Trump’s war on the FBI is far from over

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY PAUL WALDMAN The Wash­ing­ton Post

FBI agent Peter Str­zok, fresh off mak­ing House Repub­li­cans look like a bunch of fools, has felt Don­ald Trump’s wrath at last, re­ports TheWash­ing­ton Post’s Matt Zapo­to­sky:

“The FBI has fired agent Peter Str­zok, who helped lead the bureau’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion un­til of­fi­cials dis­cov­ered he had been send­ing an­tiTrump texts.

“Ai­tan Goel­man, Str­zok’s lawyer, said FBI Deputy Di­rec­tor David L. Bowdich or­dered the fir­ing on Fri­day – even though the di­rec­tor of the FBI of­fice that nor­mally han­dles em­ployee dis­ci­pline had de­cided Str­zok should face only a de­mo­tion and 60-day sus­pen­sion.”

I don’t know enough about the FBI’s in­ter­nal dis­ci­plinary pro­ce­dures to say how un­usual it is for the deputy di­rec­tor to over­rule the bureau’s Of­fice of Pro­fes­sional Re­spon­si­bil­ity. But just to be clear about this, the mis­con­duct that Str­zok com­mit­ted was ex­chang­ing texts with an­other FBI em­ployee with whom he was hav­ing an af­fair, Lisa Page, in which they dis­par­aged then-can­di­date Don­ald Trump, the tar­get of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in which Str­zok was par­tic­i­pat­ing. That’s it. Trump has man­aged to spin that out into a grand con­spir­acy against him, and if prop­a­gat­ing that idea re­quired trash­ing the FBI, he was only too happy to do so.

I’m guess­ing this was not the first time an in­ves­ti­ga­tor had a low opin­ion of the tar­get of their in­ves­ti­ga­tion. But that brings up some­thing else to re­mem­ber: We’ve only seen Str­zok and Page’s texts be­cause the Jus­tice De­part­ment re­leased them. What the Jus­tice De­part­ment hasn’t done is re­viewed and re­leased the text mes­sages of any other agents who might have had some­thing to say about Trump or Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Which mat­ters, be­cause we know from mul­ti­ple re­ports that there was a co­terie of agents in the New York FBI of­fice who de­spised Hil­lary Clin­ton and were com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing her de­feat, and who un­der­took a cam­paign of leaks to the me­dia and in at least one case to Trump ally Devin Nunes in or­der to un­der­mine her.

And as Str­zok made clear in his tes­ti­mony last month, if he had wanted to de­rail Trump’s can­di­dacy, he could have leaked de­tails of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion to the me­dia, but he didn’t. Nor have Repub­li­cans been able to point to any ac­tions he took that were out­side es­tab­lished pro­ce­dures or bi­ased the in­ves­ti­ga­tion in any way. If any­thing, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Trump cam­paign’s nu­mer­ous con­tacts with Rus­sians and the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment’s mul­ti­fac­eted ef­fort to help Trump get elected was overly cau­tious. Yet Repub­li­cans imag­ine an anti-Trump con­spir­acy within the FBI that went after Trump by ... pro­tect­ing the con­fi­den­tial­ity of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion lest its ex­is­tence have an ef­fect on the elec­tion.

Imag­ine that you’re an FBI agent, do­ing your best to do your job. You see some­one like Str­zok be­come an un­will­ing celebrity when Repub­li­cans make him into the vil­lain of their imag­ined con­spir­acy – and then you see him fired. Then you watch as the pres­i­dent sends out tweets like this, say­ing that your col­leagues should be put in jail if they aren’t suf­fi­ciently loyal to him:

“‘Seems like the De­part­ment of Jus­tice (and FBI) had a pro­gram to keep Don­ald Trump from be­com­ing Pres­i­dent’. ... If this had hap­pened to the other side, ev­ery­body in­volved would be in jail. This is a Me­dia coverup of the big­gest story of our time.”

No one should think Str­zok’s fir­ing will mol­lify the pres­i­dent. He’ll con­tinue to trash the FBI and the Jus­tice De­part­ment when­ever he feels threat­ened. And when Robert Mueller hands down more in­dict­ments and re­veals more ev­i­dence of Trump’s wrong­do­ing, it will only get worse.

ERIN SCHAFF NYT

Peter Str­zok was fired from the FBI, even though there was no ev­i­dence that he bi­ased the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

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