plan on behalf of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Strzok generally declined to answer questions.

But Strzok did admit that Bruce Ohr, husband of Fusion GPS operative Nellie Ohr, funneled documents to the FBI related to the Russia case. He refused to say what those documents were. Yesterday, Sen. Chuck Grassley asked DOJ to declassify the dozen reports summarizing Ohr’s 12 information-sharing meetings with the FBI.

The FBI used Fusion GPS-hired Christopher Steele until the end of October, when he was terminated for lying about his leaks to the media. But Fusion and Steele were able to continue funnelling information to the FBI using colleague Nellie Ohr and her husband Bruce Ohr, a top DOJ official who worked closely with acting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

When the Russia story first broke, Americans didn’t realize that the dossier was a secret Clinton/DNC operation, or that the unverified opposition research was sent to various Obama officials in multiple agencies. Americans didn’t know that a top DOJ official was married to an employee of the group that created the dossier, or that he was used to get information into the government.

5. The Mystery Of Why The Investigation Started

Strzok said he didn’t see the dossier until mid-September. His electronic communication that started the probe didn’t include official intelligence. Given the politically explosive nature of the investigation, the FBI and DOJ have failed to explain what they were thinking in starting a probe of the Trump campaign.

The entire investigation has major problems from start to finish, whether it’s the use of a dossier that Steele created and Bruce Ohr sent to the FBI, or the fact that Strzok ended up having to be removed from the investigation for his obvious and extreme bias. Strzok said Mueller never asked him about his texts, and didn’t seek to find out more from him about what his “insurance policy” or “impeachment” rhetoric meant.

Again, the hearing was less than substantive because of the ongoing obstruction and stonewalling campaign engaged in by DOJ. That was itself instructive.

***

Also see:

Look to Trump, Not Trey Gowdy, to Address Bias at the FBI and DOJ

Rep. Trey Gowdy on Capitol Hill (James Lawler Duggan/Reuters)

National Review, by Andrew C. McCarthy, June 23, 2018:

The president runs the executive branch, after all.

I confess to being more weary than dizzy from the Dr. Gowdy–and–Mr. Trey routine. Just three weeks ago, Representative Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican who chairs the House Oversight Committee, assured us that everything was peachy with the FBI — no way, no how did the bureau “spy” on the Trump campaign when it deployed an “informant” to pry information from Trump-campaign officials. As Mollie Hemingway pointed out at the time, Gowdy had not seen relevant documents the FBI and Justice Department have been withholding from Congress — in fact, his spokeswoman said he did not even know what documents and records have been subpoenaed by the House Intelligence Committee (on which Gowdy also sits).

This week, Gowdy did a 180: back on the warpath, slamming the politically biased Feebs over “prejudging” the outcomes of the Clinton-emails and Trump-Russia investigations and delivering a chest-beating vow that the House would “use its full arsenal of constitutional weapons to get compliance” with its subpoenas — a threat that includes holding recalcitrant FBI and DOJ officials in contempt.

Whatever.

If I seem frustrated by Representative Gowdy, it is the frustration of an admirer. He is singular among lawmakers in his ability to ask piercing questions and drive home important points. But often there is little follow-through after a hearing’s highlight reel, and some of the scintillating rhetoric is, well, extravagant. The House is most certainly not going to use its “full arsenal of constitutional weapons” to pressure stonewalling agencies.

The Framers intended that the most ready and effective weapon would be Congress’s power of the purse. Yet, given Republicans’ slim majorities and the dysfunctional legislative budgeting process, it would not be realistic to threaten a dramatic slashing of Justice Department and FBI funding — something that would actually get their attention. Nor is impeachment chatter an effective means of saber-rattling. Republicans could not muster the simple House majority necessary to file impeachment articles against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or FBI director Wray, much less the Senate supermajority (two-thirds) needed to remove them. And don’t think Rosenstein and Wray can’t do the math.

Thus does the vaunted “full arsenal” quickly degrade to a possible contempt-of-Congress citation against these officials. The votes, however, are probably lacking for that, too. Even if they weren’t, it would be an essentially meaningless gesture of censure. Sure, an official held in contempt won’t much like it in the moment, but ask former attorney general Eric Holder if it cramped his contemptuous style in the slightest. Did it make a bit of difference in the Republican Congress’s futile quest for timely disclosure of Justice Department files on the Fast and Furious scandal?

Of course it didn’t, and for a very simple, nakedly political reason: President Obama protected his attorney general. While the GOP-controlled Congress was delighted to huff and puff about Holder in conservative media, it had no stomach to take on Obama.

In our system, the president runs the executive branch. If he sets the tone that cooperation with Congress is the order of the day, there is no occasion to grouse about non-compliance. If he tolerates or encourages the non-compliance, all the grousing in the world makes no difference — unless the grousing is aimed in the president’s direction and sustained to the point that it materially affects the president’s standing with voters.

Which brings us to the strange dynamic that has infected today’s inter-branch clash from the start.

