Tag Archives: Peter Strzok

Observations On The Inspector General’s FBI Report

The long-awaited report by the Justice Department’s  inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, does not conclude that the FBI’s decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton was improper or politically motivated.“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.” This is sufficient to support the spin of journalists and pundits who want to stick to the narrative that the FBI is an honorable, unimpeachable model of professionalism.

The rest of the report, however, undercuts that interpretation considerably. I have only jumped through it, and need to go through the report again, carefully. I can make some confident observations right now, however.

1. James Comey deserved to be fired even more than I already thought. The reports says he was insubordinate. It reveals that Comey had already decided to take no action against Clinton in the Spring of 2016, though he didn’t announce his decision until July. It reveals that the investigation did not follow department policies and protocols. His draft statement on Hillary said she’d been “grossly negligent, which would have required an indictment. Comey changed it to “extremely careless.” Comey also had originally written that it was  “reasonably likely” that Hillary had been hacked  to “possible.” The draft had also noted that President Obama had exchanged emails with Hillary on her private server; that was redacted.

OK, the IG could not state with certainty that bias was at the root of Comey’s conduct. It is not his job to speculate, but I can: whatever the motivation, Comey did not do his job without considering political consequences, despite his assurances to Congress to the contrary. The cumulative effect of his decision-making was to undermine public trust in the institution he led.

2. The IG’s report renders the argument that President Trump firing Comey was an obstruction of justice even more ridiculous than it appeared already.  Leaving such a bumbling manager—and that’s giving him every benefit of the doubt–in office would undermine the FBI, as well as leave a crucial law enforcement agency in the control of a subordinate who was untrustworthy and incompetent.

3. Comey and other agents improperly used personal email to conduct official business. Hillary is already trying to use this to excuse her own conduct. Someone tell Hillary that they weren’t running for President, and didn’t lie about it for nearly a year.

4. FBI agents were leaking to the news media regularly. They also accepted favors and gifts from journalists. This was unethical, illegal, unprofessional and disloyal. I do not want to hear any more indignant protests about how it is seditious to suggest that the agency is fully capable of political bias and corruption. It is corrupt. It cannot be trusted, under Comey, and now.

5. There may not be decisive evidence of bias, but there was certainly evidence. Five agents authored and sent pro-Clinton and anti-Trump texts , some referencing undermining Donald Trump. The IG report states that the five agents “appeared to mix political opinions with discussions about the Midyear investigation.” One texted, “no one is going to pros[ecute] [Hillary Clinton] even if we find unique classified” after the discovery of Weiner’s laptop. Another text read, “We’ll stop it,” referring to Trump’s possible election. Agent Peter Strzok, now infamous for his provocative and anti-Trump texts with his lover in the Justice Department while serving on the Mueller team, texted regarding the investigation, “For me, and this case, I personally have a sense of unfinished business.” An FBI attorney significantly involved in the Russia investigation also texted  to a colleague,“Viva le Resistance.”

6.Based on the report, the Trump administration has every reason to distrust the motives and integrity of the FBI and the Mueller investigation, if not Mueller himself. Any citizens, journalists, Trump critics and commenters here who still refuse to admit that this is a fair and unavoidable conclusion only destroy their own credibility and pretext of objectivity.

 

 

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/8/2018: Tolstoy And The News [UPDATED!]

Good Morning!

1  Thanks, Leo! I think.. Althouse reminded me of a Tolstoi quote that offers the perfect explanation of why bias makes you stupid:

“The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him.”

Researching this one led me to another quote from the Peasant Count:

“I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabrics of their life”.

The quotes explain more of what is going on in the culture, journalism and politics right now than I am comfortable thinking about…which means that I am perpetually uncomfortable.

2. Someone please explain why we have not had this made crystal clear to us...This morning I heard Senator Lindsay Graham, a Republican Senator whom I regard as an honorable and ethical public servant, note while talking about the unfolding FISA scandal that Christopher Steele, the author of the so-called Russian dossier, was paid in part by the DNC and the Clinton campaign to assemble the material, for which he visited Russia and engaged with sources there. Wait…what? This made Steele an agent of the Clinton campaign by definition, and means, therefore, that the Clinton campaign was “colluding” with Russia during the Presidential 2016 campaign, to “meddle” with U.S. elections.

