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By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
Both Democrats and Republicans are anxiously awaiting the release of the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General’s report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Not since the days of the Watergate scandal has a government report garnered so much attention.
This report gained even more attention recently. Allegedly, an FBI informant was in contact with members of the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election.
Now that the Inspector General is investigating this allegation, key questions have emerged:
- When did the alleged FBI informant contact Trump campaign officials?
- What evidence did the FBI have that precipitated this counterintelligence investigation?
- Who authorized the investigation?
- Did anyone in the Justice Department, the Obama administration or the Intelligence Community know about this counterintelligence operation?
Draft Report Submitted to DOJ and FBI Leaders Earlier This Month
Earlier this month, the IG released a draft of its report, sending it to the DOJ and the FBI for review. The reviewers will identify any information that should be protected from public disclosure and rebut some of the report’s content.
Many legal scholars, including George Washington University constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley, have questioned the DOJ and the FBI for failing to follow the basic elements of a criminal probe. With this allegation of wrongdoing, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz has now reviewed how the DOJ and FBI conducted the Clinton email and Russian collusion investigations.
As Washington prepares for the IG report, many questions remain for the DOJ to answer:
- Why wasn’t a special counsel appointed for the Clinton email investigation when there was ample evidence that a crime allegedly had been committed?
- Why was a special counsel appointed by the DOJ looking into Russian collusion by Donald Trump and his campaign, when no one can articulate what crime was committed?
- Why did former Attorney General Loretta Lynch want to change the word “investigation” to “matter” when referring to the Clinton affair?
- Why did Lynch meet with former President Bill Clinton, who was being investigated as part of the Clinton Foundation probe? Was this meeting planned, considering the FBI security detail provides security for the AG and the Secret Service does the same for former presidents? Why was this brief encounter kept secret, considering it was a casual meeting on an airport tarmac?
- Was there direct or indirect coordination and/or collusion among the Obama White House, the Attorney General and the FBI Director?
- Why do the DOJ and FBI refuse to hand over key documents to Congress, which has constitutional oversight over Executive Branch agencies? Even when those documents are sent to Congress, they are heavily redacted.
Other disturbing questions have arisen relating to various principles at the DOJ and the FBI. Serious allegations have come to light concerning former FBI Deputy Director of Counterintelligence Peter Strzok.
Strzok allegedly harbored a strong anti-Trump bias and strong support for Clinton along with Strzok’s colleague, Lisa Page. Page was an FBI lawyer who was entangled in an extramarital affair with Strzok.
- Did Comey know about their animus toward Trump? Was this antipathy common knowledge among investigators at the DOJ and FBI?
- Did Comey know that FBI General Counsel James Baker allegedly leaked classified national security information to the media?
- Did Lynch and Comey know that former DOJ Senior Official Bruce Ohr met with Fusion GPS, the originator of the Russian dossier, during the summer and fall of 2016? Were they aware that a memo crafted by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee last month said that Ohr’s wife, Nellie, was employed by Fusion GPS, the company that asked Christopher Steele to prepare the Russian dossier?
- Why has the DOJ and the FBI handled the investigation of General Michael Flynn differently from that of the Clinton investigation?
Allegations that DOJ and FBI Mishandled the Clinton Investigation
The Clinton email investigation is one of the central elements of the IG report. Did the DOJ and the FBI follow their own procedures when investigating how Hillary Clinton and her aides handled classified materials?
Some questions that have never been answered are:
- How did classified material, especially material deemed Top Secret with the highest classification of SAP, end up on a private, unclassified server
- Did President Obama ever email classified material? He used a pseudonym in email communications with Hillary Clinton.
- Who moved the documents from the classified to the unclassified server?
- Did Clinton give her classified password to any of her aides?
- Why were others prosecuted for their handling of classified materials when Clinton was not? The federal statute states that intent doesn’t need to be proven.
- Why weren’t Clinton aides indicted for mishandling classified material and lying to the FBI?
- Why did then FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe slow-walk the Clinton email investigation, once more evidence was found?
Clinton Deletes over 30,000 Emails
Since the House began investigating the email scandal, Clinton deleted over 30,000 emails she deemed personal. Later, we learned that Platte River Networks employee, Paul Combetta, used BleachBit software to wipe Clinton’s servers clean. Clinton aides destroyed her phones with a hammer.
These actions provoke further questions, such as:
- Why did the DOJ and the FBI fail to secure Clinton’s emails and other materials the House subpoenaed?
- Why didn’t the DOJ and FBI hold Combetta to the same standard as Flynn when his story consistently changed?
- Why wasn’t a grand jury convened by the DOJ and FBI to collect evidence, documents and witnesses?
- Why were Clinton and her aides granted leniency, but not Trump, Flynn and others?
Comey and Lynch Refuse to Convene Grand Jury
This line of questioning is perplexing to many scholars, which goes to the heart of the difference between the DOJ and FBI investigations.
- Why did Comey and Lynch refuse to convene a grand jury while investigating Clinton?
- Why did Comey grant immunity to five of Clinton’s aides to obtain evidence which could easily have been obtained by a subpoena?
- Why did Comey refuse FBI agents’ request for a subpoena to gain access to Clinton’s medical records?
