The FBI has historically had a well-earned reputation for competence and integrity. The American people deserve no less when it comes to extraordinary investigations that touch the highest levels of government. Justice demands that these matters be pursued with the utmost honesty, probity and impartiality.
However, evidence is emerging that special counsel and former FBI director Robert Mueller’s investigation of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, as well as the Hillary Clinton email investigations, have been fatally compromised by naked politics.
The central figure in both probes is FBI agent Peter Strzok. Strzok helped conduct the sweetheart interviews of Clinton, Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin in the email investigation, in which the latter two blatantly lied about their knowledge of the bootleg server. They were not charged. Strzok also changed then-FBI Director James Comey’s draft language on Clinton’s use of her illicit server from “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless,” which is the difference between criminal behavior and an unconscious error.
Strzok promoted the Fusion GPS “Steele dossier,” the sketchy gossip-ridden anti-Trump document paid for by the Clinton campaign and compiled with input from Russian intelligence sources. This document was used to persuade a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to authorize government surveillance of members of the Trump team during a political campaign. It was an unprecedented investigative intrusion into the American political process that makes Watergate look like amateur hour.
Strzok left his fingerprints on pivotal aspects of the Clinton and Trump investigations, the two most significant such legal actions this century. However, in August, Strzok was quietly removed from the Trump investigation. It later emerged that he was trading anti-Trump text messages with his mistress, Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer who was also assigned to the Mueller investigation. The FBI is now examining 10,000 of their texts, Fox News reports.
But it gets worse. Rather than treating Strzok’s removal with the transparency and candor it deserved, the Mueller team hushed it up and began stonewalling congressional inquiries. It reached the point where House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes threatened FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein with contempt.
Worse still, former associate deputy attorney general Bruce Ohr was demoted days ago for unspecified contacts with figures behind the Steele dossier. It now appears that Ohr knew Steele and met with him while the tainted dossier was being written. Any such direct involvement by an Obama administration official with the political effort to take down the Republican candidate is a scandal of high order.
These are not the only suspect political ties between Mueller lieutenants and Clinton world:
- Aaron Zebley, Mueller’s former chief of staff at the FBI and “right hand man” on the current investigation, previously represented Justin Cooper, Clinton’s IT guy who set up the unsecure server in her Chappaqua home, and destroyed her BlackBerryswith a hammer.
- Mueller team member and Justice Department prosecutor Andrew Weissmann wrote a fawning email to outgoing acting Attorney General Sally Yates, saying he was “so proud and in awe” of her for defying President Trump in enforcing his travel ban. Weissmann also attended Hillary Clinton’s election night party in New York City, The Wall Street Journal reported.
In a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, FBI Director Christopher Wray consistently deflected questions regarding these types of conflicts by deferring to ongoing investigations being conducted by the Justice Department’s inspector general. He also continued to stonewall on providing information on the FBI’s use of the Steele dossier and the FISA warrant it helped generate, citing vague national security concerns.
We are left with an appearance of an unacceptable degree of political prejudice and a troubling series of unanswered questions. It is dangerous to subject the office of the president to a gravely biased investigation undertaken with a reckless spirit. Should further evidence of untoward bias emerge, Americans may conclude that the justice system itself is illegitimate, with all that entails.
The most prudent move would be to suspend the special counsel investigation until the Justice Department inspector general’s office and other watchdogs can conclude their investigations into possible illegitimate or illegal actions taken by members of Mueller’s team. Then Congress must be given time to review the conclusions of the internal investigations as well as conclude their own ongoing inquiries.
The stakes are too high to allow a clique of politicized government agents to destroy the integrity of the investigative apparatus, and damage the office of the presidency.
James S. Robbins is the author of Erasing America: Losing Our Future by Destroying Our Past (Regnery, 2018). This article originally appeared in USA Today December 11, 2017 and is reprinted with permission of the author.