Rosenstein and Wray work for Trump. And they are not Obama holdovers; they are Trump appointees. If they are defying Congress, it is because the president is permitting them to do so. Twitter tantrums and dark deep-state conspiracy theories don’t count; the president is empowered give his subordinates a direct order to comply with Congress’s demands, and to fire them immediately if they fail to do so. The president has the unilateral authority to disclose executive-branch files to lawmakers, including classified documents. Trump could have done this any time in the last 18 months.

This is the elephant in the room. Gowdy and his fellow GOP chairmen who are investigating the investigators — Devin Nunes (R., Calif.) of the Intelligence Committee and Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) of the Judiciary Committee — say they are committed to using their “full arsenal of constitutional weapons”? Well, instead of impeachment threats, how about simply directing their complaints to the one and only executive official empowered to rectify the problem instantly?

The president and his staff have suggested that Trump must stay out of the fray because Special Counsel Mueller is investigating him for obstruction, and his political foes would accuse him of interfering in that investigation if he asserted himself. That is specious. As we’ve recently observed, the absence of any credible obstruction case is even more obvious after last week’s inspector-general report; the executive branch’s lawful compliance with Congress’s oversight demands cannot obstruct justice; and, as noted above, Trump has been harassing his underlings with tweets anyway — i.e., if putting pressure on the DOJ and FBI is the stuff of obstruction allegations, that ship has already sailed.

Moreover, the president has claimed to be the victim of the official misconduct that Congress is examining. These claims are colorable, to say the least — the IG report certainly illustrates pervasive anti-Trump bias. But they could also be exaggerated. We won’t know unless and until Congress is given the relevant information.

It is reasonable to ask whether President Trump is more interested in the political advantage of posing as a victim of Justice Department/FBI abuse than in exercising his legal authority to expose and address any abuse. And if the Republican Congress continues to portray the controversy as a battle only against truculent executive officials — as if these officials do not have a boss — it is fair to ask whether this dispute is about accountability or theater.

Also see:

Bombshell Moments from Day Two of the Inspector General’s Testimony

The Markets Work, by Jeff Carlson, June 20, 2018:

Day Two of the Inspector General’s Testimony proved far more crucial than Day One. Many new details were revealed.

The following are testimony highlights (tweet source links below):

  • IG Michael Horowitz has confirmed, under oath, that he is reviewing if FBI Agent Peter Strzok’s anti-Trump bias impacted the launch of the Russia probe.
  • Horowitz noted significant political bias “Almost everything we found was…anti-Trump”
  • FBI Agents were taking bribes from Reporters. “Over 50+ agents with 300+ interactions. We wanted to make this public.”
  • Horowitz noted the FBI was refusing to allow Anti-Trump Agents to be named, citing their employ by Counterintelligence. Horowitz later showed this to be false.
  • Obama’s email contacts with Clinton’s Server was noted.
  • Hillary Clinton was Not formally under FBI Investigation at any time in 2015-2016.
  • FBI never named a target or even subject in Clinton probe.
  • Horowitz noted that Bias may have influenced outcome of Clinton Investigation. “It could have and we don’t rule it out.”
  • Horowitz testified that the two unidentified biased FBI investigators assigned to the Mueller investigation have been removed. At least one of them was removed due to anti-Trump text messages.
  • Horowitz confirmed that an original draft of his 568-pp report was subsequently redlined by DOJ/FBI higher-ups.
  • Horowitz stated he’s no longer convinced the FBI was collecting all of Strzok’s and Page’s text messages. Many texts may be missing. An investigation into this is ongoing.
  • FBI Director Wray would neither confirm nor deny that AG Sessions has asked him to reopen some aspect of the Clinton email case.
  • Horowitz noted that one of the unidentified pro-Clinton FBI investigators referred for discipline was one of the agents who interviewed Hillary Clinton on July 2, 2016, along with Strzok. This could be Joe Pientka.
  • Mark Meadows noted possible editing of 302 summary reports. See Video towards bottom.
  • Horowitz confirmed that he is investigating allegations that FBI officials “edited” 302 summary reports of interviews with witnesses and suspects in the 2016-2017 investigations. This could include 302s involving Michael Flynn.
  • Meadows outed two of the unidentified anti-Trump, pro-Hillary FBI investigators referred for punishment by Horowitz. Both work for the general counsel of FBI, not in counterintelligence as the FBI claimed – as an excuse to w/hold their names. They are Sally Moyer and Kevin Clinesmith.
  • Meadows noted that both FBI attorneys work/worked for Trisha Anderson, then Office of Legal Counsel, FBI – not Counterintelligence.
  • Following the IG’s testimony it was reported that FBI Agent Strzok was escorted out of the FBI Building on Friday. See bottom.

Trey Gowdy led the questioning of IG Horowitz off for the second day. The following video contains Horowitz’s opening statement followed by Trey Gowdy’s questioning. A transcriptof Gowdy’s questioning is provided.

Gowdy begins at the 8:00 mark:

Read more

Also see:

11 Quick Things To Know About The Inspector General’s Report

Photo DoD photo by Cherie Cullen

The Justice Department inspector general report about the FBI reveals a shocking anti-Trump, pro-Hillary bias endemic to the agency’s related investigations.

