- Had Horowitz not discovered the anti-Trump texts between Strzok and Page, they would still be investigating the Trump campaign
IG confirms his office is handling investigation into Comey’s leaking of personal memos to his friend and the New York Times
There was a clear breakdown in the FBI culture, with senior agents being wined and dined by reporters
Chairman Charles Grassley of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee outlined the stark double standard at Monday’s much-anticipated hearing with the FBI’s handling of its investigations into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server for government business and the bureau’s highly partisan investigation into alleged collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Grassley, R-Iowa, stated “justice should be blind” but contended that it was not in the case of FBI’s handling of the Clinton and Trump investigations. He noted that based on the evidence collected in the more than 500-page report released by Inspector General Michael Horowitz last week, along with information and evidence collected by numerous Congressional committees, evidence of bias against Trump was insurmountable.
Grassley stressed, “most of the time, evidence of political bias is not so explicit. The details in this report confirm what the American people have suspected all along. Hillary Clinton got the kid-glove treatment.”
“The contrast to the Russia probe is stark,” Grassley stated. “The biggest difference, of course, is the appointment of a Special Counsel. Attorney General (Loretta) Lynch refused to appoint one. The appearance of political influence was inevitable.”
Horowitz and FBI Director Christopher Wray were grilled by lawmakers during the hours-long hearing, which consisted of questioning regarding the use of FBI informants in investigations, the handling of the Clinton investigation and the extraordinary bias in the FBI by senior special agents in the field. Sen. Orin Hatch, R-Utah, said he was “disappointed” in Wray’s response last week, to Horowitz’s report telling Wray there was a “serious problem” within senior bureau leadership and that these cases appear not to be an aberration but a deep cultural breakdown within the FBI.
At the hearing Grassley laid out the extraordinary differences in the investigations and questioned Horowitz, asking him if “granting immunity is the only way to gain truthful testimony from witnesses,” referencing the highly unusual decision by the FBI to grant immunity to Clinton and her aides before they were interviewed. Both Wray and Horowitz noted that it was not the only way to extract information from witnesses but did not expand on why it was handled in such a manner. Horowitz also revealed that his office is handling an investigation into Comey’s leaking of personal memos to his friend and the New York Times, which initiated the opening of a Special Counsel to investigate Trump.
Horowitz sent a strong message to the FBI during his opening statement telling lawmakers, “as detailed in our report, we found that the inappropriate political messages cast a cloud over the Midyear investigation sowed doubt about the credibility of the FBI’s handling of it, and impacted the reputation of the FBI. Moreover, we found the implication that senior FBI employees would be willing to take official action to impact a presidential candidate’s electoral prospects to be deeply troubling and antithetical to the core values of the FBI and the Department of Justice.”
Grassley noted that had Horowitz not discovered the onslaught of anti-Trump texts between embattled FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok, who worked the Clinton investigation and headed the Russia investigation, and his paramour former FBI Attorney Lisa Page, “they would still be there today.”
If the evidence had not been discovered, the pair would “still be investigating the Trump campaign,” Grassley said. “They would still be texting about how they despised President Trump and everyone who voted for him. They would still be plotting about how to use their official positions to, “stop him.”
“We just wouldn’t know about it. Remember these facts every time you hear the press or my friends on the other side of the aisle claim that this report found “no bias.” You may hear that talking point a lot today, but don’t be fooled,” Grassley added.
“(Special Counsel) Robert Mueller removed these people from his team. Why? Obviously, because this kind of political bias has no place in law enforcement. When it was exposed so clearly, Mr. Mueller had no other choice.”
Under questioning, Horowitz admitted that the discovery of Strzok and Page texts were disturbing.
“That should not be downplayed by anybody,” Horowitz said. “I cannot think of anything more concerning than law enforcement officer suggesting that they may use their powers to effect a presidential election.”
Grassley Notes Stark Differences in Trump Clinton Investigation:
- Under Lynch, Comey drafted a public exoneration of Clinton before 17 key witnesses were interviewed.
Under Rosenstein, no one seriously thinks Robert Mueller would plan a press conference to exonerate Trump before his investigators’ work is done.
Under Lynch, a low-level IT worker lied to the FBI twice about destroying records under subpoena and got immunity.
Under Rosenstein, a low-level Trump campaign associate provided the wrong date for a conversation with a professor and got charged with lying to the FBI.
Under Lynch, Clinton’s lawyers and aides who improperly held classified information got carefully crafted agreements to limit searches of their computers by consent.
Under Rosenstein, Trump’s lawyers and former aides got raided and hauled before grand juries.
Grassley also stressed the breakdown in the culture at the FBI and Horowitz’s discovery that numerous senior FBI agents were being wined and dined by reporters against FBI protocol.
“The FBI has managed to promote a culture that winks at unauthorized disclosures to the press but punishes legally-protected whistleblowing. It stiff-arms Congressional oversight to hide embarrassing facts, while it leaks self-serving tidbits to friendly reporters bearing gifts. Director Wray has quite a mess to clean up,” Grassley stated.
IG Diagram of FBI contacts with reporters
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, chided the FBI’s leadership team under Comey and questioned Horowitz about the IG report’s finding regarding the lack of documentary evidence of bias in the FBI. Cornyn said it was a “fair inference to draw that Comey was worried about his future during the Clinton investigation” and changed ‘grossly negligent” to “extremely careless” and asked Horowitz if he was also surprised that Comey was using a private Gmail account at the same time he was investigating Clinton for using a private email server.
Horowitz said he was surprised Comey was using a private account and that he couldn’t judge whether or not Comey made his decision based on his belief that Clinton was going to become president.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, also demanded Horowitz open an investigation to find out whether former FBI Director Andrew McCabe attended a meeting with Strzok and Page, which they discussed in a text an “insurance policy” against Trump if he were to become president.
“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office – that there’s no way he gets elected – but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” Strzok texted on Aug. 15, 2016. “It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”
Horowitz said he believes “Andy” is in reference to McCabe. Horowitz noted that Strzok said McCabe was at a meeting with him but McCabe said he could not recall the meeting.
Graham, in apparent frustration, asked Wray, “have you ever prosecuted a case based on circumstantial evidence, Mr. Wray?”
Director Wray, said, “yes, I have.”
“If you’re on our side of the aisle this really hits you hard,” Graham added.
“I’m not buying that the Clinton email investigation is on the up and up.”
Wray noted that the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility, responsible for investigating agents, is in the process of investigating agents and once it is complete “will hold every person accountable,” Wray said.
Grassley pointed out that Lynch, Former FBI Director James Comey, and former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe declined to testify.
According to Grassley,
“McCabe’s lawyer wrote that his client would rely on his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to avoid answering any questions here today.”
“Mr. Comey’s attorney tells us he is out of the country, although I saw he was in Iowa over the weekend,” Grassley stated in his opening statement.
“According to his twitter feed, he seems to be having a wonderful time. This is the second time since he was fired that Mr. Comey refused an invitation to testify here voluntarily. He has time for book tours and television interviews, but apparently no time to assist this Committee, which has primary jurisdiction over the Justice Department.”
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