- Why was a grand jury never sought so the FBI could obtain a search warrant, when there was a strong possibility that evidence would be destroyed. By her own admission, Clinton stated that she deleted half her emails and turned over all work-related emails. These statements were later proven untrue.
Serious questions have arisen about how Comey allegedly failed in following prosecutorial procedures:
- Why was one lawyer allowed to represent all four material witnesses, thus giving them the opportunity to coordinate their testimony? This representation was improper.
- Why were Clinton aides Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson given immunity deals? Why were Mills and Samuelson able to act as Clinton’s legal counsel when both women were part of the ongoing investigation?
- Why would Comey authorize the destruction of laptops belonging to Clinton aides? Those laptops were subpoenaed by Congress.
- Why did Comey blatantly ignore the standard methods of classification on documents in Clinton’s emails? Clinton had extensive experience as a U.S. Senator and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. In addition, she served as Secretary of State.
- Why was Clinton never held to account for her public statements, which changed over time and always proved false?
- Why did Comey break DOJ protocols and violate the chain of command by assuming the authority of the attorney general? Comey announced that the case against Clinton was closed on July 5, 2016, when he had no authority to make such an announcement.
- Why was Comey never concerned with the meeting between Lynch and Bill Clinton?
- Why did Comey use the term “extremely careless,” instead of “gross negligence,” considering you don’t have to show intent with regard to the mishandling of classified materials?
- Why didn’t Comey follow the procedures set forth by the DOJ in conducting investigations? Why wasn’t this done in Clinton’s case, but was done in other cases?
What Is the FBI Standard for Lying?
In May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe after IG Horowitz determined that McCabe had made unauthorized leaks to the media and made disingenuous statements under oath. Part of McCabe’s dismissal was related to his handling of the Clinton Foundation investigation:
- What is the standard set forth by the FBI for lying, providing false information to Congress and leaking of classified information to government agencies and the courts?
- Why were others such as Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills not indicted for lying when they stated they never knew about Clinton’s emails? Evidence proved otherwise.
- Why have the DOJ and the FBI prosecuted others for leaking information? There are allegations that the DOJ and FBI leaked information to the media.
- Why did McCabe not report that his wife received $465,000 from Democratic Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a staunch Clinton loyalist, for her unsuccessful campaign for a Virginia state senate seat? McCabe recused himself just days before the 2016 presidential election; why didn’t he disclose this information earlier?
- Who at the DOJ ordered McCabe to shut down the investigation and for what purposes over the objections of investigators?
The Case of Trump-Russia Collusion
The most polarizing of all topics at the center of the Russian collusion investigation is the FBI’s utilization of a dossier. Former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele put together this document of unsubstantiated information to be used against Trump and his presidency. Later, it became public knowledge that the dossier was paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, raising yet more questions:
- If the dossier was unsubstantiated, why was it allegedly presented to a FISA Court judge to gain a surveillance warrant?
- In an interview, Comey stated he had little knowledge of the origins of the Steele dossier. Why did he not seek more information before presenting it to a FISA court judge?
- Why did Comey never inform Trump who actually paid for the dossier before briefing him?
- Why did Comey and then-CIA Director John Brennan circulate the unverified dossier through the U.S. intelligence agencies, which gave it an aura of credibility that the press used?
- Did Comey know that Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper allegedly leaked the Steele dossier to the media?
- Was the dossier used by officials in the Obama administration?
- Did then Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Powers and others leak the dossier’s names and information to the press?
A Cloud Hangs over FISA Court Judge and the FBI
Democrats and Republicans are locked in partisan corners. In the past few months, we learned that Page and Strzok had a personal relationship with FISA Court Judge Rudolph Contreras, who presided over the federal case against Flynn.
Days after accepting Flynn’s guilty plea, Contreras unexpectedly recused himself from the case. It was then handed over to Judge Emmet G. Sullivan.
Since taking over the case, Sullivan has invoked the “Brady Rule.” This rule requires prosecutors to disclose exculpatory evidence in their possession to the defense. That evidence could prove favorable to the defendant by negating guilt, reducing a potential sentence or bolstering the credibility of a witness.
Text messages showed that Page and Strzok allegedly conspired to collude with Contreras at the same time he was presiding over Flynn’s guilty plea.
- Was this the reason why Contreras recused himself from the Flynn case or was there some other reason?
- Why was the investigation into Flynn’s case handled differently from the Clinton email investigation?
- Why was the FBI’s handling of the Flynn investigation different from how the Bureau handled Combetta, the individual who used BleachBit to destroy thousands of emails from Clinton’s computers?
- Why would the FBI, led by Strzok, question Flynn with such intensity about facts they already knew?
- Why would the FBI put a full court press on Flynn and others, but conduct a velvet glove investigation of Hillary Clinton?
Since Horowitz revealed the malfeasance of Page, Strzok, McCabe and others, many people are calling for an investigation of the investigators.
However, without a grand jury, it will be difficult to restore the public’s confidence. Testimony and facts are needed from key witnesses, who are no longer employees of the DOJ, the FBI and other agencies.
The only way to restore confidence in the DOJ, the FBI and the Intelligence Community is for President Trump to unclassify all documents related to all investigations. Only then will we get to the truth.
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