‘It was as if J. Edgar Hoover came back to life…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) At Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary hearing with Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, GOP senators asked Horowitz if there ever—to his knowledge—had been anything similar in U.S. history to the FBI’s efforts to influence the 2016 election and undermine President Donald Trump while colluding with the opposition party.
“How bad is it?” marveled Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham, R-SC. “It was as if J. Edgar Hoover came back to life—the old FBI.”
Horowitz said he was unaware of any precedent, particularly one in which low-level FBI staffers like openly biased line attorney Kevin Clinesmith had been able to sway the course of historically significant events by altering a few words in an email.
Unfathomable FBI Abuse
Clinesmith—referred to throughout the report as SSA 2—is the only person known in Horowitz’s most recent investigation into the Russia hoax to have been criminally referred for prosecution.
“You were able to uncover and discover abuse of power I never believed would actually exist in 2019,” said Graham, commending Horowitz and his staff for their meticulous legwork in reviewing more than a million documents.
The FBI’s entire investigation into Trump was largely predicated on the possibility that the campaign may have been compromised by Russian agents, alleged to include Page, a scholar in East European energy policy who had maintained Russian contacts.
However, Page’s role as a CIA informant offered an alibi that would clearly undermine the FBI’s case for wiretapping him, creating a problem for those at the FBI who were determined to circumvent the safeguards of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
“It would be like getting a lab report from the FBI, the fingerprints don’t match and the lab says they do,” observed Graham.
Horowitz, during his testimony, deferred on any speculation of Clinesmith’s criminal conduct, which now lies in the hands of Attorney General William Barr and the Justice Department’s top brass.
According to US Code, the penalty for falsifying or altering records in a federal investigation includes fines and imprisonment “for not more than 20 years.”
An Ongoing Saga
Other FBI officials stemming from Horowitz’s probes of the Russia conspiracy have been recommended for criminal prosecution—including counterespionage agent Peter Strzok, who was hand-picked by Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to be the front-line in the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation.
Strzok was deemed in a prior Horowitz report to have violated multiple FBI policies by illegally leaking classified material to media outlets. McCabe and former FBI Director James Comey also have figured prominently into Horowitz’s past reports.
After the news leaked of Horowitz’s latest criminal referral—likely part of a left-wing media effort to diminish the report’s impact—widespread speculation centered on Lisa Page, McCabe’s legal counsel and Strzok’s extramarital paramour, who was appointed to special counsel Robert Mueller‘s staff until shocking emails between the two now-notorious FBI lovebirds revealed an egregious anti-Trump bias.
Clinesmith was also in the news during GOP-led congressional hearings about a prior Horowitz report on bias surrounding the Hillary Clinton “Mid-Year Exam” probe into her mishandling of classified emails.
After he, too, wound up on Mueller’s staff investigating Trump, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-NC, unmasked him as having sent an instant message that said “viva le resistance” to an FBI colleague.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Graham noted other questionable dispatches from Clinesmith (whose social media now appears to have gone dark), including a message the day after Trump’s election that presciently fretted, “my god damn name is all over the legal documents investigating [Trump’s] staff.”
What Lies Ahead
Clinesmith’s case—and any others referred by Horowitz and Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., during their respective investigations—likely will fall under the purview of the criminal investigation being led by special prosecutor John Durham.
Like Mueller in the earlier DOJ investigation of Trump, Durham has the power to empanel a grand jury and indict, which Horowitz did not.
Reports suggest that the Durham investigation has also expanded beyond the FBI to look into possible corruption and leaking of classified material by Obama-era CIA Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
Clapper has said that his actions in the matter were following the direct orders of President Barack Obama.
But however high up the chain the anti-Trump conspiracy may go, there clearly was an effort to create layers of deniability and separation from the White House by dispatching foot-soldiers like Clinesmith to do the dirty work.
“One of the most concerning things here was that nobody needed to be told,” Horowitz testified at the hearing.
Many GOP senators joined the inspector general in calling for sweeping reforms of the FBI’s counterespionage practices, particularly as related to the safeguards needed at the secretive FISA court for rubber-stamping domestic surveillance.
Some of FISA’s staunches defenders, such as Graham and Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said that Horowitz’s findings had shaken their formerly unwavering faith in its purpose to protect American citizens.
“I’d hate to lose the ability of the FISA court to operate at a time probably when we need it the most,” Graham said, “but after your report, I have serious concerns about whether the FISA court can continue unless there’s fundamental reform.”
Although current FBI Director Christopher Wray pledged, in the aftermath of the report, to begin implementing all of Horowitz’s recommendations, some—including Trump—questioned his response and his commitment to the major cleanup task ahead.
I don’t know what report current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was reading, but it sure wasn’t the one given to me. With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken despite having some of the greatest men & women working there!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 10, 2019