The Federalist, by Mollie Hemingway, June 15, 2018:

On Thursday, the Justice Department’s inspector general released a long-anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server that handled classified information. Here are some quick takeaways from the report.

1. Learn How To Interpret An IG Report

The best way to understand an inspector general (IG) report is less as a fiercely independent investigation that seeks justice and more like what you’d expect from a company’s human resources department. Employees frequently think that a company’s human resources department exists to serve employees. There’s some truth in that, but it’s more true that the human resources department exists to serve the corporation.

At the end of the day, the HR department wants what’s best for the company. The FBI’s IG Michael Horowitz has a good reputation for good reason. But his report is in support of the FBI and its policies and procedures. As such, the findings will be focused on helping the FBI improve its adherence to those policies and procedures. Those who expected demands for justice in the face of widespread evidence of political bias and poor judgment by immature agents and executives were people unfamiliar with the purpose of IG reports.

The IG is also a government bureaucrat producing government products that are supposed to be calm and boring. In the previous report that led to Andrew McCabe’s firing as deputy director of the FBI and referral for criminal prosecution, his serial lying under oath was dryly phrased as “lack of candor.” In this report detailing widespread problems riddled throughout the Clinton email probe, the language is similarly downplayed. That’s particularly true in the executive summary, which attempts to downplay the actual details that fill the report with evidence of poor decision-making, extreme political bias, and problematic patterns of behavior.

2. FBI Agent Who Led Both The Clinton and Trump Probes Promised He’d Prevent Trump’s Election

Such as this one! On page 420, the IG says that the conduct of five FBI employees who were caught talking about their extreme political bias in the context of their duties “has brought discredit to themselves, sowed doubt about the FBI’s handling of the Midyear investigation, and impacted the reputation of the FBI.” The Midyear investigation was the code for the Clinton probe. Or note this blistering passage:

[W]hen one senior FBI official, [Peter] Strzok, who was helping to lead the Russia investigation at the time, conveys in a text message to another senior FBI official, [Lisa] Page, that ‘we’ll stop’ candidate Trump from being elected—after other extensive text messages between the two disparaging candidate Trump—it is not only indicative of a biased state of mind but, even more seriously, implies a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects. This is antithetical to the core values of the FBI and the Department of Justice.

The report goes on to say that the text messages and Strzok’s decision to prioritize the counterintelligence probe of the Trump campaign over the Clinton email criminal investigation “led us to conclude that we did not have confidence that Strzok’s decision was free from bias.”

This text is not just interesting because the FBI’s deputy head of the counterintelligence division who was investigating a major-party candidate told the woman he was cheating on his wife with that “we” would stop the candidate from becoming president. It’s also interesting because this text was hidden from congressional committees performing oversight of the FBI.

3. Comey Mishandled The Clinton Probe In Multiple Ways

It’s worth re-reading Acting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s May 9, 2017, recommendation that James Comey be fired as FBI director. He cited Comey’s usurpation of the attorney general’s authority in his press conference announcing that Clinton’s case would be closed without prosecution, the release of derogatory information about Clinton despite the decision to not indict her, and Comey’s letter to Congress announcing the FBI had reopened a probe against Clinton.

The IG backs up each and every one of those critiques, and adds much more detail to them.

We concluded that Comey’s unilateral announcement was inconsistent with Department policy and violated long-standing Department practice and protocol by, among other things, criticizing Clinton’s uncharged conduct. We also found that Comey usurped the authority of the Attorney General, and inadequately and incompletely described the legal position of Department prosecutors.

The IG said Comey violated longstanding department practice to avoid “trashing people we’re not charging.” He also inadequately and incompletely explained how Justice prosecutors came to make decisions. “Many of the problems with the statement resulted from Comey’s failure to coordinate with Department officials,” the IG wrote. Had he talked with them, they would have warned him about the problems his statement posed. What’s more, the prosecutors had a very different understanding of why they were declining to charge Clinton than the one Comey claimed they had in his public press conference.

Comey also violated departmental practice in announcing publicly he reopened the probe after additional relevant emails were found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. Both of these decisions were controversial inside and outside the agency.

4. Comey Is Slippery And Weird

The 568-page report includes many examples of Comey being duplicitous and sneaky during his handling of the Clinton email probe. For instance, he asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch how to handle questions regarding the criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information on a secret server. She told him to call it a “matter.” He didn’t object and even complied.

But a year later, the conversation was leaked to The New York Times in a story that painted Comey as a non-partisan truth-teller beset by both Democrats and Republicans. Daniel Richman, the same man who was used to leak Comey’s anti-Trump memos, was a source for the anti-Lynch story.