[UPDATE and Correction: This is what the honorable and ethical Senator said. In fact, since Steele was a former spy, he couldn’t go to Russia. He did, however, engage sources who did, and who made contacts with Russians. Legally, this makes little difference. An agent who uses an agent to do the work of the principle is still responsible for what THAT agent does. ]

But the statement above is inaccurate. ] This constitutes more evidence of Clinton “collusion” than Mueller’s year-long investigation has uncovered regarding the Trump campaign, since, as far as we know, it has uncovered no such evidence at all. Is Mueller investigating Democratic “collusion”? If not, why not? The argument that Clinton was engaged in exactly the kind of activities Trump’s campaign is being accused of has been brushed off as crazy Fox News talking points by the mainstream media. It seems pretty clear now that this is a false and deliberately misleading representation, even before we arrive at the problematical use of the document by the FBI and the Justice Department. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/24/2018: Demands, Denial, And Ethics Distortions

Good morning, crew!

1. Say please..…. A group of “Dreamers” blocked an entrance to Disneyland yesterday, as part of a protest demanding a Congressional OK for DACA.  I am willing to accept the will of Congress and the President if somehow the illegal immigrants who were brought here as children and never took the initiative to become compliant with the law get a break via DACA.  However, they are supplicants. The US has no obligation to accommodate their predicament. I don’t want any demands from them, and the more they demand, the less I am inclined to be sympathetic to their plight.

Ask nicely. Say please. Their sense of entitlement is redolent of the attitudes of the advocates of the usual, everyday, garden variety illegal immigrants. How dare the country we entered illegally enforce the law? If the “Dreamers” want to ask for a compassionate exception, I’ll listen, just as I’ll consider the pleas of panhandlers and homeless veterans. But don’t you dare tell me I have to give you a handout.  And as non-citizens, “the “Dreamers” have no basis to protest anything.

2. Is it news yet? If you had no inkling that the FBI somehow “lost” thousands of text messages sent between those lovebirds, FBI counterintelligence expert Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page,  at the exact point where their conversations and expressed desire to “stop” President Trump may have been especially interesting, you are not alone. There is an internal Justice Department investigation about the communications that went on during the extramarital affair, in part because both were involved in the Mueller investigation into whether there is some way that Democrats can find a legitimate reason to impeach President Trump. Strzok also helped lead the FBI’s probe of Hillary Clinton’s private email server—also now under renewed scrutiny, since more evidence suggests that it might have been rigged; did you know that?— and was initially involved in Special Counsel Mueller’s inquiry into Russia’s 2016 election meddling. Strzok was kicked off the task force after Mueller learned that there was smoking text message evidence that he detested the President, and Strzok and Page had texted about the need for an “insurance policy” against Trump being elected, creating a prima facie case that the investigation included supposed objective seekers of truth who had a political agenda. Page, Strzok’s secret squeeze, was also on Mueller’s team before returning to the FBI. That makes two potential anti-Trump moles. Continue reading

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Ethical Quote Of The Month: David French

“For more than a year, I’ve been challenging conservative readers to look at Trump’s actions and imagine how they’d react if Democrats were behaving the same way — to apply the same standards to their team that they’d apply to their opponents. Now, I want to challenge my progressive readers: Consider how you would respond to the federal bureaucracy with the opposite ideological imbalance. Would you have confidence that it would apply the law and Constitution fairly? Would you be alarmed if you found that a senior FBI agent so biased and reckless was playing a key role in the investigation of a Democratic president?”

——National Review writer David French, in his article, “Peter Strzok’s story will hurt public trust in the federal government at the worst possible time.”

The Strzok story, an embarrassment to the Special Counsel’s inquiry, is just one more that the mainstream media has, in sequence, tried to ignore, spin, bury, and brush off as a “conservative” obsession.  French is a credentialed “Never-Trumper,”{ but he knows an appearance of impropriety, poor oversight and conflicts of interest when he sees them:

…Robert Mueller had months ago asked a senior FBI agent to step down from his role investigating the Trump administration. [He] was caught in an extramarital affair with an FBI lawyer. The affair itself was problematic, but so was the fact that the two were found to have exchanged anti-Trump, pro-Hillary Clinton text messages….

…This agent, Peter Strzok, also worked with FBI director James Comey on the Clinton email investigation. In fact, he was so deeply involved in the Clinton investigation that he is said to have interviewed Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin, and to have been present when the FBI interviewed Clinton. According to CNN, he was part of the team responsible for altering the FBI’s conclusion that Clinton was “grossly negligent” in handling classified emails (a finding that could have triggered criminal liability) to “extremely careless” — a determination that allowed her to escape prosecution entirely. After the Clinton investigation concluded, Strzok signed the documents opening the investigation into Russian election interference and actually helped interview former national-security adviser Michael Flynn. In other words, it looks like a low-integrity, reckless, biased bureaucrat has played an important role in two of the most important and politically charged criminal investigations of the new century. Yes, it’s good that Mueller removed Strzok when he discovered the text messages. No, Strzok is not solely responsible for the conclusions reached in either investigation. But his mere presence hurts public confidence in the FBI, and it does so in a way that further illustrates a persistent and enduring national problem: America’s permanent bureaucracy is unacceptably partisan.

…It is to Robert Mueller’s credit that he took swift action against Strzok. It’s a problem that, as the Wall Street Journal observes, he “kept this information from House investigators.” For a critical mass of the public to have confidence in Mueller’s investigation, it must be as transparent and accountable as humanly possible. A proper investigation into Russian interference in our election is vital to the health of our democracy. A biased and opaque probe, however, will do far more harm than good.

French is bending over backwards to be fair, but he goes so far he may snap. Mueller must know his team, and he must understand, or one would think he would, that if he finds anything that justifies action against the President of the United States, it is essential that there be no hint of bias or partisan conflicts. How could he allow someone like this to play a key role in his investigation? The Wall Street Journal asked,quite reasonably,

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team is emphasizing its ejection of FBI agent Peter Strzok immediately upon learning about anti-Trump texts he exchanged with another FBI employee, Lisa Page, before the 2016 election. But when did the FBI learn of the messages? …[W]hen did the FBI dig up and turn over that very first tranche? How long has the bureau known one of its lead investigators was exhibiting such bias? Was it before Mr. Mueller was even appointed? Did FBI leaders sit by as the special counsel tapped Mr. Strzok? In any case, we know from the letter that the inspector general informed both Messrs. Rosenstein and Mueller of the texts on July 27, and that both men hid that explosive information from Congress for four months. The Justice Department, pleading secrecy, defied subpoenas that would have produced the texts. It refused to make Mr. Strzok available for an interview. It didn’t do all this out of fear of hurting national security, obviously. It did it to save itself and the FBI from embarrassment.

Yet when the President made some derogatory tweets about the FBI, the news media as one treated it as if he were committing blasphemy. The tweet, as usual, were foolish and unprofessional. Trump was wrong to send them, as usual, but I don’t see how anyone can argue that the substance of what he wrote is wrong. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/5/17: Ethics Chaos Everywhere—Lawyers, Law Enforcement, Government, News Media. Is This A Great Country, Or What?

Good Morning, everybody!

1 Wait, What??? ABC has announced that suspended reporter Brian Ross will no longer handle stories involving President Trump after Ross returns from his suspension. The suspension, you will recall, was occasioned by his misreporting of a matter involving the Mueller investigation and causing a stock market dive as a result.

This makes no sense at all. Either Ross is a professional, competent journalist who can be trusted to report the news without allowing his biases to distort the facts, or he is not. If ABC deems Ross too unreliable and partisan to report on stories involving the President of the United States, then—can I say obviously?—is also too reliable to be a reporter at all.

In his weekly unhinged hate-rant against President Trump—this one claims that favoring “national security and sovereignty; economic nationalism; and deconstruction of the administrative state” proves the President is a Nazi—Charles M. Blow writes, “Trump’s continued attacks on the media — and on truth itself — is an attempt to weaken the watchdogs, to grease the skids toward more oligarchy, more authoritarianism, more fascism.”

Are even New York Times readers gullible enough to buy that absurd description of the news media any more? The Ross fiasco is only the latest in a chain of thousands, some more minor, many not, that prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the news media is not a respectable watch dog, and that truth is the farthest thing from its agenda. The op-ed page that Blow squats on is a daily display of deceit and anti-Trump propaganda. There has never been anything like it in the history of the legitimate press. The same day Blow’s screed appeared, Times editors went full race-baiter, publishing a column that cherry picked  black athletes, celebrities  and politicians the President has issued insulting tweets about, regardless of the topic or issue, to show that he’s obviously a racist. (For example, since the NFL player who stood during the Mexican national anthem while having Kaepernicked for weeks in games played in the U.S., the President tweeted criticism was racist.) My junior high school journalism teacher, who advised the student newspaper, would have flagged this is terrible journalism, but Timed editors think it’s just great,

Watchdogs.

Right. Continue reading

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