The Politicization of the FBI
Redacted from a fascinating in-depth detailed article
By Joseph E. diGenova, Former U.S. Attorney
Joseph E. diGenova is a founding partner of diGenova & Toensing, LLP. He received his B.A. from the University of Cincinnati and his J.D. from Georgetown University. He has served as United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, Independent Counsel of the United States, Special Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives, Chief Counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, and Counsel to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Over the past year, facts have emerged that suggest there was a plot by high-ranking FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) officials in the Obama administration, acting under color of law, to exonerate Hillary Clinton of federal crimes and then, if she lost the election, to frame Donald Trump and his campaign for colluding with Russia to steal the presidency. This conduct was not based on mere bias, as has been widely claimed, but rather on deeply felt animus toward Trump and his agenda.
In the course of this plot, FBI Director James Comey, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, FBI Deputy Director of Counterintelligence Peter Strzok, Strzok’s paramour and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, FBI General Counsel James Baker, and DOJ senior official Bruce Ohr—perhaps among others—compromised federal law enforcement to such an extent that the American public is losing trust.
A recent CBS News poll finds 48 percent of Americans believe that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia collusion probe is “politically motivated,” a stunning conclusion. And 63 percent of polled voters in a Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll believe that the FBI withheld vital information from Congress about the Clinton and Russia collusion investigations.
I spent my early legal career as a federal prosecutor. I later supervised hundreds of prosecutors and prosecutions as a U.S. Attorney and as an Independent Counsel. I have never witnessed investigations so fraught with failure to fulfill the basic elements of a criminal probe as those conducted under James Comey. Not since former Acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray deep-sixed evidence during Watergate has the head of the FBI been so discredited as Comey is now.
The Case of the Clinton Emails
The Hillary Clinton email scandal began in 2013 with the U.S. House of Representatives investigation into the attack on the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. It was during that investigation that accessing Secretary of State Clinton’s emails became an issue. But it wasn’t until The New York Times broke the story on March 2, 2015, that Clinton had a secret, personal server that things really took off.
Thousands of emails that the House at first requested, then subpoenaed, conveniently disappeared—remember those reports about BleachBit and the smashing of Clinton’s numerous phones with hammers? Clinton and her aides were, to say the least, not forthcoming. It was clearly time for the FBI and DOJ to act, using the legal tools at their disposal to secure the emails and other materials the House had subpoenaed. But that didn’t happen.
Incredibly, FBI Director Comey and Attorney General Lynch refused to convene a grand jury during the Clinton investigation. Thus investigators had no authority to subpoena evidence or witnesses. Lacking leverage, Comey then injudiciously granted immunity to five Clinton aides in return for evidence that could have been obtained with a subpoena.
Even when Clinton claimed 39 times during a July 2, 2016, interview—an interview led by disgraced FBI agent Peter Strzok—that she could not recall certain facts because of a head injury, Comey refused the case agents’ request to subpoena her medical records.
Not only was there no grand jury, the FBI never issued a search warrant—something it does when there is concern a person will destroy evidence. Clinton deleted half her emails and then claimed, under penalty of perjury, that she had turned over to the government all emails that “were or potentially were” work-related. The FBI later found email chains classified as “secret” or “confidential” that she had not turned over. Still no search warrant was issued.
Comey’s dereliction did not stop at the failure to utilize essential prosecutorial tools. He violated several rules that prosecutors consider sacrosanct.
Comey allowed one lawyer to represent four material witnesses, an arrangement ripe for the four to coordinate testimony.
After needlessly giving immunity to two lawyers representing Clinton, Comey permitted both to sit in on her July 2, 2016, FBI interview—a patent conflict.
Comey and the FBI never questioned Clinton about her public statements, which changed over time and were blatantly false. “I did not email classified information to anyone” morphed into “I did not email anything marked ‘classified,’” which morphed into the claim that (c) did not mean what it clearly meant. False and changing statements are presented to juries routinely by prosecutors as evidence of guilt.