Comey threatened to appoint a special counsel in the Clinton probe if Justice officials didn’t help him get what he wanted. He bizarrely claimed he was going to announce he’d make no recommendation on the Clinton email probe. He decided he was going to make a solo announcement trashing Clinton while announcing she was not being charged, but let the Justice Department think they would be making a statement together:

Comey admitted that he concealed his intentions from the Department until the morning of his press conference on July 5, and instructed his staff to do the same, to make it impracticable for Department leadership to prevent him from delivering his statement. We found that it was extraordinary and insubordinate for Comey to do so, and we found none of his reasons to be a persuasive basis for deviating from well-established Department policies in a way intentionally designed to avoid supervision by Department leadership over his actions.

He claimed that he didn’t grasp the significance of the hundreds of thousands of Clinton emails being found on Weiner’s computer because he didn’t know that Weiner was married to Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Beyond being too ridiculous to believe, the claim is hardly exonerating. It would mean he was not interested to learn that hundreds of thousands of Clinton emails relevant to a highly charged criminal investigation were found on the laptop of an unrelated man.

Comey asked Justice officials for feedback on his decisions but did so through assistants, suggesting he viewed any feedback as a dangerous encroachment on his decision-making.

“We asked Comey why he asked for the Department’s feedback and then ignored the feedback that he received,” the IG wrote. Later, “Both Lynch and [Deputy Attorney General Sally] Yates explained that they were concerned that any direct discussion with Comey—particularly any discussion in which they told him not to send the letter—would be perceived as an attempt to prevent him from fulfilling his ‘personal ethical obligation’ to notify Congress. Both stated that they were concerned that the fact of any such direct discussions would leak and would be portrayed as Department leadership attempting to ‘prevent information damaging to a candidate from coming out’ (Lynch) or ‘strong-arming’ Comey (Yates).”

5. FBI Has A Massive Leak Problem And Is Doing Nothing About It

As mentioned, both Lynch and Yates were worried that performing legitimate oversight of Comey would be leaked against them to the media. Fear of leaks was also mentioned by many top FBI officials as a major reason that the Southern District of New York was able to force the FBI to reopen the Clinton probe.

“We have profound concerns about the volume and extent of unauthorized media contacts by FBI personnel that we have uncovered during our review,” the report stated. Two attachments were included showing rampant discussions with reportersby people not authorized to be talking to reporters. One FBI executive was caught having had 26 conversations with one reporter and seven conversations with another reporter. They even created charts to help show how rampant the conversations were:

The report showed myriad FBI employees violating FBI policy and department ethics rules.

FBI employees received tickets to sporting events from journalists, went on golfing outings with media representatives, were treated to drinks and meals after work by reporters, and were the guests of journalists at nonpublic social events.

The IG said the leaks were difficult to track down because of how many people had access to classified and non-public information. The IG also said the culture of widespread leaking made it difficult to crack down:

Second, although FBI policy strictly limits the employees who are authorized to speak to the media, we found that this policy appeared to be widely ignored during the period we reviewed. We identified numerous FBI employees, at all levels of the organization and with no official reason to be in contact with the media, who were nevertheless in frequent contact with reporters. The large number of FBI employees who were in contact with journalists during this time period impacted our ability to identify the sources of leaks.

6. FBI Almost Got Away With Ignoring Clinton Emails On Weiner Laptop

In September 2016, when an investigator in the Southern District of New York found hundreds of thousands of Clinton emails and Blackberry messages on a laptop being searched in relation to an investigation of former Rep. Anthony Weiner, he immediately alerted his supervisors. They alerted the FBI, who sat on the information for weeks, only acting after the New York office complained repeatedly.

By October 3, the case agent assigned to the Weiner investigation expressed concern that the FBI appeared to be sitting on what he’d told them. Later he told the IG:

The crickets I was hearing was really making me uncomfortable because something was going to come crashing down…. And my understanding, which is uninformed because…I didn’t work the Hillary Clinton matter. My understanding at the time was I am telling you people I have private Hillary Clinton emails, number one, and BlackBerry messages, number two. I’m telling you that we have potentially 10 times the volume that Director Comey said we had on the record. Why isn’t anybody here? Like, if I’m the supervisor of any CI squad in Seattle and I hear about this, I’m getting on with headquarters and saying, hey, some agent working child porn here may have [Hillary Clinton] emails. Get your -ss on the phone, call [the case agent], and get a copy of that drive, because that’s how you should be. And that nobody reached out to me within, like, that night, I still to this day I don’t understand what the hell went wrong.

And I told her, I’m a little scared here. I don’t know what to do because I’m not political. Like I don’t care who wins this election, but this is going to make us look really, really horrible. And it could ruin this case, too. And…I said the thing that also bothers me is that Comey’s testimony is inaccurate. And as a big admirer of the guy, and I think he’s a straight shooter, I wanted to, I felt like he needed to know, like, we got this. And I didn’t know if he did.

Although all the relevant information was given to the FBI by September 29, they came back to the agent weeks later to ask questions he’d repeatedly answered. But the FBI agents claimed that the information they learned in late October was new to them. The IG says this is not true: “By no later than September 29, the FBI had learned virtually every fact that was cited by the FBI in late October as justification for obtaining the search warrant for the Weiner laptop.”

