No one is going to win this argument on the DOJ Inspector General’s report

I’m the kind of person who will actually read the U.S. Department of Justice Inspector General’s report entitled “A Review of Various Actions by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice in Advance of the 2016 Election,” or at least the Executive Summary.[1] So let me just note – for those complaining about the length and expense of the Mueller investigation – that there have been not only half a dozen investigations into Hillary Clinton’s role in Benghazi and her use of a private email server, but now also an investigation into the conduct of those investigations. It’s a meta-investigation (if not a series of mega-investigations).[2]

To review, this investigation by the DOJ Inspector General was initiated by requests from Congress, “various organizations” and “members of the public” and focused on the conduct of the FBI in relationship to the investigations into Hillary’s private email server.[3] The IG was charged with answering six particular questions:

  • allegations that FBI policies or procedures were not followed in regards to then-FBI director James Comey’s public announcement on July 5, 2016, and Comey’s letters to congress on October 28 and November 6, 2016;
  • allegations that certain investigative decisions were based on improper considerations;
  • allegations that then FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe should have been recused from participating in certain investigatve matters;
  • allegations that the DOJ’s then Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs, Peter Kadzik, improperly disclosed non-public information and/or should have been recused from participating in certain matters;
  • allegations that Department and FBI employees improperly disclosed non-public information during the course of the investigation;
  • allegations that decisions regarding the timing of the FBI’s release of certain Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents on October 30 and November 1, 2016, and the use of a Twitter account to publicize this release, were influenced by improper considerations.

The report also addresses the allegations by the Trump administration that the FBI is improperly biased towards President Trump.

As noted in the news coverage of the report’s release, the report provides plenty of ammunition for both sides of the aisle to have complaints about how the FBI went about its business.

The FBI’s Impact on the Clinton Campaign

Most observers (other than complete Trump partisans) by now acknowledge that James Comey’s October 28 announcement that the FBI was re-opening the investigation into Clinton’s emails was the “October Surprise” that swung the razor thin margins in Donald Trump’s favor in the 2016 presidential election. The margins were so thin in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania (the state’s that eventually put Trump over the top) that even a single percentage point swing would have been enough to make the difference. What this IG report shows is that Comey clearly did not follow the rules with respect to any of his public announcements about the Clinton investigations. What Comey should have done is not made any announcements with respect to his investigations, but leave that to the Department of Justice.

It’s clear, by the way, that Comey thought that Hillary would win the election by a country mile, and that his disclosing information about the re-opened investigation would not make any difference. As the IG wrote:

[W]e found that his decision [to send the letter to Congress] was the result of several interrelated factors that were connected to his concern that failing to send the letter would harm the FBI and his ability to lead it, and his view that candidate Clinton was going to win the presidency and that she would be perceived to be an illegitimate president if the public first learned of the information after the election.

That’s all nice and fine, except the clear protocol is for the FBI not to comment on pending investigations. These announcements almost certainly cost Hillary the election.

Peter Strock and Lisa Page

Republicans, on the other hand, are going to have a lot of fun with FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok and Special Counsel to the Deputy Director Lisa Page (who may have been having an affair). What a couple of idiots! Aren’t these people supposed to be FBI agents? Haven’t they ever heard of the maxim to not put anything in an email (or a text) that you don’t want to have published in the NY Times? Especially if you’re an FBI agent!

It turns out that Strock and Page thought Trump was an “utter idiot” and a “disaster,” and wrote so to each other in texts that they exchanged.  They wondered about how destabilizing his Presidency would be. (That just makes them sane in my book, and not necessarily partisans.)

The two of them turn out to have been equal opportunity detractors, as they also hated (Obama-era Attorney General) Eric Holder, House Speaker Paul Ryan, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Senator Ted Cruz, Trump advisor Roger Stone, and Congress “as a whole.” Strock also had criticisms of Hillary Clinton and complained that a fact-checker dismissed Bernie Sanders’s criticism of her as being too close to fossil-fuel lobbyists.[4]

No One Will Win this Argument

No one’s going to win this argument, that’s for sure. Again, there is too much ammunition on both sides. But I still find it highly ironic that Trump so hates the FBI, the agency that basically hand-delivered the election to him on a silver platter.

Instead of firing James Comey, he should have canonized him.

But then there is the little problem of all the illegal shit Trump got into while running for office (not to mention since becoming President) and the fact that somebody has to investigate those things. Republicans will surely dismiss the Mueller report once it’s finished, but people in the middle may see that there really has been a problem with how Trump has been running his presidency as well has campaign, which is basically like an unindicted criminal enterprise.

[1] Given that the report itself is 568 pages, it’s a little much to comprehend in one sitting. And also completely unnecessary.

[2] In short, the number of investigations into Hillary Clinton – which produced no indictments and no findings of criminal conduct – should require all those complaining about the Mueller investigation to just STFU! Of course, that won’t happen.

[3] In one of the delicious twists of irony, the report found that FBI Director Comey was himself guilty of using a private email account relative to some of his correspondence.

[4] Strock was removed from the Mueller investigation on December 2, 2017, as soon as his political texts came to the attention of the FBI.

About a1skeptic

A disturbed citizen and skeptic. I should stop reading the newspaper. Or watching TV. I should turn off NPR and disconnect from the Internet. We’d all be better off.
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