Opinion

In Wake of Inspector General Report, it’s Time to Clean House at the DOJ

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Posted: Jun 15, 2018 12:01 AM
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In Wake of Inspector General Report, it’s Time to Clean House at the DOJ

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz released his highly anticipated and much-talked-about report on Thursday, in which he criticized former FBI Director James Comey for his handling of the Hillary Clinton email case, former FBI Assistant Director Andrew McCabe for lying to investigators, and a number of other top FBI and DOJ officials for various actions that undermined the public’s perception of the Clinton email case.

While many Clinton supporters will almost certainly focus on Horowitz’s criticisms of Comey and his announcement that the FBI reopened the Clinton email investigation just days before the 2016 election, the most important information provided by the report, is arguably the revelation that FBI agent Peter Strzok, who played key roles in both the Clinton email investigation and the investigation of Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, told former FBI lawyer, with whom Strozk had a romantic relationship, that they would “stop” Trump from ever becoming president.

“[Trump is] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Page texted Strzok in August 2016.

“No. No he won’t,” Strzok replied. “We’ll stop it.”

There are other damning texts included in the report as well. For instance, according to the IG report: “Mueller was appointed Special Counsel on May 17, 2017. The next day Strzok and Page exchanged text messages in a discussion of whether Strzok should join the Special Counsel’s investigation.  Strzok wrote: ‘For me, and this case, I personally have a sense of unfinished business. I unleashed it with MYE [the Clinton email investigation]. Now I need to fix it and finish it.’ Later in the same exchange, Strzok, apparently while weighing his career options, made this comparison: ‘Who gives a [f***], one more A[ssistant] D[irector]...[versus] [a]n investigation leading to impeachment?”

Strzok was removed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team during the summer of 2017. The move reportedly came after numerous text messages showing Strzok’s dislike for President Trump were shown to Mueller. Although many of those text messages have since been made public and are unquestionably disturbing, none were nearly as hostile as the promise by Strzok to “stop” Trump from becoming president — which, conveniently, was never included in the multiple leaks made to the press about this investigation over the past several months.

Barring additional information that could justify these texts — and I highly doubt such information exists — this one text alone is enough to prove that at least some people within Mueller’s team and the highest level of the FBI weren’t interested in conducting a truly unbiased investigation. Strzok’s involvement in this case has poisoned the Trump-Russia investigation to the point that no honest, reasonable person can continue to believe the president is getting a fair shake. Certain aspects of this investigation do clearly appear to be, as President Trump has said repeatedly, part of a massive “witch hunt.”

This isn’t the only important news to come out during the past week, either. Fox News reported on Wednesday, “Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein threatened to ‘subpoena’ emails, phone records and other documents from lawmakers and staff on a Republican-led House committee during a tense meeting earlier this year,” which congressional aides called a “personal attack.”

According to the Fox News report, Kash Patel, who was the senior counsel for counterterrorism for the House Intelligence Committee, wrote to the House Office of General Counsel, “The DAG [Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein] criticized the Committee [during a January 2018 meeting] for sending our requests in writing and was further critical of the Committee’s request to have DOJ/FBI do the same when responding. Going so far as to say that if the Committee likes being litigators, then ‘we [DOJ] too [are] litigators, and we will subpoena your records and your emails,’ referring to HPSCI [House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence] and Congress overall.”

The DOJ claims this and the other accounts of the alleged threat were mischaracterizations of what occurred during the meeting, but there’s absolutely no excuse for a high-ranking member of the DOJ to make any comments that could be even remotely interpreted as a threat to congressmen or their staff, who are tasked with providing important and constitutionally mandated oversight.

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Even if we ignore all the other numerous problems and conflicts of interest with Rosenstein, this statement by itself should be enough for an extensive investigation of the incident and the possible removal of Rosenstein. In a free America, the Department of Justice must be held accountable and closely watched. How can that occur if congressional staffers are concerned they might be targeted for simply doing their jobs?

When you add these problems to the fact fired FBI Assistant Director Andrew McCabe is under investigation for allegedly lying to investigators about his contacts with the press in 2017 — a crime — and Horowitz’s blistering assessment of James Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation and the dozens of leaks to the press and the apparent conflicts of interest throughout the Russia and Clinton investigations and the numerous biased comments by Strzok and Page, it’s clear the leadership at the Department of Justice has, for at least several years, been totally out of control. If Americans cannot trust the highest-ranking officials at the Department of Justice and the FBI to do their jobs, then how can they be certain their rights are secure? How can they trust any of Mueller’s conclusions about the Trump campaign? How can they be sure our free republic isn’t at risk?

They can’t.

To restore faith in the DOJ and FBI, we need completely new leadership and strict new oversight laws that make it easier for Congress to hold rogue agents and agencies accountable. Until that occurs, why should we believe anything the DOJ or FBI says about President Trump, Hillary Clinton, or any other important issues that have important political ramifications?