The FBI claimed that they didn’t take action on the laptop because “1. The FBI Midyear team was waiting for additional information about the contents of the laptop from NYO, which was not provided until late October. 2. The FBI Midyear team could not review the emails without additional legal authority, such as consent or a new search warrant. 3. The FBI Midyear team and senior FBI officials did not believe that the information on the laptop was likely to be significant. 4. Key members of the FBI Midyear team had been reassigned to the investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election, which was a higher priority.”

The IG said these excuses were hogwash, saying that the first was “unpersuasive,” the second “illogical,” the third “inconsistent” and “insufficient,” and the fourth “unpersuasive and concerning.” The overarching feeling of the report is that the FBI leaders who handled both the Clinton and Trump probes worked very hard to pretend the Weiner incident didn’t happen, only being forced by the New York office’s insistence that protocol be followed.

7. Breathtaking Bias

Some FBI defenders latched onto the IG’s claim that he “did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected the specific
investigative decisions we reviewed.” All that means is that none of the politically biased texts specifically said political bias was leading them to make certain decisions. Of course, that would be a weird thing to find in any case.

What the investigators found, however, was breathtaking anti-Trump and pro-Clinton bias from five of the key employees handling the Clinton email probe. No evidence was found of pro-Trump bias. And this evidence of profound bias is only for those who were foolish enough to record their extreme views. The IG also apparently had no texts from Justice Department officials, perhaps because Justice didn’t preserve them.

The texts range from vile insults of Trump and his supporters to fears about how awful a Trump presidency would be and the need to prevent it. One employee said Trump voters were “all poor to middle class, uneducated, lazy POS.” One FBI lawyer discussed feeling “numb” by Trump’s November 2016 election win, later proclaiming “Viva le Resistance” when asked about Trump.

Strzok wrote in July 2016, “Trump is a disaster. I have no idea how destabilizing his Presidency would be.” After the election, Page wrote that she’d bought “All the President’s Men,” adding, “Figure I needed to brush up on watergate.” The two openly fantasize about impeachment.

In the preparation to interview Clinton as part of the criminal probe, Page tells a handful of her colleagues to take it easy on Clinton. “One more thing: she might be our next president. The last thing you need us going in there loaded for bear.”

After each text exchange, the IG report includes defenses from the agents, some even harder to believe than the previous:

August 8, 2016: In a text message on August 8, 2016, Page stated, “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strzok responded, ‘No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.’ When asked about this text message, Strzok stated that he did not specifically recall sending it, but that he believed that it was intended to reassure Page that Trump would not be elected, not to suggest that he would do something to impact the investigation.

Sure, hoss.

All five of the FBI employees were referred back to the FBI for disciplinary action.

8. Clinton Got Breaks, But Some Backfired

While Comey harmed Clinton with how he handled his public announcements about her case, the IG report paints an investigation that was overall quite favorable toward her and her associates. During the Robert Mueller investigation, the federal government has played hardball with Trump associates, ringing them up on false statement charges, raiding their offices, arresting them without warning, and encroaching on attorney-client relationships. For Clinton, a much different approach was taken.

To take just one example, look at the case of Paul Combetta, an employee who handled the migration of Clinton’s email accounts across servers then later deleted the emails. Clinton probe members were sure he was lying about the deletion of the emails in violation of a congressional preservation order. In repeated interviews, he claimed he didn’t delete her emails.

The agents had an email where he talked about the “Hilary coverup operation.” They decided that wasn’t a big deal. One agent said he believed Combetta should have been charged with “false statements for lying multiple times.” But overall they decided it was just so confusing, that the failure to tell the truth was “largely due to a lack of sophistication and poor legal representation.” They gave him immunity, and he started singing. He admitted deleting the emails “despite his awareness of Congress’s preservation order and his understanding that the order meant that ‘he should not disturb Clinton’s email data on the PRN server.’” Sounds nice.

It seems likely that Clinton’s handling of classified information on a secret server, and the FBI’s investigation of it, caused her problems during the 2016 election. But it’s also interesting how the efforts by many to help Clinton kept backfiring. More than anything, there is a lack of confidence that political considerations were absent from the decision to let Clinton skate.

President Obama gave interviews where he stated that Clinton didn’t have intent to harm national security, a talking point later carried by Comey himself. Even before Comey followed Obama’s lead, observers worried that Obama was giving guidance as opposed to offering his opinion. An Obama White House spokesman said he knew Clinton was not a “target” of the investigation, suggesting he had insider knowledge. The FBI claimed he didn’t have insider knowledge.

When the New York office told the FBI about Weiner’s laptop, it appears that the FBI tried to run out the election clock before dealing with it. It would have worked, too, if the New York office hadn’t pushed the matter right before the election — the absolute worst time to deal with a reopening of the investigation.

9. Obama Lied When He Said He Knew Nothing About Hillary’s Secret E-mail Scheme

The IG found that Obama was “one of the 13 individuals with whom Clinton had direct contact using her clintonemail[.]com account.”