Breaking DOJ protocols, violating the chain of command, and assuming an authority he never had, Comey usurped the role of the U.S. attorney general on July 5, 2016, when he announced that the case against Clinton was closed.
He justified his actions saying that he no longer trusted Attorney General Lynch after her June 27, 2016, meeting with Bill Clinton on the tarmac at the Phoenix airport. This meeting took place at the height of the so-called investigation—just days before Peter Strzok interviewed Clinton on July 2. Thanks to the efforts of Judicial Watch to secure documents through the Freedom of Information Act, we now know that Comey was already drafting a letter exonerating Clinton in May 2016—prior to interviewing more than a dozen major witnesses.
In late spring 2016, just weeks prior to Comey’s July 5 press conference clearing Clinton of any crime, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe ordered FBI agents in New York to shut down their investigation into the Clinton Foundation. Their objections were overruled. Sources have told me that McCabe also shut down an additional Clinton investigation. This is the McCabe who, while he was overseeing the Clinton email investigation, had a wife running for the Virginia State Senate and receiving more than $460,000 in campaign contributions from a longtime Clinton loyalist, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.
The Case of Trump-Russia Collusion
Rumors of collusion with Russia by Trump or the Trump campaign surfaced during the primaries in 2015, but gained in strength soon after Trump secured the Republican nomination in July 2016. Thanks to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, we now know that high-level FBI officials were involved in promoting these rumors. Among Horowitz’s discoveries were text messages between FBI Deputy Director of Counterintelligence Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page that suggest an illegal plan to utilize law enforcement to frame Trump. The most revealing exchange we know of took place on August 15, 2016. Concerned about the outcome of the election, Strzok wrote:
I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in [Andrew McCabe’s] office—that there’s no way [Trump] 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.
No amount of sugar coating or post hoc explanation of this and other texts can conceal the couple’s animus against Trump and support for Clinton.
At the heart of the Russia collusion scheme is the FBI’s utilization of a document paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Called the Steele Dossier because it was written by former British MI6 officer Christopher Steele, this document contains unsubstantiated information designed to taint Trump and his presidency.
Comey and then-CIA Director John Brennan laundered the Steele Dossier through the U.S. intelligence community to give it an aura of credibility and get it to the press. It was also used by the FBI and senior DOJ officials to secure wiretap warrants from a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. Then its contents, via court-authorized FISA warrants, were used to justify the illegal unmasking of the identities of wiretapped Trump officials.
In sum, the FBI and DOJ employed unverified salacious allegations contained in a political opposition research document to obtain court-sanctioned wiretaps, and then leaked the contents of the wiretaps and the identities of political opponents. This was a complex criminal plot worthy of Jason Bourne.
The Pall Over the Special Counsel and the FBI
Layered over this debacle is a special counsel investigation unfettered by rules or law. Not surprisingly, James Comey triggered the special counsel’s appointment—and he did so by design. According to Comey’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, having been fired on May 9, 2017, he leaked official documents to his friend, Columbia Law School professor Daniel Richman, with the specific intent that Richman would leak them to the press.
Reportage on that leak is what led Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Robert Mueller—a former FBI director and Comey’s good friend—as special counsel to investigate allegations of Trump-Russia collusion. Mueller’s reputation has been damaged by a series of decisions that violate the ethical rules of appearances. For instance, he hired Democratic partisans as lawyers for the probe.
Mueller also staged a pre-dawn raid with weapons drawn on the home of Paul Manafort, rousing Manafort and his wife from their bed—a tactic customarily reserved for terrorists and drug dealers. Manafort has subsequently been indicted for financial crimes that antedate his campaign work for Trump and that have nothing to do with Russia collusion.
From the outset of this scandal, I have considered Comey a dirty cop. His unfailing commitment to himself above all else is of a pattern. Throughout his career, Comey has continually portrayed himself as Thomas Becket, fighting against institutional corruption—even where none exists.
A great disservice has been done to the dedicated men and women of the FBI by Comey and his seventh floor henchmen. A grand jury probe is long overdue. Inspector General Horowitz is an honest man, but he cannot convene a grand jury. We need one now. We need our FBI back.
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