By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
Nothing evokes raw emotion across the partisan divide more than the Hillary Clinton email investigation. But two events in the past few days have reopened that Pandora’s box.
On Saturday, both the Washington Post and the New York Times reported that Peter Strzok, deputy head of counterintelligence at the FBI, was one of the key agents in the Trump-Russia collusion investigation.
Strzok played a key role in Mueller’s investigation. Strzok was one of the FBI agents who interviewed Clinton in July 2016. A critical part of the Hillary Clinton probe was reassigned out of the special counsel’s office when it was revealed that Strzok exchanged anti-Trump texts with another top FBI lawyer, Lisa Page.
As the Post reported during the Clinton investigation, Strzok was involved in a romantic relationship with Page, who worked for FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
House investigators have long suspected that Strzok was a key figure in very sensitive political events that occurred in 2016.
Have the DOJ and FBI Become Partisan?
Strzok’s actions are extremely problematic. They raise serious questions about the possible politicalization of the Clinton email investigation, which began days after former President Bill Clinton met with then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch on an airport tarmac in Phoenix.
One incident in which the FBI was heavily involved was the infamous anti-Trump dossier, created by former British MI-6 intelligence officer Christopher Steele. The dossier launched the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. A Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant was issued to allow the FBI to conduct surveillance on candidate Donald Trump and his campaign associates.
The dossier was found to be largely unverifiable and unsubstantiated. As we learned later, the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) paid for the dossier.
FBI and the Potential for a Conflict of Interest
McCabe’s role in the Clinton investigation was further tarnished when he failed to recuse himself from the probe after his wife Jill announced her candidacy for the Virginia Senate. Her campaign received almost $700,000 from Virginia Governor and former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe’s political organization and from the Virginia Democratic Party.
Justice Department Inspector General Office Reviewing Strzok’s Role
The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General issued a statement on December 2, saying that its investigators are “reviewing allegations involving communications between certain individuals, and will report its findings regarding those allegations promptly upon completion of the review of them.’’
The OIG probe into Strzok’s role in a number of highly sensitive political investigations should be completed by “very early next year.”
What wasn’t mentioned is why Mueller’s office failed to inform Congress about the circumstances of Strzok’s reassignment. This oversight occurred even after House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) issued a subpoena three months ago that sought information about Strzok’s demotion.
In October, Nunes asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to make Strzok available to his committee for questioning. Although Strzok was transferred in August, the Justice Department never informed the House Intelligence Committee of the reasons for Strzok’s reassignment and did not share his anti-Trump text messages with House investigators.
Department of Justice and FBI Fail to Comply with Congress
The Department of Justice and the FBI have repeatedly failed to produce any documentation on the Clinton email investigation requested by Congress. They also have not provided documentation on the Russian dossier and any other related investigation. This lack of activity is odd because the Constitution grants Congress oversight over all Executive Branch agencies, including the DOJ and the FBI.
In a statement issued on December 2, Nunes said: “By hiding from Congress, and from the American people, documented political bias by a key FBI head investigator for both the Russia collusion probe and the Clinton email investigation, the FBI and DOJ engaged in a willful attempt to thwart Congress’ constitutional oversight responsibility.
“This is part of a months-long pattern by the DOJ and FBI of stonewalling and obstructing this Committee’s oversight work, particularly oversight of their use of the Steele dossier. At this point, these agencies should be investigating themselves.”
These actions are beginning to show a pattern by the DOJ and the FBI. Last Friday, in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from Judicial Watch, the FBI released 29 pages of documents about the Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting. The documents show that the FBI was more concerned about who leaked the story of the meeting rather than what transpired at the meeting.
Intelligence Community Inspector Faced Partisan Pressure
This wasn’t the only investigation that potentially might have been compromised. On November 26, former Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough III told Fox News that he, his family and his staffers “faced an intense backlash” from Clinton allies at the time of the Clinton email server investigation. McCullough said “that the campaign even put out word that it planned to fire him if the Democratic presidential nominee won the 2016 election.”
President Obama appointed McCullough to the IC Inspector General post. McCullough was well qualified; he spent decades with the FBI, the Treasury Department and the intelligence community.
The partisan role in which McCullough became embroiled began in January 2016, when McCullough informed the Republican leadership on the Senate Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees that emails classified higher than “Top Secret” had been found on Clinton’s unsecured personal server.
How Did Clinton’s Classified Material End Up on an Unclassified Server?
So how did emails possibly containing some of the most sensitive U.S. national security information end up on Clinton’s unclassified and unsecured server? The only way for any classified material to appear on an unclassified server is for someone to physically put it there.
Top secret, highly sensitive emails require a user to log into a Special Access Program (SAP) that holds information classified by “above top secret.” Only a few individuals in the government would have that kind of access.
Democrats’ Potential Interference in Clinton Email Investigation
As McCullough was conducting his investigation in March 2016, seven senior Democrats sent a letter to him and to his State Department counterpart, questioning their impartiality in the Clinton email review.
McCullough said he had a confrontation with Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office just six weeks before the election. He stated that he experienced pressure to respond to the Democrats’ letter, which Feinstein had co-signed.
According to Fox News, McCullough said, “I thought that any response to that letter would just hyper-politicize the situation.” Then he added, “I recall even offering to resign, to the staff director. I said, ‘Tell [Feinstein] I’ll resign tonight. I’d be happy to go. I’m not going to respond to that letter. It’s just that simple.’”
To date, over 2,100 classified emails have passed through Clinton’s unclassified email server. No one has been charged, including Clinton’s key aide Huma Abedin. However, classified material was found on the unclassified computer of Abedin’s former husband, Anthony Weiner.
It is a crime to threaten an inspector general with the loss of employment for doing his job. Did the FBI and the Justice Department know about the push-back from the Clinton campaign and the seven Democratic senators?
Have the FBI and the Justice Department become politicized? More information seems to come out every day that raises that very question.