I don’t understand why he wasn’t showed the door the day the IG discovered the “we’ll stop it” text. Whether he actually did anything to stop Trump is key for investigative purposes but beside the point for employment purposes. The mere appearance of impropriety in having a federal official on the Clinton/Trump beat talking about “stopping” one presidential candidate is so foul that you have to fumigate. Step one is Strzok finding a new career.
Even an anti-Trumper as hardcore as David French, who nearly ran against POTUS in 2016 to try to split the right, is demanding a pink slip here.
The defense that Strzok didn’t actually stop Trump isn’t all that relevant to the problem of intent. There is more than enough reason to terminate him and place every single one of his actions under the highest degree of scrutiny. Transparency is absolutely vital.
— David French (@DavidAFrench) June 14, 2018
Is there any doubt Lee Doren is correct here?
Imagine if a high-ranking FBI agent said the FBI would stop Obama in 2008. The Press would go insane.
— Lee Doren (@LDoren) June 14, 2018
Strzok’s “we’ll stop it” text is even more redolent of political bias than Comey’s actions are. The IG report basically confirms Comey’s account of his own intentions. He violated FBI protocol by disclosing the results of an investigation that failed to result in charges against anyone but he didn’t do it because he was in the tank for Trump or because he had a vendetta against Hillary. He did it, he claims, because he was concerned that Obama’s FBI would be accused of being in the tank for the Democratic nominee unless he explained his reasoning to the public on not recommending charges, especially after Loretta Lynch’s dubious tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton. That was insubordinate, the IG determined — protocol is protocol, and he didn’t so much as bother to inform Lynch of his plans — but not evidence of bias.
On the charge of hypocrisy, though, Comey stands guilty as charged. This isn’t as bad as running your own private server to retain total control of your classified correspondence, but still. Hoo boy:
IG found that on numerous occasions, COMEY used a personal GMail account to conduct official FBI business, according to source briefed on the report.
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) June 14, 2018
The FBI’s reputation can survive a break with protocol in the interest of transparency, especially since the IG didn’t accuse Comey of having gotten the decision on whether to charge Clinton wrong. (Although he did slam him for announcing that he was reopening the investigation in late October 2016.) Whether its reputation can survive federal officials dropping heavy-handed hints of partisan bias while they’re investigating presidential candidates is iffier. Here’s what Strzok apparently told the IG when pressed on the “we’ll stop it” text:
Strzok told investigators he believed the message “was intended to reassure Page that Trump would not be elected, not to suggest that he would do something to impact the investigation,” according to the report. Both he and Page generally defended their messages as instances of sharing personal opinions that did not affect their work.
“I’m an American. We have the First Amendment. I’m entitled to an opinion,” Page told investigators.
So the “we” in “we’ll stop it” was a reference to the American electorate, not to the DOJ — even though both he and the person he was texting worked for the DOJ at the time, while Strzok was personally involved in investigating Emailgate? C’mon.
At least Strzok was the only person investigated to express anti-Trump (or pro-Clinton) bias, though, right? Wrong. More from WaPo:
Page and Strzok are not the only FBI officials assigned to the Clinton email probe who were found to have exchanged personal messages indicating either an animus against Trump or frustration with the fact that the FBI was investigating Clinton. The report identified five officials with some connection to the email probe who were expressing political views, faulting them for having brought “discredit to themselves, sowed doubt about the FBI’s handling of the midyear investigation, and impacted the reputation of the FBI.” The midyear investigation refers to the Clinton email probe.
“The messages cast a cloud over the FBI investigations to which these employees were assigned,” Horowitz alleged. “Ultimately the consequences of these actions impact not only the senders of these messages but also other who worked on these investigation and, indeed, the entire FBI.”
It’s also not quite true that the IG cleared Strzok of any behavior evincing partisan motives, as some reports claimed this morning. Ed rightly noted that the IG said it had found no hard evidence of bias in the matter currently being investigated — Emailgate — but said nothing about Russiagate. In fact, though, per WaPo, the IG did theorize that Strzok’s hostility to Trump may explain why he was more interested in pursuing Russiagate in October 2016 than in pursuing Hillary emails found on Anthony Weiner’s computer in late September. He may have feared that the emails would turn up something incriminating and suddenly the election would tilt to Trump, although the IG has no proof of that. Either way, the joke’s on Strzok: If he had been more gung ho to investigate Weiner’s laptop, Comey might have sent his famous letter about reopening Emailgate weeks before he did. Which may have given Hillary just enough time to recover before Election Day to win the presidency.
It’s not all terrible news for Strzok. Read the IG’s executive summary and you’ll find Horowitz noting that both Strzok and Page at times called for more aggressive investigation of Hillary’s email practices involving warrants and subpoenas, suggesting that their personal presidential preferences didn’t deter them from doing their jobs in at least this particular case. (Russiagate, again, is a separate question.) But all of that is to some extent beside the point. The question of actual impropriety is important and will wait for another day. The question of an appearance of impropriety — an egregious one with the highest political stakes — is now settled. Why does Strzok still have a job?
Update: Everyone’s favorite FBI director is chill with the verdict.
I respect the DOJ IG office, which is why I urged them to do this review. The conclusions are reasonable, even though I disagree with some. People of good faith can see an unprecedented situation differently. I pray no Director faces it again. Thanks to IG’s people for hard work.
— James Comey (@Comey) June 14, 2018
Update: From Chapter 12 of the IG report:
If Strzok was this opposed to Trump’s election, why not ask to be reassigned from the two investigations?