Monday, June 18, 2018

It's Dark In There: The Big Hole In The Report On The FBI's Clinton Investigation

There is a big hole in the report by the Justice Department's inspector general on his examination of the FBI's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, which significantly shaped the contours and outcome of the 2016 election. Despite being told to address the issue, Michael Horowitz ignored substantial evidence of bias against Clinton in the FBI's New York field office and the role Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani may have played in dealing a lethal blow to the Clinton campaign. 
This evidence is significant for several reasons:
* It is a necessary counterbalance to evidence that there was some bias against candidate Trump that has been seized on by the president and his congressional sycophancy in their specious claim there was a secret deep-state cabal of Clinton supporters inside the FBI that conspired to clear her of wrongdoing over her handling of classified information on a private email server while secretary of state and then concocted a phony investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russia as a way to undermine his presidency. 
* Giuliani, who has since become the president's lead lawyer, had bragged on October 26, 2016 on the Lars Larson radio show that he was in contact with FBI agents and had "a surprise or two that you're going to hear about in the next few days."  FBI Director James Comey's hand was then forced, and in an effort to get out ahead of a story that was certain to be leaked by Republicans, he informed several congressional committees by letter on October 28 of a development in the Clinton investigation.   
* There was indeed anti-Clinton sentiment in the New York field office and evidence that the fear of leaks out of that office prompted Comey to write a letter a mere 11 days before the election to the effect the Clinton investigation had been reopened because of the discovery of  "new" emails, an action that not only deeply damaged Clinton's campaign but was a blow from which it never recovered despite Comey's November 6 announcement that the FBI had not changed the conclusions it reached in July in exonerating Clinton. 
* Significantly, Comey said nothing about the FBI's ongoing investigation of Russian election interference and possible Trump campaign ties to the Kremlin on both October 28 and November 6, and in fact did not publicly mention its existence until well after the election, a puzzling and dramatic omission that may have been outside of Horowitz's investigative purview but for which the former FBI director has never adequately explained, let alone been called to account for    
Horowitz's 500-page report, released last Thursday, was bound to have something for everyone.  And did. 
Trump and his sycophancy, which had demanded the investigation in the first place, were able to disingenuously claim that the report's extraordinarily harsh criticism of Comey validated their view that he was corrupt and put in the fix to help Clinton, yet more ammunition in their lie-sodden blood quest to short circuit Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, which has nothing to do with the FBI's investigation of Clinton and everything to do with Trump and his allies climbing into bed with Vladimir Putin. 
Meanwhile, the rest of us could briefly revel in a moment of political exoneration -- from Trump's own Justice Department, no less -- and state with even greater conviction that Comey's actions in those dramatic final four months of the 2016 campaign were indeed misguided and ultimately benefitted Trump, grievously wounded Clinton, and along with Russian cyber-meddling, effectively doomed her campaign. 
The straight-shooting Horowitz did conclude that Comey was "insubordinate"  in his handling of the Clinton investigation by injecting the FBI into presidential politics in ways not seen since Watergate and flouting Justice Department practices when he decided only he and not then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch had the authority and credibility to make key decisions and speak for the department.   
But significantly, Horowitz did not challenge the decision not to prosecute Clinton or find that political bias influenced that decision.  Nor did he dare speak the unspeakable -- that Clinton's problematic email protocols were, like the Benghazi tragedy and Clinton Foundation, a ginned up Republican-generated scandal in pursuit of a crime.  
Still -- and as Josh Marshall notes at Talking Points Memo -- the IG was troubled by the fact that the FBI appeared to him to be prioritizing the Russia probe in the fall of 2016 over the Clinton email probe:
"The key passage comes on page 329 of the report where the Inspector General writes that in light of Strzok and Page's texts showing hostility to Donald Trump, 'we did not have confidence that Strzok’s decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over following up on the Midyear-related investigative lead discovered on the Weiner laptop was free from bias.' "
Strzok and Page are FBI agents who worked on both the Clinton and Russia investigations.  Weiner is Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former congressman and sexter whose wife Huma Abedin was a top Clinton aide who had used her husband's laptop as nothing more than a convenient backup.  
Strzok and Page, who were having an affair at the time, disparaged Trump in text messages.  Many of those text messages had been released, but Horowitz cited a previously undisclosed message in which Strzok wrote that the FBI "will stop" Trump. 
This has sent Trump and his sycophancy to new heights of faux outrage although the IG concluded that while Strzok may have improperly prioritized the Russia investigation over the Clinton investigation during the final weeks of the campaign and FBI officials "brought discredit" to themselves and sowed public doubt about the Clinton investigation, Strzok did not influence its outcome. 
What did influence the outcome in tandem with Russia's cyber meddling was why Comey remained silent on the FBI's investigation into Trump campaign-Russia ties, which had been all but confirmed before the election.   
Had Comey never sent the October 28 letter -- and like many of us was operating under the presumption that Clinton was a shoo-in -- but had gone public with the Trump campaign's possible collusion with Russia, Clinton almost certainly would be president of the United States. 
Therein lies a huge scandal in and of itself.  
It does not matter that Giuliani soon walked back his claim, as this clownish blowhard routinely does when caught out, that Abedin indeed had used Weiner's computer as a backup, or that Comey was to testify six months later that it made him "mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election" because of his 11th hour disclosure. 
The damage had been done, it was catastrophic and the course of American history was irrevocably changed. 

Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal
and related developments.


Carol said...

The sad truth. I try to get my head around the horror of where we are today as a country and who is in charge, but I can't. Your post helps illuminate the process. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

A real"Confederacy of Dunces."

As for Comey, he will be forever remembered as the Bill Bruckner of US history. The all star Boston Red Sox first baseman who let the ball dribble through his legs and lost the World Series. And never could explain what really happened.

HCC said...

I *believe* the IG states that the delay in handling the Weiner laptop was at least partially due to bureaucratic snafus in communications between NY & DC FBI shops and also to Comey’s seemingly incomprehensible ignorance of the fact of Weiner’s marriage to Humadin. Had the vetting of those emails been begun a month sooner, the exoneration announcement would have come in time for Clinton perhaps to recover. But I sure don’t fault Strzok for prioritizing Russia; it was—and IS—an ongoing national security crisis, which Hillary’s case was not.