In fact, Clinton used her private email for “an exchange with then President Obama while in the territory of a foreign adversary,” a move that led investigators to believe hostile actors had likely gained access to her server. But a paragraph in a draft of Comey’s exoneration of Clinton was changed from Obama to “another senior government official,” and later deleted.

Obama had falsely told reporters he didn’t know of Clinton’s private email system.

10. FBI Agent Joked Clinton Associate Who Lied Would Never Be Charged, Questioned Legitimacy Of Investigation

FBI agents discussed how a witness who obviously lied to them about the Clinton probe would never be charged:

FBI Employee: ‘boom…how did the [witness] go’
Agent 1: ‘Awesome. Lied his -ss off. Went from never inside the scif [sensitive compartmented information facility] at res, to looked in when it was being constructed, to removed the trash twice, to troubleshot the secure fax with HRC a couple times, to everytime there was a secure fax i did it with HRC. Ridic,’
FBI Employee: ‘would be funny if he was the only guy charged n this deal’
Agent 1: ‘I know. For 1001. Even if he said the truth and didnt have a clearance when handling the secure fax – aint noone gonna do sh-t’

That same agent also openly discussed political considerations affecting the Clinton probe. The IG gave a few examples:

January 15, 2016: Responding to a question of when the investigation would be finished, Agent 1 stated, ‘[M]y guess is March. Doesnt matter what we have, political winds will want to beat the Primarys.’
January 28, 2016: ‘…The case is the same is all of them. Alot of work and bullsh-t for a political exercise.’
February 1, 2016: ‘…Its primary season – so we’re being dictated to now….’
February 1, 2016: ‘This is the biggest political sh-t show of them all. No substance. Up at dawn – pride swallowing seige. No headset and hermetically sealed in SIOC.’
February 2, 2016: Responding to a question about how the investigation was going, ‘Going well…. Busy, and sometimes I feel for naught (political exercise), but I feel good….’
May 6, 2016, to Agent 5: ‘pretty bad news today…someone has breathed some political urgency into this…. Everyday DD brief and once a week D brief from now on.’

11. FBI’s Insulting Response

FBI Director Christopher Wray gave a press conference in front of a compliant press corps where he said, “nothing in this report impugns the integrity of our workforce as a whole or the FBI as an institution.” In fact, the report paints a picture of an FBI with a problematic culture.

It’s not just Comey’s usurpation of authority and failure to comply with practices. Multiple people were involved in his condemned decisions. Others were cited for bad judgement in recusal decisions or failure to adhere to recusals. Political bias was rampant in the team of people who handled both the Clinton and Trump email probes. So were leaks, accepting gifts from reporters, incompetence, and other problems.

Instead, Wray issued a strawman defense of employees, bragged about the high number of applicants to the agency, and talked about the low percentage of recruits who were accepted.

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a senior editor at The Federalist. Follow her on Twitter at @mzhemingway
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Also see:

Andrew C. McCarthy on Russiagate, Clinton-Trump Investigation Double Standards, Mueller’s Mandate, DOJ-FBI-CIA Politicization (Part II)

My Guest

Andrew C. McCarthy (@AndrewCMcCarthy) is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, contributing editor of National Review and author most recently of essential books on the threat of Islamic supremacism including Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the JihadThe Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America and Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy.

In Part II of my in-depth interview with Andy, we discussed Russiagate, the pervasive unethical and at times lawless behavior of law enforcement and the intelligence community with respect to Donald Trump and Russia versus Hillary Clinton and her e-mail server, the apparently limitless mandate of Robert Mueller’s special counsel, obstruction of justice and much more.

If you missed Part I of my conversation with Andy on his experience prosecuting the jihadist mastermind of the first World Trade Center attack and what it taught him about the Islamic supremacist threat America faces, the primacy of religion and why Islamic supremacists choose jihadist savagery over assimilation, willful blindness in American national security and foreign policy, folly in American foreign affairs from Syria to Libya, and the imperative to collapse the Khomeinist Iranian regime, be sure to catch up here.

What We Discussed

  • Russia’s historical attempts to “interfere” with U.S. elections, and its imperceptible impact on the 2016 U.S. presidential vote
  • McCarthy’s dissection of the double standard in the DOJ/FBI’s handling of its investigation of Hillary Clinton versus that of Donald Trump, and the unwillingness to bring Clinton to justice over Clinton Foundation impropriety if not worse and destruction of State Department emails
  • Former FBI Director James Comey’s monumental error in testimony on the counter-intelligence investigation implicating the Trump campaign that ultimately served as the basis for Robert Mueller’s special counsel
  • Mueller’s limitless special counsel mandate and brazen tactics against Paul Manafort
  • Politicization of law enforcement and the intelligence apparatus, and its detrimental long-term impact on American national security
  • How to root out corruption in the FBI, CIA and DOJ, and the suspicious if not lawless acts of Obama DNI Chief James Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan
  • The disingenuous nature of the Intelligence Community Assessment on Russian meddling in the 2016 election
  • The double standard in the treatment of Paul Manafort versus Hillary Clinton and her email server
  • McCarthy’s obliteration of the obstruction of justice theory
  • President Obama’s involvement in Russiagate

