In a remarkable turn of events, the United States Attorney in Connecticut, appointed by Attorney General Barr to conduct a “wide-ranging investigation” into “origins of the Trump -Russia probe” has issued a “public statement” – bluntly disagreeing with conclusions of in the Inspector General’s report on “political bias” tied to the FISA warrant process. Recall, that process was used by Obama’s FBI to surveil the Trump presidential campaign.
The US Attorney’s statement is significant for five reasons. They should concern every American.
First, the Justice Department IG’s report – released on December 9th – concludes that, while 17 “significant inaccuracies and omissions” are attributable to FBI personnel seeking surveillance warrants on the Trump campaign, neither FBI Director James Comey nor Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe acted “with political bias.” Hmmm.
On its face, this seems an odd conclusion, since there are innumerable public and private statements, personal texts, emails and “admissions against interest” on record by both men suggesting, if not intentional targeting of President Trump, serious bias against him. Is that in question?
To believe that either man undertook to surveil the Trump campaign with motivations “scrubbed” of their political bias seems a bit unlikely. In fact, given testimony by both men, their somewhat ignominious dismissals, a book by one and testimony of politically- animated subordinates, the idea that this was just a “standard, everyday” investigation by a Democrat Administration into the campaign of a Republican presidential opponent – seems utterly untenable. Doesn’t it?
Second, the IG report notes that it “did not find documentary or testimonial evidence” of political bias or “improper motivation” in the FBI’s decision to get a FISA warrant to go after the Trump campaign. That process is intended to be very strict, protecting not just presidential campaigns but American citizens. A warrant effectively ends 4th Amendment privacy and 5th Amendment “due process” rights.
This too seems odd, as the FBI knew what they were doing – relying on suspect information passed to them by partisans, paid for by an opposing presidential campaign (which they had precipitously cleared of wrong-doing during the summer of 2016). Why did they rely on tainted information, if not from bias?
They knew the information on which they pushed FISA judges to rely was of dubious veracity, and had a political origin, yet they did not share that fact with the FISA judges. Why not? The omission is material – since it would have affected the decision-making process of the judges.
Why did that “omission” occur, if not for bias or fear of being accused of bias? If they could not defend the warrant application on the law, they should not have sought the warrant. Right? By seeking it anyway – on politically suspect information, omitting a politically damaging source – certainly looks like political bias. Doesn’t it?
Third, the IG report says information known within the FBI that undercut “probable cause” for that curious FISA warrant was hidden from those who should have had it. Why? In context of a criminal trial, this amounts to hiding “Brady” or “Jenks” evidence, exculpatory material that helps an accused, renders a case weaker, or utterly indefensible. Why would such information be kept from key Justice personnel? Here is another “omission” that, coincidentally, looks awfully politically biased.
Next, the IG report notes Comey’s run-wild FBI sent “confidential sources” to “record” conversations with Trump campaign advisors. Why? Notably, the recorded conversations were a bomb. They offered strong indications that no Russia collusion existed. That should have immediately turned off any non-biased investigation. It did not. Still, the IG … found no political bias.
Rather ironically, the IG report notes that FISA warrant applications must be “scrupulously accurate,” since the point of the FISA process is to protect constitutional rights of American citizens – especially an opposing presidential campaign. Yet through all this, the IG proffer claims the 17 identifiable “inaccuracies and omissions” have nothing to do with political bias.
Now we come to the crux. Imagining the IG just wants to keep his nose clean, stay away from politics, avoid feeding into that squirrelly, controversial impeachment debate under way in Congress, what would give rise to a “public statement” by the US Attorney investigating the same origins – albeit more comprehensively – for the Trump-Russia collusion probe?
A few ideas. Here is why the US Attorney may have felt compelled to speak. The US Attorney is not conducting an “administrative” probe, but an expressly “criminal” investigation. He has far wider latitude to look under rocks, and to survey the rock field. He has been interviewing a wide field of potential witnesses, possesses subpoena power an IG does not have, is likely empaneling a grand jury, and may have indictments to announce. When? Maybe soon.
In short, no amount of administrative review, wishful thinking, surmising about non-bias by an inspector general, let alone trying to stay clear of controversy – can begin to uncover, announce, prosecute or do what an empowered US Attorney can do.
The reason – almost certainly – the US Attorney spoke to correct the record, without announcing findings of his own, indictments or contrary conclusions, is that his investigation is finding political bias, perhaps provable criminal behavior – and that will be significant. He could not let the opposite record stand.
Notably, indictments as to the origins of the Trump-Russia collusion probe would flip everything. It would delegitimize any article of impeachment tied to obstruction of justice, putting obstruction on the other foot – leading to prosecution of individuals who advanced a false narrative, broke laws and gave wing to their political bias to beat Donald Trump in 2016. Stay tuned. This drama may be just beginning.