Rotten Apples

In the Wall Street Journal, relying in part on the Durham report, Kim Strassel argues that the FBI is not fundamentally rotten. Rather, the problems lay at the top:

Readers won’t find many direct quotes in the report from former Director James Comey or former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe—both refused to cooperate with Mr. Durham. Mr. Comey has publicly distanced himself from events, honing his mastery of “I don’t recall.” The Durham report gives the lie to this claim, which in turn explains what went wrong. The Trump probe was run by the “seventh floor”—by two men who were thrilled to be playing political kingmakers, and who broke all the rules.

The roots of the collusion investigation were planted in early April 2016, when Mr. Comey requested from underlings “relevant information pertaining to any Presidential candidate.” (He was already deep in the Hillary Clinton email probe.) The report says that he was then briefed that the New York field office was looking at recently named Trump adviser Carter Page. It wasn’t “concerned about Page” so much as the “Russians reaching out” to him. Yet the Page case and “ones like it” became a “top priority for Director Comey.”

When the FBI got wind in July 2016 of a conversation between another Trump adviser and an Australian diplomat, Mr. McCabe ordered FBI agent Peter Strzok to skip all preliminary steps and launch a full counterintelligence investigation.

Of course he did: the election was just a few months away, and Comey and McCabe wanted to help Hillary Clinton to win it.

Similarly, when the FBI received separate information from a Clinton attorney claiming a secret Trump server communicating with Russia, FBI leadership intervened to order a full probe…

Based on nothing but a transparently frivolous claim from the Clinton campaign!

…even though both cyber agents and Chicago-based agents were skeptical. One agent explained: “people on the 7th floor to include Director are fired up about this server.” McCabe would tell an inspector general that Mr. Comey “was getting daily briefings on this stuff.”

As Crossfire Hurricane continued, Comey and McCabe directed it personally, cutting out the usual chain of command:

That supervisor told the Durham team it wasn’t “normal” and she “did not know why the 7th floor was so involved,” but felt her boss, counterintelligence head Bill Priestap, was “not in charge and had to get approvals” from the brass. Mr. Priestap told Durham investigators that it drove him “insane” that his own underlings—Mr. Strzok and Lisa Page—went “around him to the 7th floor” whenever he disagreed with their approach.

So, Strassel concludes, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water:

Some are responding to the Durham report with calls to dismantle the FBI. But the report shows the rank and file doing exactly what the FBI is supposed to do—question, verify. The fault rests with an arrogant leadership that discarded the usual layers of oversight—a seventh floor that took charge with no regard for rules, little care for the truth, and no accountability from above.

A friend of mine who retired recently from the Bureau says much the same thing: the vast majority of agents are solid, he thinks, but there were seven or eight bad apples at the top who steered the FBI into the ditch.

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