A few days ago in one of his famous tweets, President Trump asserted that the reputation of the FBI was "in tatters." This followed recent revelations that a top agent involved in both the Mueller investigations and the Hillary Clinton email investigations was an anti-Trump partisan who had exchanged inflammatory political text messages with his mistress.
So, is the reputation of the FBI -- and, for that matter, of the Justice Department -- in "tatters" as President Trump claims? And, if so, what difference does it make?
My answer to the first question is definitely yes as to both institutions, although for me the shredding of their reputations has only been accentuated by the events of the past few weeks, and had previously been going on for a good nine years, ever since Obama and Holder got their hands on the reins of power. And the difference it makes? To put it simply, you would be out of your mind ever to cooperate in any way with these guys. And so would everybody else in this country. And thus, the FBI and Justice are totally undermining their own effectiveness as law enforcement institutions. It's a fair bet that whatever they are up to at any given point in time has little to nothing to do with enforcing the law in an even-handed way, and much or everything to do with advantaging Democrats over Republicans. (It doesn't matter who controls the Presidency and Attorney Generalship at any given point in time. The staff of the Justice Department and FBI are partisan Democrats until definitively proven otherwise.) If they want to get you (e.g., you are a Republican, although there could be many other reasons having just as little to do with whether you have committed a crime) they are entirely likely to create an entrapment scheme to manufacture a crime to nail you, such as (to take a random example) asking you in detail about some conversation you had that they happen to have recorded, and then charging you with "lying to the FBI" for any instance where your memory differs from their transcript. If I can accomplish one useful thing with this blog, it will be making sure that none of my readers ever makes the ridiculous mistake of talking to the FBI.
Before getting to the most recent events, let's review just a few of the other politicized and/or corrupt activities of Justice and the FBI under the Obama/Holder/Lynch/Bharara regime (some of which activities continue under holdovers to this day). Probably, you once heard of at least some of these things, but only when they are put together in one place do you suddenly realize the magnitude:
- When I started this blog, one of the first things I covered was the endless series of what I deemed "phony prosecutions" of major financial institutions for allegedly causing the financial crisis. There was one after another of what could only be called shakedowns. In this post on July 1, 2013, I discussed a settlement by Citi with Fannie and Freddie for $968 million for losses in the financial crisis, even though it was F&F that had set the terms of the loans; and another settlement by BofA for $2.8 billion for essentially the same thing; and a settlement of those two plus five other banks for $8.5 billion with OCC for alleged improper documenting of mortgages ("robosigning"); and then ten settlements by JPMC with various federal agencies between 2011 and 2013, all of them over $50 million (and some over a billion). In September 2013 it was a $920 million settlement with JPMC over trading losses that should have been none of the government's business. In August 2014 it was a settlement with BofA of $17 billion (!) for, supposedly, "failing to have third party loan level due diligence" as to loans going into securitization deals. There were many, many more.
- And then it turned out that Justice had created a slush fund in which to put big chunks of the bank settlements, to be passed out to favored left-leaning groups to advance the Obama/Holder political agenda, all unconstitutionally outside the appropriations process. From Kimberly Strassel in the Wall Street Journal, December 2015, quoted by me here: "The [Justice] department is in the process of funneling more than half-a-billion dollars to liberal activist groups, at least some of which will actively support Democrats in the coming election. It works likes this: The Justice Department prosecutes cases against supposed corporate bad actors. Those companies agree to settlements that include financial penalties. Then Justice mandates that at least some of that penalty money be paid in the form of “donations” to nonprofits that supposedly aid consumers and bolster neighborhoods. The Justice Department maintains a list of government-approved nonprofit beneficiaries. And surprise, surprise: Many of them are liberal activist groups. The National Council of La Raza. The National Urban League. The National Community Reinvestment Coalition. NeighborWorks America . . . . "
- Who can forget the endless phony prosecutions by New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for the non-crime of "insider trading" by non-insiders? As pointed out by me in many posts, there never was a statute that made this illegal. It was all about ginning up political resentment against people who could be painted as having made too much money too easily. At one time Bharara claimed a string of some 80 consecutive "convictions," but nearly all of them were guilty pleas. Of the seven insider trading cases he took to trial, one resulted in an acquittal, and three of the six convictions, which involved non-insiders, were reversed on appeal; many of the guilty pleas were also vacated. After the Newman/Chiasson reversal in October 2015, Bharara used the occasion to stoke resentment for political advantage: "You can think of this as a potential bonanza for friends and family of rich people with access to material non-public information."
- The Obama/Holder Justice Department ramped up the civil asset forfeiture shakedown to such an extent that by 2014 civil assets seized by Justice annually exceeded all proceeds of burglary in the United States. Do you recall the scandal over the mass seizures by prosecutors of luxury cars being exported to China? On the thinnest of pretexts, Justice Department prosecutors claimed that the exports were illegal and seized hundreds of cars; and then offered to "settle" by giving half the cars back to the rightful owners while keeping the rest. Proceeds went into another of those extra-constitutional Justice slush funds. When a target of the scam finally took one of the cases to trial in February 2017 (during Bharara's last days in office) it took a jury just three hours to rule for the defendant.