Full Transcript (go there for the audio also)

Also see McCarthy’s article at NRO yesterday: 

The Swamp Strikes Back

Gatestone Institute, by J. Christian Adams, June 7, 2018:

  • The culture of the D.C. metropolitan area is one of wealth, privilege and self-proclaimed sophistication. The bureaucrats and insiders know what is best for you, best for your business, best for themselves, and they can make a nice living without being disrupted. Trump campaigned on disrupting this comfortable power perch; that is what they most hate about him.
  • The Russian collusion investigation has not found any collusion because the investigation was never about collusion. It was always about an out-of-control federal government, emboldened by the lawless age of Obama, and flexing its newfound muscle. The Russian collusion investigation is about a clash of cultures, with one culture being the culture of D.C. insiders, and the other being the folks who pay their salaries.

Each week, Robert Mueller’s Wonderlandian investigation into “Russian Collusion” appears “curiouser and curiouser”. Each week, it appears that the entire investigation never really had anything to do with Russian collusion, at least in the Trump campaign; only in the Hillary Clinton campaign, where all the investigators have been conscientiously not looking.

First, Mueller indicted General Michael Flynn for not telling the truth to an FBI squad that appeared unexpectedly at the White House to question him, when now it turns out that Peter Strzok, who interrogated him, said he had not lied. It also now turns out that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe may later have altered Strzok’s interrogation notes, and then destroyed the evidence.

Mueller then indicted Paul Manafort for allegedly laundering money through an Alexandria, Virginia, oriental rug store — a “process crime”. Notably absent from it in any indictment was mention of Russia, collusion or even elections.

Moreover, the order from the Department of Justice, signed by Rod Rosenstein, stipulated one more directive:

“(ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly om the investigation; and

(iii) any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).

As well as:

“(d) Sections 600.4 through 600. l 0 of Title 28 of the Code of Federal Regulations”

As Judge T.S. Ellis said to Mueller on May 4:

“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud. You really care about getting information that Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment or whatever.”

Mueller’s only indictments that did relate to Russia were directed at a nest of Russian sock-puppets who, in an apparent effort to influence public opinion, pushed pro-Trump tweets during the 2016 election. The crimes alleged were that the sock-puppets were foreign agents trying to influence American elections through social media. In other words, the Russians were doing what they have internationally for decades — attempting to influence domestic American politics through fronts and propaganda. When the sock puppets, incidentally, had the nerve to ask for proof, Mueller asked for a delay, which the judge refused to grant. As Andrew McCarthy, former Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, noted, “as all prosecutors are taught from their first day on the job: Never indict a case unless you are prepared to try the case.”

Robert Mueller III. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

If the Democrats seem suddenly concerned about foreigners influencing an election, that is what the previous administration did as recently as 2015 — to Israel. Then, the Obama State Department funneled $350 thousand U.S. taxpayer dollars to OneVoice, an anti-Netanyahu political operation during Israel’s parliamentary elections. OneVoice used American tax dollars to build a political voter database, train activists, and hire a political consulting firm with ties to President Obama’s campaign apparatus.

American tax dollars were funneled through Netanyahu’s foes and eventually ended up back in the pockets of Obama’s political machine. Now the same gang that used American power to try to bring down the Israeli Prime Minister is sanctimoniously objecting to Russian interference-by-tweeting.

The frenzy about the Russian tweets also has a sinister side.

The singular lesson for history of the seemingly widespread corruption at the senior levels of the FBI, Department of Justice, and the State Department is that a phony “dossier” about then-presidential candidate Donald Trump was used to obtain — by misrepresenting its contents to a judge — Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against private citizens. The dossier was cooked up and paid for by Democrat political operatives with ties to the presidential campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.

When Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) suspected that the admittedly “unverified” phony dossier was used to obtain wiretap warrants of American citizens, he was right. But it gets worse.

After the warrants were obtained and telephone calls of private citizens were tapped by the FBI, Obama Department of Justice officials, and some people yet unnamed inside the Obama White House, authorized the unmasking of the content of those conversations. Unmasking means that the transcripts and identities of Americans were revealed, violating their Fourth Amendment right to privacy. For good measure, Obama officials even changed the rules about how widely those unmasked transcripts could be distributed inside the DOJ, thus expanding the universe of potential leakers.

And leak they did.

In short, Democrats produced a phony document to make candidate Trump look creepy, then Obama DOJ officials working with sympathetic FBI staff and outside political operatives, obtained FISA search warrants by lying to FISA judges four times in order to target the Trump campaign in an apparently unlimited fishing expedition for a crime — none ever having been specified as is required by law — even after the president was duly elected.

If all of this were not enough, a small core of powerful FBI senior staffers — as opposed to the FBI’s remarkable rank and file — was steering this entire affair, while simultaneously texting each other about their hatred for candidate Donald Trump.

The central item to understand is that Swamp actors inside the DOJ and FBI used their powers first to do what could be done to exonerate at least 13 possible crimescommitted by Hillary Clinton. That, at least was the number committed beforeinformation emerged that her campaign and the DNC had funded the dossier; later findings must have added a few more.

