By Chris Swecker
Published March 25, 2019
Now that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s highly anticipated report on Russian collusion is complete, it is time to focus on the other half of the equation: Did members of the intelligence community “weaponize” their powers for the purpose of discrediting a political campaign and a sitting president? Fortunately, there is an ongoing Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigation that addresses this and other important questions.
It is critical for this country to know if a small cadre of Justice Department and FBI executives abused and violated U.S. laws and guidelines on the conduct of investigations when former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe rushed to open an investigation into a sitting president for obstruction of justice.
McCabe was angry and reacting to the president’s firing of his boss, former FBI Director James Comey, for insubordination and violating well-established DOJ procedures and possibly U.S. laws in exonerating Hillary Clinton in a grandstanding press conference in July 2016.
The OIG is also looking at the role played by a seedy “dossier” containing opposition research that was paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign. That unsubstantiated document found its way into an FBI FISA warrant application to spy on the Trump campaign, which was granted just weeks before the 2016 election.
Rather than conduct more kangaroo investigations, as House Democrats seem intent to do, Congress should spend our taxpayer dollars designing remedial legislation to fix the systemic problems within the Department of Justice that we have seen play out over the last two years.
There is plenty of material to work with, as the DOJ OIG has already completed and published two extremely thorough investigations. The results of a third significant inquiry will soon be released, which may well be the most important and potentially impactful.
This “investigation of the investigation” is as critical as the Mueller report because it can reform how sensitive FBI investigations are handled in the future.
Congress should closely examine these three reports and do something useful for a change. It should design laws and procedures to make it extremely difficult for DOJ officials to violate well-established rules, or make their own rules, as was done flagrantly by Comey, President Obama’s attorney general Loretta Lynch, and several of their underlings.
Congress should also pass laws that will stem the flow of media leaks – the wholesale theft and disclosure/exposure of classified or sensitive government information.
Why not use taxpayer dollars for congressional inquiries that build on real investigations by professional investigators to address the systemic weaknesses that enabled these rogue actors to operate without any accountability?
The OIG’s 568-page report on the Clinton email investigation detailed a series of highly disturbing actions committed by various actors, including the rank insubordination of the FBI Director (Comey), extensive bias on the part of key FBI executives, and a culture of leaking details of sensitive investigations to the media.
The report also revealed how Lynch limited and obstructed the scope and conduct of the Clinton email investigation.
Congress should now use this information to identify and remedy systemic weaknesses that enable such political interference with a lawfully predicated investigation. Taxpayer dollars would be well spent holding hearings on these and other “irregularities” that have so undermined public confidence in our justice system.
In addition to the two existing OIG reports, Robert Mueller’s report and the OIG’s upcoming report on the genesis of the Trump investigation and the FISA abuse will provide additional fodder to Congressional committees if they really want to find solutions.
This “investigation of the investigation” is as critical as the Mueller report because it can reform how sensitive FBI investigations are handled in the future. Congress now has the opportunity to ensure that a small but powerful group of zealots never again abuses its power to further its political goals or punish its political opponents.
A full airing of all three OIG reports on the means and methods of the DOJ and FBI executives who extended a properly-predicated espionage investigation into Russian interference in our 2016 election, into a thinly-predicated and politically-motivated investigation into the Trump presidential campaign, will help us ensure a fair and level playing field in the future.
Safeguards must be built into the justice system to prevent any more political interference in sensitive investigations. This is where congressional committees can play an effective and useful role.