- How about "Operation Choke Point" -- an Obama/Holder initiative that used the Justice Department to put pressure on legal but politically-disfavored businesses (examples: gun dealers, payday lenders) by seeking to cut off their access to the banking system? The Trump administration finally announced an end to that one in August 2017, although I would not be so sure that deep state operatives somewhere in the Justice Department are not still carrying on.
- Then there was the bringing of dubious cases of "bribery" or "corruption" against various state and local pols. Somehow, when a Democratic pol drew the attention of the prosecutors, it involved a situation where the Dems held a huge majority in the relevant body and political control was not at issue. Example: Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the New York Assembly, where the Dems hold about a 2 - 1 majority. But when the target was a Republican, it would be a swing situation with potential for a conviction to shift control to the Democrats. Examples: Bob McDonnell as Governor of Virginia, Dean Skelos (of the New York State Senate, where the Republicans held a one seat majority). All three of those convictions have been reversed, by the way.
- And, finally for this review (really, I could just be getting started) we have the Justice Department in the ultimate corruption attempting to declare independence from the President and the Constitution under the leadership of Sally Yates. Obama holdover Yates was the Acting Attorney General briefly before Jeff Sessions was confirmed earlier this year, and used that position to attempt to defy President Trump when he issued his first "travel ban." A few months later she tried to justify her action in a New York Times op-ed: "The president is attempting to dismantle the rule of law, destroy the time-honored independence of the Justice Department, and undermine the career men and women who are devoted to seeking justice day in and day out, regardless of which political party is in power. . . ." In Yates-world, oaths of office are for the flouting.
So believe me, around here, the Justice Department and FBI did not have any remaining unshredded reputation to be preserved by the time the Comey and Mueller got going investigating Trump. So how shocked are you that they:
- Used a piece of preposterous opposition research funded by the Clinton campaign and the DNC as a pretext to obtain a FISA warrant to spy on the Republican candidate's campaign while it was ongoing? That link, by the way, is not to some right-wing conspiracy theorist, but rather to CNN back in April.
- Put a highly partisan pro-Clinton senior FBI agent (Strzok) on the Clinton email investigation, and allowed him to change the words Comey used to describe Hillary's conduct from "gross negligence" (a crime) to "extremely careless"?
- Hired a team of some fifteen prosecutors to pursue the investigation of the Trump campaign, at least half of whom are highly partisan Democrats who have contributed to Obama, Clinton and the DNC, and none of whom have contributed to Republicans?
- Put the same highly partisan senior FBI agent on the job of tricking Flynn into an interview about a conversation that had previously been recorded by the FBI, so that they could manufacture a previously non-existent crime by characterizing any slip by Flynn in remembering the conversation as "lying to the FBI," even if everything about the underlying conversation itself was perfectly legal?
- Refused to turn over to Congress the Strzok texts and other documents that would embarrass and/or incriminate the FBI and/or Justice itself -- and continue the stonewall to the point of getting held in contempt of Congress?
Me, I'm not surprised at all. Readers, please do not ever, ever talk to these people. Remember this: Everybody who has been at Justice and the FBI through the Obama/Holder/Lynch era knows about all of the things listed above and decided to stay on nonetheless. People of integrity would have resigned long ago.
During my legal career, it has been the norm that prominent politicians and business leaders could not afford to refuse to cooperate with the FBI and Justice Department. The reason was that the respect for these institutions was such that failure to cooperate carried a reputational stain for the non-cooperator. Corporations would almost always fire those who refused to cooperate. Today? I'd like to see some corporations stand up to the creeps. Among politicians, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Trump and some of his people stand up.
UPDATE, December 6: Judicial Watch has released an email that it obtained via FOIA request from the Department of Justice. The email is from Andrew Weissmann to Sally Yates dated January 30, 2017. You will recognize Yates from above. January 30 is the date that she sent a memo, in her capacity as Acting Attorney General of the United States, to everyone at the Justice Department instructing them not to implement the initial "travel ban" executive order that new President Trump had issued on January 27. Weissmann is currently the senior Justice Department prosecutor working with Mueller on the investigation of the President. Here is the text of Weissmann's January 30 email:
From: Weissmann, Andrew (CRM)
Sent: Monday, January 30, 2017 9:50 PM
To: Yates, Sally (ODAG) <email@example.com> Subject: I am so proud
And in awe. Thank you so much. All my deepest respects,
So there it is. Weissmann didn't just think it was OK for Yates to violate her oath of office and try to overturn the result of the recent lawfully-conducted election. No, he went far beyond, asserting that he was "so proud" and "in awe." He actively applauds defiance of the Constitution.
It is completely beyond me how a guy who thinks defiance of the oath of office is OK is allowed to work anywhere in the federal government, let alone on an investigation of the President he thinks it is OK to defy.
The contents of this email, and of the Strzok texts (when and if revealed), and of plenty more from the above, should appropriately be part of the closing argument of every defense lawyer in every case brought by the Justice Department. That's the consequence of destroying your own credibility through politicization.