When is political bias not political bias? When it is directed against Donald Trump.
The long-awaited Justice Department Office of the Inspector General (IG) report on the handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation concluded that “there was no evidence of bias or other improper considerations affecting the handling” of the investigation. The hunt for bias was central to the IG’s inquiry. The word appears 120 times in the document. But though they refused to admit it, the IG team found bias wherever they looked.
The most shocking statement was from the Peter Strzok/Lisa Page texts. “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Page wrote, to which Strzok replied, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.” The IG report noted that this is “not only indicative of a biased state of mind,” but “even more seriously, implies a willingness to take official action to impact [Donald Trump’s] electoral prospects.”
This was also around the time that Strzok was starting the sketchy Russia investigation, which will be the subject of a future report. Another interesting wrinkle is that while Page’s question had previously been released to Congressional investigators, Strzok’s answer was specifically omitted, and remained unseen until this report. It makes you wonder what other inflammatory evidence has been withheld, and why.
Uneducated lazy voters
“FBI Attorney 2” was “numb” following Donald Trump’s victory and “stressed about what [he] could have done differently.” Does he mean, done differently to influence the outcome of the election? “FBI Employee” consoled Attorney 2 that “Trump’s supporters are all poor to middle class, uneducated, lazy POS that think he will magically grant them jobs for doing nothing” and are “stupidly wrapped up in his unmerited enthusiasm.” Attorney 2, when asked if he contemplated leaving the Bureau rather than serve under Trump, said, “Hell no. Viva le resistance.” Attorney 2 soon transitioned to a job with the Mueller witch hunters, but was forced out last February when the IG provided Mueller with texts that “raised concerns of potential bias.”
“Agent 1,” who had interviewed Hillary Clinton in July 2016 referred to her as “the president” because “Trump can’t win.” When asked later by investigators if he treated her any differently because of his perception that she would soon be running the executive branch, Agent 1 replied, “Absolutely not.” But are we supposed to take that denial at face value?
Recall Page texting Strzok and then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe that when it came to investigating Mrs. Clinton, “the last thing you need is us going in there loaded for bear.” And the IG report says that allowing Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson — the Hillary Clinton aides who oversaw the destruction of her emails — to be present during the interview created an “appearance of bias.” No, it was actual bias that let them in the room.
Former Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik tried to get a job for his son on the Clinton campaign and sent longtime friend and Clinton campaign manager John Podesta a “heads up” email regarding the release of Clinton emails under pending Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation. According to the IG this was not evidence of bias, but “raised a reasonable question about his ability to act impartially on Clinton-related matters.” Yet there would be no question if Kadzik wasn’t biased to begin with.
The expression “no evidence” appears 73 times in the report. However, bias can sometimes be seen in what was not done. In July 2016 James Comey admitted that Hillary Clinton had lied about not having sent or received classified material, about only using one electronic device, and about having turned over all her work-related emails. But nothing was done about it. She ordered hard drives wiped with BleachBit after Congress had issued a subpoena for their contents, but investigators gave her a pass.
Critical evidence against Clinton
And the FBI completely ignored the smoking gun email exchange with Clinton subordinate Jake Sullivan in June 2011 instructing him to strip classification markings from a document and “send nonsecure.” In these cases, the evidence of bias in the FBI’s handling of the investigation is the absence of action.
The report notes that there were some FBI employees who “hated former Secretary Clinton” and made comments such as, “[Y]ou guys are finally going to get that bitch.” But they were kept off the email investigation. Maybe that’s fair.
What is not fair is that the bureau reacted by putting together a team whose biases were clearly pro-Clinton and virulently anti-Trump. And somehow the same cast of Trump-hating characters pops up in the Clinton email probe, the Russia investigation, and the Mueller matter, undermining the validity of all three investigations.
Finally, although the IG found “no bias or other improper consideration” in the “FBI’s decisions or actions,” the Bureau is still going to require a new training that will address exactly that. In the words of the FBI, the training will drill “home the importance of objectivity — and of avoiding even the appearance of personal conflicts or political bias in our work.”
Because they want to work swiftly to eliminate this problem that doesn’t exist.
James S. Robbins, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and author of This Time We Win: Revisiting the Tet Offensive, has taught at the National Defense University and the Marine Corps University and served as a special assistant in the office of the secretary of Defense in the George W. Bush administration. Follow him on Twitter: @James_Robbins.