Why There Should Be An Investigation of Bias at the FBI

Rogue agents in the New York field office were vehemently anti-Clinton.

During his opening statement at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Horowitz report on Wednesday, Lindsey Graham read every text message between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page in which they talked about the 2016 election. But of course, he never mentioned what was contained in this footnote to the report.

477 We reviewed the text and instant messages sent and received by the Handling Agent, the co-case Handling Agent, and the SSA [supervisory special agent] for this CHS [confidential human source], which reflect their support for Trump in the 2016 elections. On November 9, the day after the election, the SSA contacted another FBI employee via an instant messaging program to discuss some recent CHS reporting regarding the Clinton Foundation and offered that “if you hear talk of a special prosecutor…will volunteer to work [on] the Clinton Foundation.” The SSA’s  November 9, 2016 instant messages also stated that he “was so elated with the election” and compared the election coverage to “watching a Superbowl comeback.” The SSA explained this comment to the OIG by saying that he “fully expected Hillary Clinton to walk away with the election. But as the returns (came] in..it was just energizing to me to see… I didn’t want a criminal to be in the White House.”

On November 9, 2016, the Handling Agent and co-case Handling Agent for this CHS also discussed the results of the election in an instant message exchange that reads:

Handling Agent: “Trump!”
Case Handling Agent: “Hahaha. Shit just got real.”
Handling Agent: “Yes it did.”
Co-Case Handling Agent: “I saw a lot of scared MFers on.. [my way to work ] this morning. Start looking for new jobs fellas. “Haha.”
Handling Agent: “LOL”
Co-Case Handling Agent: “Come January I ‘m going to just get a big bowlof popcorn and sit back and watch.”
Handling Agent: “That’s hilarious!”

Obviously that indicates some anti-Clinton sentiment on the part of these FBI employees. But contrary to some of the reporting about this footnote, it doesn’t appear that these agents were involved in the Trump-Russia investigation.

The footnote is included in a section of the report titled “Other CHSs Who Were Not Tasked As Part of Crossfire Hurricane.” It begins by noting that some sources the FBI had relationships with had contact with the Trump campaign. But none of them were sources for the investigation. After that comes one of the most heavily redacted portions of the IG report. It discusses two confidential human sources, but redacts anything having to do with the subject of their surveillance, as well as anything they reported. The communication identified in the footnote above takes place between the people who were supervising and handling those sources.

It is clear that these sources were not connected to Donald Trump or his campaign because this section comes after a review of those, which contained no redactions. While it is impossible to be certain, in the context of a report about CHSs involved in the 2016 election, it appears that these two sources were reporting on Hillary Clinton. If that is true, they were doing so with supervisors and handling agents who were vehemently anti-Clinton, going so far as to refer to her as a “criminal.”

If that section does involve sources reporting on Clinton or her campaign, then it corroborates something Horowitz documented in his previous report about the e-mail investigation. It includes an accounting by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch of a conversation she had with former FBI Director James Comey (emphasis mine).

And then I said, now, we’ve got to talk about the New York office in general. And he said yes. And I said we both work with them. We both know them. We both, you know, think highly of them. I said, but this has become a problem. And he said, and he said to me that it had become clear to him, he didn’t say over the course of what investigation or whatever, he said it’s clear to me that there is a cadre of senior people in New York who have a deep and visceral hatred of Secretary Clinton. And he said it is, it is deep.

That coincides with reporting in the Wall Street Journal from November 2016 about rogue elements in the FBI’s New York field office who were intent on investigating Clinton.

Justice Department officials became increasingly frustrated that the agents seemed to be disregarding or disobeying their instructions…

As prosecutors rebuffed their requests to proceed more overtly, those Justice Department officials became more annoyed that the investigators didn’t seem to understand or care about the instructions issued by their own bosses and prosecutors to act discreetly.

The importance of all of this is that, when Comey testified before congress on his reasons for making the public announcement about re-opening the investigation into Clinton’s emails, he said this.

I was concerned that there appeared to be in the media a number of stories that might have been based on communications reporters or nonreporters like Rudy Giuliani were having with people in the New York field office. In particular, in I want to say mid October, maybe a little bit later, Mr. Giuliani was making statements that appeared to be based on his knowledge of workings inside the FBI New York. And then my recollection is there were other stories that were in the same ballpark that gave me a general concern that we may have a leak problem — unauthorized disclosure problem out of New York, and so I asked that it be investigated.

The rogue agents in the FBI’s New York field office were leaking information to Giuliani (and Devin Nunes as well), so Comey’s announcement was an effort to get out ahead of that story. Engagement Labs documented the impact of that on the election.

Most decisively, there was a sudden change in the net sentiment results that followed immediately after FBI Director James Comey released his Oct. 28 letter to Congress about a renewed investigation of Clinton emails. Immediately afterwards, there was a 17-point drop in net sentiment for Clinton, and an 11-point rise for Trump, enough for the two candidates to switch places in the rankings, with Clinton in more negative territory than Trump. At a time when opinion polling showed perhaps a 2-point decline in the margin for Clinton, this conversation data suggests a 28-point change in the word of mouth “standings.” The change in word of mouth favorability metric was stunning, and much greater than the traditional opinion polling revealed.

If we had an attorney general who was actually concerned about how the FBI acted in “bad faith” to influence the outcome of the 2016 election, this is what he would be investigating. He would also be concerned that Giuliani is at it again as we head into the 2020 election—this time with corrupt Ukrainians in place of rogue FBI agents. Instead, the man who currently holds the office is chasing conspiracy theories in defense of Trump. That’s simply another reason why Eric Holder is right: William Barr is unfit to serve as attorney general.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.