Well, the report from the Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz is here. Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, former FBI Director James Comey, and ex-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe were placed under the microscope for their activities during the 2016 election, namely the Hillary Clinton email probe and the investigation into the Clinton Foundation. Katie and Guy broke down the major nuggets of the report, notably how Mr. Comey went way outside the protocol during the Clinton email probe. The IG report also noted that the arguments for why the ex-FBI chief informed Congress on October 28, 2016, that the FBI would be essentially rebooting the email probe after new emails were found on Huma Abedin’s laptop, Abedin is a top Clinton aide, were unpersuasive.
In that final chapter of the email saga, it was later determined that Abedin and Anthony Weiner, her convicted sexual predator husband, shared the device. Weiner was being investigated on a separate matter concerning inappropriate communications with a minor.
So, Democrats have yet another reason to hate James Comey. Mr. McCabe’s recusal from the Clinton probes on November 1, 2016 was seen as not an absolute requirement, but something that was the right course of action. He did not honor the recusal at times, but we already know he lied to investigators three times during a leak investigation. A leak that McCabe instigated, telling The Wall Street Journal that there were tensions between the DOJ and FBI over the Clinton Foundation probe. The infamous tarmac meeting that occurred days before James Comey’s July 5 presser between Lynch and former President Bill Clinton that tainted the email probe yielded nothing new in this report. There’s no evidence to suggest that anything else, besides golf and grandkids, was discussed.
Yet, the texts between FBI agent Peter Strzok and bureau lawyer Lisa Page did not go unnoticed. The two were having an extramarital affair, sending each other tens of thousands of texts. They were anti-Trump in nature of course. The latest nugget from these texts is that Strzok explicitly told Page that they would stop Trump from becoming president. In all, the report found that five agents of the FBI, including Strzok and Page, should be referred for disciplinary action for careless use of government property to communicate their personal opinions:
The conduct of the five FBI employees described in sections A, B, and C of this Chapter has brought discredit to themselves, sowed doubt about the FBI’s handling of the Midyear investigation, and impacted the reputation of the FBI. As described in Chapter Five, our review did not find documentary or testimonial evidence directly connecting the political views these employees expressed in their text messages and instant messages to the specific investigative decisions we reviewed in Chapter Five. Nonetheless, the conduct by these employees cast a cloud over the FBI Midyear investigation and sowed doubt the FBI’s work on, and its handling of, the Midyear investigation. Moreover, the damage caused by their actions extends far beyond the scope of the Midyear investigation and goes to the heart of the FBI’s reputation for neutral factfinding and political independence.
We were deeply troubled by text messages sent by Strzok and Page that potentially indicated or created the appearance that investigative decisions were impacted by bias or improper considerations. Most of the text messages raising such questions pertained to the Russia investigation, which was not a part of this review. Nonetheless, when one senior FBI official, Strzok, who was helping to lead the Russia investigation at the time, conveys in a text message to another senior FBI official, 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. Moreover, as we describe in Chapter Nine, in assessing Strzok’s decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over following up on the Midyear-related investigative lead discovered on the Weiner laptop in October 2016, these text messages led us to conclude that we did not have confidence that Strzok’s decision was free from bias.
We do not question that the FBI employees who sent these messages are entitled to their own political views. Indeed, federal statutes and regulations explicitly protect the right of federal employees to “express...opinion[s] on political subjects and candidates” and to “exercise fully, freely, and without fear of penalty or reprisal, and to the extent not expressly prohibited by law, their right to participate or to refrain from participating in the political processes of the Nation”— provided such expression “does not compromise his or her efficiency or integrity as an employee or the neutrality, efficiency, or integrity of the agency or instrumentality of the United States Government in which he or she is employed.”212 While these employees did not give up their First Amendment rights when they became employed by the FBI, Supreme Court decisions make clear that the FBI retains the authority—particularly as a law enforcement agency—to impose certain restrictions on its employees’ speech in the interest of providing effective and efficient government.213
We believe the messages discussed in this chapter—particularly the messages that intermix work-related discussions with political commentary— potentially implicate provisions in the FBI’s Offense Code and Penalty Guidelines, which provides general categories of misconduct for which FBI employees may be disciplined. This includes the provisions relating to Offense Codes 1.7 (Investigative Deficiency – Misconduct Related to Judicial Proceedings), 3.6 (Misuse of Government Computer(s)), 3.11 (Misuse of Government Property, Other), 5.21 (Unprofessional Conduct – Off Duty), and 5.22 (Unprofessional Conduct – On Duty).214 However, we did not identify any prior FBI misconduct investigations under these provisions that involved a similar fact pattern or similar issues.215
At a minimum, we found that the employees’ use of FBI systems and devices to send the identified messages demonstrated extremely poor judgment and a gross lack of professionalism.
We therefore refer this information to the FBI for its handling and consideration of whether the messages sent by the five employees listed above violates the FBI’s Offense Code of Conduct.
Additionally, we recommend that the FBI (1) assess whether it has provided adequate training to employees about the proper use of text messages and instant messages, including any related discovery obligations, and (2) consider whether to provide additional guidance about the allowable uses of FBI devices for any non- governmental purpose, including guidance about the use of FBI devices for political conversations.
Yet, the report also found that reporters were also bribing FBI employees, causing a series of leaks that damaged the bureau. So, yeah, this is access. It’s part of the job, but we’ll know more on these transactions, as it seems the IG office has yet to conclude their reviews:
…we identified instances where FBI employees improperly received benefits from reporters, including tickets to sporting events, golfing outings, drinks and meals, and admittance to nonpublic social events. We will separately report on those investigations as they are concluded, consistent with the Inspector General Act, other applicable federal statutes, and OIG policy.
The harm caused by leaks, fear of potential leaks, and a culture of unauthorized media contacts is illustrated in Chapters Ten and Eleven of our report, where we detail the fact that these issues influenced FBI officials who were advising Comey on consequential investigative decisions in October 2016.