FBI – Google News: GOP Access to FBI Files Rattles Agents Caught in Political Fight – Bloomberg – January 16, 2018 – Link
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|GOP Access to FBI Files Rattles Agents Caught in Political Fight|
The Justice Department’s decision to give congressional Republicans access to documents about FBI investigations risks exposing sensitive sources or material and poses a critical early test for bureau Director Christopher Wray, current and former U.S. law enforcement officials say.
Some officials view the department as capitulating to a small group of Republicans who are intent on helping President Donald Trump undermine the integrity of the FBI and, by extension, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump or any of his associates helped Russia interfere in the 2016 election.
It’s the latest setback for a law enforcement agency that has long held itself out as doggedly independent and above partisan politics, only to be besieged over the last two years by questions about its handling of politically sensitive investigations into Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Trump.
One agent said he’s now concerned that forms identifying FBI informants would be handed over to Congress. If that happened, he said, it would cause him to think carefully about whether to withhold sensitive information from future reports.
FBI Chief of Staff James Rybicki is to be interviewed behind closed doors on Thursday by members of two House committees, according to two officials familiar with the plans.
Unrest in Ranks
A dozen current and former officials — all from the career ranks of the FBI and Justice Department, as opposed to the president’s political appointees — spoke to Bloomberg News on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters and express their concerns.
Meeting With Ryan
Tensions between Republicans and the Justice Department deepened in recent weeks as lawmakers demanded sensitive documents and agency leaders resisted turning them over. The standoff led to a dramatic meeting between House Speaker Paul Ryan, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Wray to discuss potential contempt of Congress charges for failing to turn over documents.
Other officials said they’re worried about an effort by Trump and his allies to oust anyone seen as being disloyal to the president. During a hearing in December, Republican Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas named specific FBI officials and asked Wray whether they’ve ever openly displayed a bias against the Trump administration.
The documents now being turned over were requested by Republican leaders of the House Judiciary Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
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|Wanted: An Honest FBI – Paywall News|
The bureau’s handling of the Trump and Clinton probes dispirits a veteran.
“I do not recognize the agency I gave 28 years of my life to.”
The speaker is James Kallstrom, the agency his beloved Federal Bureau of Investigation. Like current special counsel and former FBI Director Robert Mueller, Mr. Kallstrom served as a Marine officer in Vietnam. Unlike Mr. Mueller, Mr. Kallstrom came up through the FBI ranks, eventually becoming an assistant director and heading the bureau’s largest field office in New York. Over his career Mr. Kallstrom is credited with revolutionizing the bureau’s electronic surveillance, as well as leading big cases ranging from the probe into the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800 to mob investigations such as the one that helped send the “Teflon Don”—Gambino crime boss John Gotti —to prison.
Today Mr. Kallstrom has emerged as a critic of the FBI investigations into Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Over coffee in Manhattan he tells me that “99% of FBI agents are dedicated professionals. But the leadership in Washington has harmed the bureau’s reputation.”
It isn’t so much the conclusions he objects to—though he has his doubts—as the irregular way the investigations have been conducted. If the FBI finds itself discredited, he says, it’s because of its own behavior and not any campaign against it.
Here are a few examples of what Mr. Kallstrom finds so alien:
James Kallstrom, then assistant director of the New York FBI office, in 1995.Photo: STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images
• Director James Comey testifies to Congress in September 2016 that he hadn’t decided to recommend against prosecuting Mrs. Clinton until after the FBI had interviewed her—but it later emerges he’d started drafting his statement clearing her weeks earlier.
• An FBI agent and FBI lawyer— Peter Strzok and Lisa Page —have an affair that opens them up to blackmail and poses a clear conflict of interest in working together. Even so, they fail to recuse themselves from the Mueller investigation.
• This same FBI duo exchange messages that later get Mr. Strzok dumped from Mr. Mueller’s team, here talking about an FBI “insurance policy” against Mr. Trump’s winning the election, there talking about how to keep hidden from colleagues what looks like a leak to the press.
• The FBI secures a FISA warrant to spy on a member of Mr. Trump’s campaign, which some news reports say relied in part on a dossier that was financed as opposition research for the Clinton campaign and which Mr. Comey himself described as “salacious and unverified.”
“I can’t tell you how foreign all this is to my experience,” Mr. Kallstrom says. “The FISA courts rely on the honesty and credibility of the investigators who sign those affidavits.”
The problem started, he suggests, when Mr. Comey allowed then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch to ensure the FBI investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s emails would go nowhere. He rattles off a list of irregularities disturbing to any investigator: the reluctance to go to a grand jury for subpoenas, the immunity deals granted Clinton associates, the farce of an FBI interview with Mrs. Clinton that had a dozen people in the room, including Cheryl Mills, who was permitted to attend as counsel when she was a potential co-conspirator, etc.
While the Justice Department, not the FBI, makes these decisions, Mr. Kallstrom says Mr. Comey did have an option: “That was the moment he should have held a press conference, to announce his resignation—and then explain to the American people why he would not stay and preside over a sham investigation.”
Mr. Kallstrom is not much more enthused about the new director, Christopher Wray. During his own recent testimony before Congress, Mr. Wray stonewalled—and suggested ridiculously that he couldn’t let Congress see classified material. “They act,” Mr. Kallstrom says, “like they work for someone from outer space rather than the president of the United States.”
Later Mr. Wray attempted an end run around the subpoena from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes for key documents and committee access to FBI officials. Fortunately Speaker Paul Ryan backed Mr. Nunes (and the House’s ability to exercise its oversight responsibilities), informing Mr. Wray that if he didn’t produce the documents and witnesses, he faced a contempt vote.
Which leaves America still in the dark about the two fundamental questions regarding the dossier at the heart of the Trump-Russia investigation: What—if anything—did the FBI verify from the Steele dossier, and did the bureau use any unverified material to get a warrant to spy on members of Mr. Trump’s campaign?
For those who grew up in proud FBI families, including this columnist, the disclosures about these investigations are dispiriting. As Mr. Kallstrom notes, it’s bad enough for the American people if a politician is bending the law. It’s far worse if the two top institutions responsible for upholding the law—the FBI and Justice Department—are found to have compromised themselves.
“The FBI gets its strength from the trust of the American people,” Mr. Kallstrom says. “When you lose that . . .”
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|Wanted: An Honest FBI – News Summed Up|
Wanted: An Honest FBI
“I do not recognize the agency I gave 28 years of my life to.”The speaker is James Kallstrom, the agency his beloved Federal Bureau of Investigation. Like current special counsel and former FBI Director Robert Mueller, Mr. Kallstrom served as a Marine officer in Vietnam. Unlike Mr. Mueller, Mr. Kallstrom came up through the FBI ranks, eventually becoming an assistant director and heading the bureau’s largest field office in New York. Over his career Mr. Kallstrom is credited with revolutionizing the bureau’s electronic surveillance,…
|9:45 AM 1/16/2018 FBI News Review|
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