Sunday, June 17, 2018

There’s Something Fatally Wrong in the IG Report on the FBI and DOJ

Talking Points Memo

A few weeks ago I explained in a post that the reason the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails was so freely publicized in 2016 while the Russia probe remained firmly under wraps was, paradoxically, precisely because it was an essential political and procedural probe. Indeed, this was understood by all involved. Yet this false equation of the two investigations remains embedded in the Inspector General’s report itself. Indeed, the IG Report is at war with itself at various points about the nature of the investigation and whether the recovery of the Weiner/Abedin emails in late September 2016 did or should have mattered.

The Inspector General was troubled by the fact that the FBI was 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.”

The premise here is that the decision to prioritize the Russia probe over the emails found on the Weiner laptop requires an explanation or is suspicious on its face. But this is frankly absurd. By September/October 2016, the Clinton emails story had been investigated for more than a year. Senior officials are sometimes warned over sloppy handling of what is called “spillage” of classified information. In extreme cases they can lose their security clearances. There’s virtually no record of anyone in a comparable position to Secretary Clinton being charged with a crime over anything like this. This, as I note, is key to what the probe was so freely discussed: it was always largely political and to a great degree theater. However that may be, the matter was extensively investigated and investigators found no basis for filing charges. FBI Director James Comey still felt it was necessary to publicly chastise Clinton in order to protect himself and the FBI from claims of bias. But the decision was clear: no basis for filing charges.

The discovery of disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s laptop, which contained his wife, Huma Abedin’s emails with Secretary Clinton, was at most notionally new evidence. There was very little chance that anything discovered in those emails would change the decision not to charge Clinton with a crime. Indeed, the people who ran the investigation told the IG as much. The report quotes Bill Priestap, head of the Counter Intelligence Division as follows …

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