This is getting dicey. It is no longer clear that Americans can trust the FBI to conduct a professional, non-partisan, fair investigation — particularly as it concerns Washington politicians. In fact, it is becoming clear that when it comes to high federal officials, they can not or will not do so and may actually be undermining American democracy.
Those are strong words. But this actually is a crisis — not the fake crisis the news comes up with daily, like snowstorms in January or a Trump tweet — but a crisis that affects the fundamental operations and nature of our Republic.
Special Counsels are an ugly and dangerous business and have shown their threat at every opportunity. They are exta-constitutional and answerable to no one, including the American public. But frankly, it’s not clear there are enough Congressional committees to even begin to unwind all of the corruption of the Obama Administration — even if there were the will. And there is not.
That’s why, despite the dangers inherent — and our personal opposition to even the idea of a special counsel that is answerable to no one — multiple special counsels may now be needed to seriously look into the mischief that apparently has been ripe through the federal government under Obama and before that.
But for now, the real and immediate crisis is with the FBI, and that is beginning to look like it requires urgent attention.
The FBI’s credibility storm
Multiple FBI agents and Department of Justice officials appear complicit in using the now largely debunked Fusion GPS Steele dossier to get an investigation rolling on Trump-Russia collusion. This salacious piece of fiction may even have been used to get wire-taps on Trump campaign officials, picking up the president himself at times. And it apparently has formed the basis for the media’s partisanship-driven hysteria over Trump-Russia collusion — about which nothing we know of has been found by the grinding Mueller investigation. There may be nothing to the entire Trump-Russia collusion frenzy.
But there may be very real collusion elsewhere.
The Steele dossier, paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign to dig up or make up dirt on Trump, made its way to the FBI by means unknown and agents jumped on it, traveling to Rome to interview former British spy Christopher Steele in the weeks before the election. The FBI was so keen on this discredited and partisan dossier that the Washington Post reports they went as far as to plan a few weeks before the 2016 election to pay Steele to continue his work.
And now we have ongoing obstruction by the FBI in refusing to turn over documents relating to this whole affair after — no other way to put it — lying to Congress that they did not have them.
The Justice Department has proffered a litany of excuses for not producing the documents, but Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is having none of it. He sent a letter Thursday to the Justice Department demanding it comply with Congressional subpoenas issued for information on how the department and the FBI handled the Russia investigation: “As it turns out, not only did documents exist that were directly responsive to the committee’s subpoenas, but they involved senior DOJ and FBI officials who were swiftly reassigned when their roles in matters under the committee’s investigation were brought to light.”
That smells like a coverup in process.
Those Justice officials implicated include former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, who was recently demoted because of his unauthorized contacts with DNC-paid Fusion GPS. Ohr’s wife worked at Fusion GPS at the time. The implicated FBI officials include James Baker, the bureau’s general counsel in 2016, and Peter Strzok, the number two counterintelligence official.
Strzok was the energy driving the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign, and was also part of the team that found no criminal wrongdoing on Hillary Clinton’s deletion of 33,000 emails that Congress had subpeoned. And he was assigned to Mueller’s special counsel staff investigating Trump. However, it turns out that Strzok is not just a virulent anti-Trumper, he is a careless one as he exchanged 375 nasty anti-Trump text messages with fellow FBI agent and girlfriend Lisa Page — another member of Mueller’s increasingly compromised team.
Strzok was reportedly at meetings in the office of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe strategizing how to stop Trump and discussing having an “insurance policy” in the unlikely event Trump won. For his part, McCabe’s wife was paid $700,000 from close Clinton allies when she ran for the Virginia state legislature in 2015, creating a clear conflict of interest.
Now, with the others being re-assigned, it was announced that McCabe will soon be retiring to his generous government pension.
Nunes and Graham lead the charge
With all of this that has been going on — and this is only what we know so far — Congress’ requests seem more than reasonable. They are necessary. Yet the FBI refuses to comply.
Nunes outlines a ream of evasive maneuvers and obfuscations by the Justice Department to avoid handing over the documents Congress demanded and with which the department is legally required to comply. Most of these documents relate to the dossier.
If this stonewalling continues, the House can and maybe will proceed with contempt charges. But so what? Obama Attorney General Eric Holder was found in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents and exactly nothing happened to him. He just ignored it and continued on.
Nunes said, “at this point it seems the DOJ and FBI need to be investigating themselves.”
But that is a non-starter as no one will trust such an investigation with the FBI under such a credibility cloud.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham was a bitter critic of Trump as a candidate and remains one as president. But Graham understands what’s at stake. He told Fox News that a special counsel should be appointed to investigate the entire Steele dossier issue.
“I’ve spent some time in the last couple of days, after a lot of fighting with the Department of Justice, to get the background on the dossier, and here’s what I can tell your viewers,” Graham said. “I’m very disturbed about what the Department of Justice did with this dossier, and we need a special counsel to look into that, because that’s not in Mueller’s charter.”
Further: “What I’ve gathered in the last couple of days bothers me a lot, and I’d like somebody outside DOJ to look into how this dossier was handled and what they did with it…After having looked at the history of the dossier, and how it was used by the Department of Justice, I’m really very concerned, and this cannot be the new normal.”
“New normal” is to be highlighted. What he’s saying is that our highest and most powerful investigative agency cannot be be allowed to be actively working to undermine a duly elected American president. Ever. Regardless of the president. That is one mere step from an actual coup and it cannot stand. Graham is exactly right.
Congress should appoint the Special Counsel
While traditionally these Special Counsels or Special Prosecutors have been appointed by the President or Attorney General, the politics of Trump doing it are awesomely bad while the likelihood of Sessions doing it is remote as he is part of the stonewalling now.
There is, however, precedent for Congress to appoint a Special Prosecutor. A joint resolution of the House and Senate resulted in the appointment of one to investigate the Teapot Dome scandal in 1923 — called the “greatest and most sensational scandal in the history of American politics” before Watergate.
The only way to get to the bottom of this scandal and root out the rot that is infesting the FBI, is through a Special Counsel, using non FBI and Department of Justice investigators. It’s a mess. But it cannot remain. If it is as it appears, it could be worse than Watergate. Either President Trump or Congress must step up.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Revolutionary Act.