The Justice Department’s report on the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email scandal and other actions in advance of the 2016 election is already a political hot potato.
The report has President Trump supporters saying “Told ya so” and the general public questioning how the DOJ and the FBI runs its departments. And rightfully so.
Politics aside, let’s look at fairness and objectivity which supposedly is part of the job of the DOJ and its Inspector General, to report the facts and nothing but the facts. There is definite evidence about how investigations were handled that seem to show a concerted effort to slam and slander and slant toward particular biases, regardless of what Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz states.
The watchdog report provided a comprehensive detailed rebuke of the actions taken by former FBI Director James Comey to publicize details about the politically charged investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the 500-page report “slammed multiple FBI employees involved in the investigation for sending politically charged text messages.” IG Horowitz’s staff unearthed thousands of controversial text messages that disparaged Mr. Trump. The inspector general said his office was “deeply troubled” by the messages, which “potentially indicated or created the appearance that investigative decisions were impacted by bias or improper considerations.”
“Departing so clearly and dramatically from FBI and Department norms, the decisions negatively impacted the perception of the FBI and the Department as fair administrators of justice,” the report noted. But the report does not conclude that the FBI’s decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton was improper or politically motivated.
According to Ethics Alarms, the report, in fact, makes a strong case for bias, and the overall distrust of the FBI in the investigations under former FBI head Comey and others. It states that FBI agents were leaking to the news media regularly, that they accepted favors and gifts from journalists and that overall some of their actions were unethical, illegal, unprofessional and disloyal.
It stated “that the agency is fully capable of political bias and corruption. It is corrupt. It cannot be trusted, under Comey, and now… There may not be decisive evidence of bias, but there was certainly evidence. The IG report states that the five agents “appeared to mix political opinions with discussions about the Midyear investigation.”
Yet according to Mr. Horowitz, “We found no evidence that the conclusions by department prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations,” the report says. “Rather, we concluded that they were based on the prosecutor’s assessment of facts, the law, and past department practice.”
However, let’s not forget the department has a long history of abusing the public trust. A case in point is the specific decision made by the DOJ which had direct bearing related to the financial crisis of 2008.
The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) was specifically charged by Congress with making referrals for the prosecution to the Attorney General whenever they found substantive evidence of violations of law. And in 2016, after the National Archives released records which the FCIC had sealed five years earlier, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), (member of the Senate Banking Committee and Ranking Minority Member of the Sub-Committee on Economic Policy) called the DOJ out for ignoring 11 Congressional Commission Criminal referrals.
Senator Warren requested a formal investigation into why President Obama’s administration has not brought criminal charges against the individuals and corporations named in the criminal referrals who contributed to the 2007-2008 financial crisis. According to Bloomberg, Senator Warren said that the FCIC clearly believed there was enough evidence to prosecute them and questioned why this had not been done.
“The Department has failed to hold the individuals and companies accountable,” she wrote. “This failure requires an explanation.” Her letter to FBI Director James Comey asked that he “release records of the FBI investigations into financial misdeeds in the wake of the crisis, to further illuminate why the Obama administration decided not to prosecute firms linked to the financial crisis.”
The letter to FBI Director James Comey, and an additional twenty-page one to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, demanded an answer to why the Department of Justice (DOJ) has yet to prosecute any of the major players responsible for the 2008 financial crisis.
I think we need to ask if bias was responsible here as well. Certainly, there is no question of incompetence.
How quickly we forget that in this last financial crisis the government did not actively pursue prosecution of any senior banking executives responsible for the criminal wrongdoing that led to the 2008 financial crisis. On the other hand, the 1980’s savings and loan and banking crisis, which was significantly less in severity than our most recent one, saw over 800 senior banking executives sent to prison for similar criminal wrongdoing (remember Charles Keating?).
So politics and bias aside, this report damages the departments in question supposed reputation for neutral fact-finding and political independence. The report clearly points out a badly run, poorly managed and politically compromised organization. The report undermines the public trust in each agency, as it should.
To put it mildly, definite improvements must be made in the handling of similar situations in the future if the DOJ and FBI are going to regain the public’s trust.