The Swamp actors’ other objective was apparently to sabotage Trump’s presidency if Trump won. Peter Strzok wrote, “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office—that there’s no way he gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40…” by using their powers in the Russia probe to destroy the president politically.

It is precisely the sort of subversion that takes place in banana republics — where political differences are criminalized and weaponized — and is fundamentally anti-Constitutional. It appears to be — on the part of some of the heads of the FBI, the Department of Justice, the State Department and President Obama’s White House— part of a criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice and abuse power in order — as former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Joseph diGenova put it, “to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and, if she didn’t win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime.”

The fraud on the court, and by extension, on the American people, appears an attempt to convert power over the ministerial state into political power.

Instead of graciously allowing his successor to get his sea legs and govern — a courtesy traditionally extended by Presidents of both parties — former President Barack Obama lingers and supports the “Resistance” movement.

What you see happening when Rep. Nunes threatens to hold Justice Department officials in contempt for hiding the basis for the FBI to obtain FISA warrants, when you read indictments about Russian sock puppets, it is something more than the good old-fashioned Beltway scandal.

What you are seeing is Constitutional political warfare unleashed by the bureaucracy against a President the bureaucracy apparently loathes.

The bureaucracy seems now to believe that it is in charge, not the president. The bureaucrats make a good living, have comfy retirement plans, can buy life insurance at rates more reasonable than a private sector employee can, and likely think that Trump is a threat to their power. The bureaucrats have created a culture in Washington D.C. that extends beyond the hallways of their Departments.

The culture of the D.C. metropolitan area is one of wealth, privilege and self-proclaimed sophistication. The bureaucrats and insiders know what is best for you, best for your business, best for themselves, and they can make a nice living without being disrupted. Trump campaigned on disrupting this comfortable power perch; that is what they most hate about him.

The Russian collusion investigation has not found any collusion because the investigation was never about collusion. It was always about an out-of-control federal government, emboldened by the lawless age of Obama, and flexing its newfound muscle. The Russian collusion investigation is about a clash of cultures, with one culture being the culture of D.C. insiders, and the other being the folks who pay their salaries.

J. Christian Adams is the President of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public interest law firm dedicated to election integrity and preserving the Constitutional structure of American elections.

Also see:

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The spy who came in to be told

George Papadopoulos (image via LinkedIn)

Powerline Blog, by Scott Johnson, June 4, 2018:

Mark Levin hosted Andrew McCarthy and David Limbaugh on FOX News’ Life, Liberty and Levin last night. The first segment took up the question of the “confidential human source” or “spy” detailed by the FBI to probe the Trump campaign. We know the FBI was probing the Trump campaign thanks to the sworn testimony of former FBI Director James Comey before Congress last year, cited by McCarthy in the interview and in his May 30 NR column “Yes, the FBI Was Investigating the Trump Campaign When It Spied.”

This is a fact that Meet the Press anchor Chuck Todd needs to absorb. It is not, as Todd insists, “a b.s. story that is going to go away in five days.” This is something new under the sun. Attention must be paid. Todd’s distaste for Trump to the contrary notwithstanding, the story will linger.

McCarthy explains why in the opening of last night’s show with Levin (video below). McCarthy put it this way: “The back and forth about whether it was a spy or an informant is beside the point….They’re government-controlled covert operatives who you send in to get information regardless of what you call them and the important thing always is why you sent them in, not what you call them…”

Note to Chuck Todd and others: Andrew McCarthy knows what he is talking about. McCarthy continues with this thought: “With all due respect to Congressman Gowdy, I don’t think the American people would be happy with the idea that the norm we’ve had in this country, I think from the beginning of this country but certainly in the modern era since Watergate, that the incumbent administration does not use the awesome counterterrorism and law enforcement powers that it has to monitor the opposition party in an electoral campaign is a norm the American people would like to keep in place.”

Key point for slow learners (emphasis in McCarthy’s remarks): “And Gowdy is simply wrong when he says that the object here was to monitor the activities of a few tangential that had kind of tenuous connections to the Trump campaign. It was said explicitly in congressional testimony a number of times by former Director Comey that the FBI was conducting was conducting an investigation of the Trump campaign for coordinating in Russia’s cyberespionage operation…”

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Also by Scott Johnson:

WAITING FOR THE DOCUMENTS OR SOMETHING LIKE THEM

I declare Maria Bartiromo’s Sunday Morning Futures on the FOX News Channel the best of the weekly gabfests by far. Perhaps it is just the frequent appearance of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes on the show that pumps it up in my estimation. In the segment disseminated via Twitter below, Rep. Nunes reports that he is still waiting for release of the subpoenaed documents related to the opening of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign. Two years into the investigation, secrecy abides. President Trump, tear down this wall!

Quotable quote: “For almost a year now, we’ve been waiting for documents from the deputy attorney general. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein could provide all the documents, all the information we need this week, and we could write a report by Friday.”

Via Tim Hains/RealClearPoltics.

Also see: