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Paul Schmehl @PaulSchmehl
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Rather than write a thread about the OIG report, I think I’ll just do running commentary. I’ll thread it so they’ll be easy to find, but this won’t be a typical thread. It could run for days as I plow my way through this monster.
My first observations are from the Executive Summary, and those alone are very damning for the FBI. The OIG wrote of a “culture” of leaking to the media in exchange for gifts; tickets to ballgames, concert tickets, dinners, etc. IMO ANYONE who did that should B fired immediately.
My second observation is that, while the OIG couldn’t find EVIDENCE of bias, he clearly exposed the APPEARANCE of bias. As we all know, convictions require a higher standard of proof in court, so while some may not go to jail, they should NOT be working for the FBI.
I expect to see that shaking out over the coming weeks as various people suddenly “retire” early or are demoted, as Strzok was. (And no, I don’t think he’ll be there much longer.) I was stunned by Director Wray’s comment that the report doesn’t impugn the FBI as a whole.
I can only attribute it to his desire to tell the FBI as a whole, they did nothing wrong. In an organization the size of the FBI, there are people who don’t deserve the opprobrium that is coming because of the actions of a few. I think Wray is saying, keep your chins up.
You always have to keep in mind that when leaders make public statements, they’re speaking to multiple audiences. Wray is willing to take the heat for his statement while reassuring his employees, we’ll get through this.
The FBI’s response makes it clear that people are being referred for internal investigations. The result of those could be anything from a reprimand to a fine or suspension to termination. Wray wants the agents in Platte River to know that their jobs aren’t on the line.
Page 5 “During our investigation, we looked for direct evidence of improper considerations, such as contemporaneous statements in emails, memoranda, or other documents explicitly linking political or other improper considerations to specific investigative decisions.”
IOW, we couldn’t find a smoking gun tying the obvious bias to any decisions that were made. This does not mean that the bias didn’t exist, or wasn’t blatantly obvious. It just means that these are smart men who knew not to spoil their work with unlawful admissions.
“We also analyzed the justifications offered for the investigative decisions we selected for focused review (including contemporaneous justifications and those offered after the fact) to determine whether they were a pretext for improper, but unstated, considerations.”
Again, just means they covered their tracks well. The OIG isn’t looking at motivation. He’s looking at evidence. They did a good job of separating their bias from the case documentation.
Page 17 “Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, told us that the Department’s most explicit policy is about crimes that affect the integrity of an election, such as voter fraud, but that there is generalized, unwritten guidance that
prosecutors do not indict political candidates or use overt investigative methods in the weeks before an election.“
While I can understand the reason for this policy, it seems wrongheaded to me. Shouldn’t the public know about an official being investigated BEFORE they have to vote? Yes, I know people are sometimes cleared in investigations. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with this rule.
It seems like an easy cop-out for the FBI to say, we won’t investigate that until AFTER the election. Which is more disruptive? To affect an election? Or to indict an elected representative shortly after they take office?
I think the public’s right to know outweighs the department’s reticence to “get involved” in politics.
Congress needs to pass a law prohibiting the use of private email accounts to conduct official government business. The practice is far too prevalent, and it’s transparently in violation of the government records archival laws.
McCabe brought Page in to the Clinton email investigation (MYE). Some complained that she skirted the chain of command and Strzok used her to feed info to McCabe, bypassing Priestap. There’s your cabal. Three agents, all of whom loved Clinton and hated Trump.
All three worked on MYE and Russia, and all three were assigned to Mueller’s team. Is it reasonable to believe that senior management didn’t sense anything was wrong with that? Only, I think, if they were lousy leaders. And it appears, that’s what they were.
I forgot to mention. The previous was on page 43.
There’s a graph on page 45 that makes it clear what Page did. She enabled Strzok to jump over two supervisors and go directly to McCabe. Both Priestap and Steinbach were bypassed. This throws a new light on Priestap. He may have done nothing wrong.
It’s certainly reasonable to see Priestap as being out of the loop and unaware of what was going on. And if he complained to McCabe, his superior reported to McCabe, so McCabe would have shut him down. McCabe is looking like the rotten core of the whole plot.
The others, Comey, etc., were so used to breaking the rules that nothing seemed out of the ordinary to them. Although both Comey and Mueller have histories of questionable behavior.
Page 48 Strzok, Page and McCabe all attended every briefing with Comey. Let’s call them the three bandidos. They could steer everything in the direction they wanted, and Comey and the DoJ would be none the wiser.
Page 49 Both Comey and McCabe made legal decisions without consulting prosecutors, including drawing up consent and immunity agreements! Absolutely unquestionably wrong. Only DoJ attorneys should make such decisions. Mind boggling!
Page 59 When the IC OIG referred the Clinton server issue to the FBI, the DoJ wanted to follow policy and publicly state that they neither confirm nor deny an investigation. Comey disagreed. Now why would he do that? Standard policy was to neither confirm nor deny.
Comey’s behavior here is very strange. FBI NEVER confirms investigations. Yet Comey wanted to say, We don’t comment on investigations. HIs reasoning was that it was already publicly known.
ppg 63-65 Both Comey and Lynch were deceptive regarding their memories of the meeting where the decision was made to call the Clinton investigation a “matter”. Probably not a chargeable offense, but both are obviously lying.
Page 66 “This prosecutor stated, “I know that the FBI considered those [statements] inappropriate. And that it...[generated] a suspicion that there was a political bias...going on from the Executive Branch.” This is in reference to Obama’s comments about the MYE.
So, eat least there were some in the FBI who were concerned about undue influence and bias driving the investigation. Comey comes off as having very poor judgment. Just because media is discussing something doesn’t mean you have to confirm it. Has he never heard of no comment?
Page 67 “Asked about former President Obama’s statements, Lynch stated, “I never spoke to the President directly about it, because I never spoke to him about any case or investigation. He didn’t speak to me about it either.” Lynch is flat out lying. They ALL met to discuss Russia
Something that strikes me as very odd. The FBI/DoJ claimed to be paranoid about not talking about MYE, yet it leaked like a sieve (probably for drinks and dinner, we now know), and they publicly announced it several times. OTOH, they NEVER talked about the Russia investigation.
Of course, they still leaked like a sieve, so everybody knew about it. But Comey never admitted it was underway, even before Congress. A fascinating juxtaposition of the two very high-profile investigations.
Page 74 The MYE is clear evidence for why the FBI should not trust a subject’s lawyers to properly cull relevant emails. Clinton’s lawyers provided the State Department 30,490 emails that they felt were relevant to the investigation. They deleted all the rest (over 31,000).
But the FBI was able, through other means, to obtain an additional 17,448 emails, some of which were classified. Investigators should NEVER trust third parties to provide ALL the evidence.
Page 74 “None of the emails, including those that were found to contain classified information, included a header or footer with classification markings. As we discuss further in Chapter Seven, this absence of clear classification markings played a significant role in the
decision by the Midyear prosecutors to recommend to Attorney General Lynch in July 2016 that the investigation should be closed without prosecution.” Raise your hand if you think prosecutors would cut YOU the same kind of slack. This is clearly unequal treatment.
It’s also a pet peeve of mine. When I was in the Navy, if I had EVER leaked anything about what I did, I would have gone straight to Leavenworth. Yet the ENTIRE project was leaked to Readers Digest and NO ONE was ever prosecuted. It ain’t right. I don’t care what anybody says.
The last two tweets weren’t tied to the thread: and My apologies.
What struck me was they didn’t seem to have those concerns in the Cohen case. They seized the data and then assigned a special Master to review for privileged information. So, this is a clear instance of Clinton receiving special treatment. Bias again rears its ugly head.
It’s interesting reading how gingerly the DoJ lawyers danced around this case. Compare that to how they handled Manafort and Cohen. It’s day and night. So, to argue that there isn’t a different standard applied in different cases you would have to ignore the evidence.
I think the OIG’s claim that bias didn’t motivate the decisions made is a statement that he couldn’t find solid evidence tying the obvious bias he found to any decisions that were made. But you’d have to be blind not to see how differently Clinton was handled in this case.
Rather than obtaining search warrants and seizing evidence, as they did with Manafort and Cohen, they asked Clinton’s lawyers for permission to access the evidence. If that doesn’t scream bias, what does?
Page 86 “An FBI analyst told us that limiting the search time period to Clinton’s tenure as Secretary was not controversial. The analyst explained, “[T]he reason it was scoped to the tenure is because...that is of course when she would have had access to
the classified information.” And you would know that how? Seriously. Are you investigating? Or whitewashing? When you investigate, you do NOT make assumptions about evidence. You collect it all. You look at it all. Only then can you definitely say, there’s nothing there.
Page 86 This is a serious lack of judgment. I’m appalled by their handling of this investigation. They found every excuse in the book to limit what they would find. They were not investigating. They were trying to get it over with.
I would love to hear from a retired FBI agent and/or DoJ lawyer about their take on this case. If they see nothing wrong, then we have bigger problems than I thought we did. Prosecutorial discretion should apply to decisions whether or not to prosecute ONLY.
IMO, prosecutorial discretion should NOT apply to how evidence is gathered during an investigation. I wonder if any lawyers could comment on this issue? ISTM, evidence gathering should be fairly standardized and not subject to prosecutorial interference.
Page 86 provides an OMG moment. “For example, because former President Clinton did not use email, one of his employees received former President Clinton’s emails and then printed them for him.” We had a Dean like that at UTD. It’s so Luddite it boggles my mind.
Page 86 “However, he stated that he agreed with the team’s “conservative” approach to interpreting what was privileged, because it was important for the FBI to handle its mission and the materials in its possession “responsibly” and to not unnecessarily be looking
“into the lives of the Clintons.” Um, this REEKS of special treatment. Don’t let Manafort or Cohen read this report. They will be outraged.
Page 87 “As we discussed and as the government has agreed, before providing Mr. Cooper’s computer hardware to the FBI, we will remove and securely delete Mr. Cooper’s personal and business files.” Um, NO! The inmates ran the asylum. This is NOT how you do an investigation.
At this point I’m banging my head against the wall. This report screams of bias influencing every step of the investigation. The problem is, since this is the way business has always been done, there’s ample precedent for excusing it here.
IOW, the bias isn’t provable because the bias has been there for so long that it’s considered routine. Prosecutors nail who they want to nail (First we fuck Flynn…) and go easy on who they want to go easy on. The entire system stinks to high heaven.
You and I both know that if they want to raid you in the middle of the night and seize everything you’ve got, they will. We’ve seen it done. Yet, with Clinton, um, do you mind if we look at these computers. C’mon man. That’s BIAS, plain and simple. Blatant. Obvious. Disgusting.
I’m less than 100 pages into this monster, and I’m so angry my eyes are crossed. This is NOT America. Everything we’ve always suspected and complained about is laid out plainly for the world to see. Yet Wray says, We’re good. No. No you’re not. You’ve got massive work to do.
Page 91 “Abedin’s email account contained less than 100 emails from Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State” Apparently it never occurred to them to ASK her if she might have emails anywhere else. Geez. The most rudimentary steps of investigatory process weren’t followed.
Page 96 “Prosecutor 1 explained that the team was not “as concerned that [Abedin] was taking stuff off the classified systems and dumping it down.” Whoops! Boy did that turn out to be a mistake.
The crux of the MYE investigation was, why did Clinton setup a private server? Was she trying to avoid FOIA? Hide illegal information? Deliberately process classified information on an unclassified system? That question was NEVER investigated. The took Clinton’s word for it.
Now, if you think the government would take MY word for something that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. The lack of interest in pursuing this investigation is stunning. Now, what follows is my opinion, unsupported by evidence.
I think the some of the investigators felt Clinton would be POTUS, and they didn’t want to cause her trouble. Others were literally intimidated by her. Too big to fail comes to mind. What a complete and utter mess.
Page 103 Combetta, the Platte River Networks engineer lied to the FBI on several locations. Did they charge him? No. Yet they charged Flynn and Papadopoulos with much less. Combetta flat out lied about deleting Clinton’s emails. More special treatment.
OK, I’m up to 62 tweets on this thread, so I’m going to start a new one. I’ll link to this one in the first tweet for the new thread.
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