The Comey letter that may have singlehandedly tilted the election to Trump was drafted by … alleged deep-state stooge Peter Strzok? He not only supported reopening the investigation before the election but actually contributed to the letter that enabled a momentous Republican upset?
Regardless, it’s too late to salvage his reputation. This narrative, that Strzok and Lisa Page were hellbent on derailing a Trump presidency, is so well baked at this point that the shell is impenetrable. Today’s CNN scoop reminds me of one of my favorite “Naked Gun” quotes: “It’s the missing evidence in the Kelner case! My God, he *was* innocent!” “He went to the chair two years ago, Frank.”
Strzok already went to the chair. And even in CNN’s telling here, there’s some room for doubt about whether he wanted the public to know that the feds were sniffing around Clinton’s emails again.
Strzok, who co-wrote what appears to be the first draft that formed the basis of the letter Comey sent to Congress, also supported reopening the Clinton investigation once the emails were discovered on disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s laptop, according to a source familiar with Strzok’s thinking. The day after Strzok sent his draft to his colleagues, Comey released the letter to Congress, reigniting the email controversy in the final days of the campaign.
Strzok did, however, harbor reservations about Comey making a public announcement just days before the election and sent a text message to that effect, two sources said. And Strzok’s text messages provided to Congress show him grappling with the fallout of making the letter public, according to a CNN review of his texts…
While Strzok was removed from the Mueller probe last year, he also was deeply involved in the Clinton investigation and sought to pursue it “aggressively,” according to the source familiar with Strzok’s thinking.
You can shoehorn that into a pro-Strzok or anti-Strzok narrative as you see fit. The pro-Strzok narrative is easy. If he was in the tank for Clinton and desperately wanted to see Trump defeated, why the hell would he support reopening the Emailgate probe — especially before Election Day? All that could do is cause her trouble. But, as noted in the excerpt, he had “reservations” about making the letter public. That’s the anti-Strzok narrative: Yeah, sure, he was willing to earn his paycheck by seeing what was on Weiner’s computer but he was still thinking of poor, dear Hillary and the political consequences to her if word got out. There’s still some evidence of bias here, depending upon what exactly those text messages say about his “reservations.” Besides, didn’t Strzok famously “soften” the language in Comey’s famous press conference about Emailgate, changing the highly damning term “gross negligence” to the less incendiary “extremely careless”? Maybe he softened Comey’s letter too. CNN’s unclear on what precisely his contribution to the drafting process was.
But there’s a non-biased reason too why he might have had reservations. It’s S.O.P. at the FBI not to announce when an investigation is being launched or re-launched. Announcing it in Hillary’s case was a departure from how the Bureau typically does business, as many an irate Democrat would remind us after Comey’s letter was released. Comey ended up deciding that, having explained to the public his reasoning for not recommending charges against Clinton in July 2016 (which was itself a break from FBI protocol), he had to be consistent and let everyone know that the probe had resumed, whatever the consequences to the election. Strzok may have been uncomfortable with yet another deviation from standard FBI procedure, which would have/should have required them to quietly resume the investigation, say nothing, and then recommend charges if anything incriminating was found, which it wasn’t. Strzok was the going by the book in feeling those reservations, whatever his political biases.
In deciding whether the pro- or anti-Strzok explanation is the correct one, a question to consider: Strzok had to know that reopening the investigation in late October posed enormous political risk to Clinton and was highly likely to leak, no? Any whisper on Capitol Hill that Emailgate was back on would have caused a sensation among Republicans, who would have seen it, correctly, as a potential gamechanger. All it would have taken is one friendly FBI source to chatter to the papers or to sympathetic GOPers in Congress about what was going on behind the scenes and the story would have blown up. Strzok surely realized that and yet, according to CNN, supported reopening the investigation anyway, whatever his reservations about a formal announcement. I don’t know how else to read that except as evidence that he was willing to do his duty even when it conflicted with his political leanings.
Anyway, it sure is interesting that this is leaking now. It’s almost as if a leak war has begun between the White House and the FBI over Memogate! Exit question via Julian Sanchez: If the deep state has been plotting to thwart a Trump presidency all along, why did the nascent Russiagate investigation remain a secret by and large during the final months of the 2016 campaign instead of being leaked willy nilly by nefarious FBI operatives? Was the plan to destroy Trump but only *after* he became president?
EXCLUSIVE: Controversial FBI agent Peter Strzok played a key role in the decision for James Comey to send a letter to Congress about the bureau’s investigation of newly discovered Hillary Clinton emails days before the election, CNN has learned https://t.co/j0YgCPxQvu pic.twitter.com/GZkGVmx7Pq
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) January 31, 2018