Despite the high state of anticipation by the White House and congressional Republicans, I forewarned a friend that the then-upcoming report on the FBI by the agency’s Inspector General (IG) was more likely to be a softball summary. Actually, it was a bit harsher than I thought.
Naturally, the Democrats and their pals in the press are viewing it as a complete vindication of their no-there-there narrative. Of the detailed 500-page Report, they cling to one conclusion – that there was no evidence that politics influenced any of the actions of former FBI Director James Comey or his staff. In a technical sense, there may have been no evidence, but the report still left open that possibility. It specifically said that the IG could not determine if FBI Deputy Director Peter Strzok, for example, acted in any out of political bias.
In many ways, it was reminiscent of Comey’s own report on the Clinton investigation in which he said there were no indictable offenses and then proceed to lay out a series of mistakes, mismanagement and misdeeds by Clinton that seemed more suitable to an indictment document.
While the IG report claimed to find no proof of political influence in favor of Clinton, it went on to identify substantial evidence of bias against then-candidate Donald Trump by key players in charge of the Clinton investigation. Just remember that it was Strzok who changed language in the Comey Report from "grossly negligent" to "extremely careless.” He was the lead investigator on the Clinton investigation. From a layperson’s standpoint, the change may seem minor – insignificant. However, Strzok removed language that – in the legal parlance of the FBI – suggested criminal negligence.
The change of language was not a one-off event involving Strzok. As the lead investigator, he had the power and the ability to steer the investigation on a day-to-day basis. He would have been responsible for the decision to not impound and examine the computer of Anthony Weiner, which they knew contained thousands of official emails – some classified -- inappropriately provided by Weiner’s wife and State Department aide to Clinton, Huma Abedin.
There was no way to cover up that fact, and eventually Comey had to deal with the Weiner computer. This led to Comey’s controversial re-opening of the investigation in the closing days of the presidential campaign in violation of FBI rules and procedures – which led to the expeditious re-closing of the investigation.
Strzok’s bias against Trump was of sufficient concern that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was forced to boot him from the investigation of Russian meddling. In other words, Strzok could not be trusted to carry out his duties in a fair and impartial manner.
Strzok’s efforts were clearly designed to assure the election of Clinton – his candidate of choice. His anti-Trump bias and animus were revealed in his text messages and emails to and from his FBI colleague Lisa Page, with whom he was having an extramarital affair.
Democrats argue that even FBI agents have political opinions, but that does not impact on their work. Even on the surface, such a blanket guarantee seems dubious, at best. But there is one email exchange that takes the Strzok issue beyond the realm of personal political opinion. In it, Page writes, "[Trump is] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!" and Strzok responds, "No. No he won't. We'll stop it."
Those last four words are an irrefutable commitment to action. It was not merely an expression of political opinion. There is a “we” that suggests a conspiracy. In many ways, that statement takes Strzok beyond suspicion into the arena of circumstantial evidence.
If Strzok knows with certainty that he can be part of a “we” that can actually block Donald Trump from becoming President, how did he believe that such an outcome could be achieved? What were the means by which he saw an opportunity to derail the Trump campaign? It also resurrects the accusation that there is a group of rogue agents in high places that might be broadly defined as part of a secret Deep State. That is far from proven, but Strzok’s statements and actions raise a possibility that needs to be examined. Perhaps Deep State is too grandiose a term, but a rogue cabal is now a possibility.
It is entirely reasonable to suggest that there was only one feasible means by which Strzok could possibly block a Trump election – the Russian investigation. Democrats and the #NeverTrump media argue that there is no connection between the misdeeds outlined in the IG Report and the Mueller investigation. Perhaps not, but Strzok is the guy deeply involved in both the Clinton and Russian investigations. Did he use his authority to take the investigation of Russian meddling in general and spin it into a specious accusation of criminal collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign? The IG Report does not answer, or even explore, that possibility. There is sufficient there-there to warrant a serious investigation.
The actions of FBI Deputy Directory Andrew McCabe have gotten lost in the Comey/Strzok news Reports, but it is useful to recall that he was fired from the FBI for serious misconduct. He was the number two man in the FBI during both the Clinton and the Russian investigations. He has been fired from the Bureau for serious misconduct. He violated FBI rules and procedures to advance his own politically biased agenda. He now may even be facing criminal charges. McCabe’s character alone is sufficient to suspect his intentions and actions while at the Bureau. Was McCabe part of the “we” to which Strzok referred? Was Comey?
Then there is James Comey. The IG Report outlined a series of misconducts. Like McCabe, Comey pursued his own agenda in violation of FBI rules and procedures. He, too, may have broken the law.
The IG accused him of insubordination and serious misjudgments. These are not small infractions for a head of the nation’s premier law enforcement agency. Had these been brought to the surface at the time he went rogue – by not conferring with Attorney General Loretta Lynch – he would have been subject to immediate dismissal. Comey’s abuses of power were contained in the letter from Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to President Trump that played a role in Comey’s dismissal.
Democrats claim that Comey’s maladroit and improper actions on the eve of the presidential election hurt Clinton, not Trump. It must be kept in mind that Comey brought no indictment against Clinton even as many experts saw sufficient evidence. He gave her a pass. He also was firmly convinced – by his own sworn statements -- that she would win the election and his report would have no impact on that outcome. He wanted the information out ahead of the election so that it would not be later used to question her legitimacy. He was helping the person that he fully believed would be the next President of the United States. An indictment, on the other hand, would have forced her out of the race or been the blame for a defeat she was already destined to have. The handling of the Clinton case in no way eliminates the now real possibility that senior FBI officials were working against Trump.
There is one perplexing question. Why did President Obama and Comey – and the administration’s Intel leaders– decide to conceal the Russian meddling? The latter claimed that it was because congressional Republicans, specifically Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, would not sign on to a joint statement. That is as feeble a reason as one can imagine. But, when you do not have a good reason, I guess any reason will do.
Their silence may have helped Trump more than Comey’s pre-election public statements. Even the investigation of false charges of Russian/Trump collusion before the election would have been damaging. Is it possible that they already knew that the collusion accusations were bogus and believed Clinton would win? So why bother?
There is another possibility – that team Clinton at the FBI were concerned that revealing the Russian meddling may hit hardest on Clinton. They already knew that the Clinton campaign had colluded with the Russians in paying for the infamous and mendacious dozier. Though the narrative has changed in the media, we need to remember that the initial reports of Russian meddling included actions taken on social media to hurt the Trump campaign. The Russians were meddling on a bipartisan basis.
The maelstrom of various political spins cannot obfuscate the fact that three of the most powerful men at the top of the FBI organization chart were acting badly, politically and maybe even criminally. It is beyond credulity to believe that there was no political calculation in mind or that all their actions were somehow isolated from each other.
The IG Report has confirmed and declared that the discredited and dismissed leadership of the FBI have greatly harmed the image and reputation of the agency more than all the now apparently somewhat justified accusations of President Trump. While the IG Report did not specifically address the Mueller investigation, it impugned the actions and motives of the very individual who was also in charge of the Mueller investigation. That creates a connection that also needs to be investigated.
Larry Horist is a conservative activist with an extensive background in economics, public policy and political issues. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman, and he has served as a consultant to the White House under Presidents Nixon and Reagan. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress and lectured at Harvard University, Northwestern University, Florida Atlantic University, Knox College and Hope College. An award winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.