Trump’s biased Department of Justice appointees just got caught initiating a highly inappropriate attack on one of the FBI’s top agents in a way sure to torpedo one of their own Inspector General’s investigations.
DoJ officials leaked FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok’s personal text messages to the right-wing news media in a nakedly partisan effort to discredit America’s top federal law enforcement agency.
Now, a stunning report from Business Insider‘s Natasha Bertrand just ripped the mask off of the source of the leaked DOJ Inspector General’s evidence as none other than a source inside the Department of Justice, itself! Bertrand wrote:
- The Justice Department invited a group of reporters to its offices on Tuesday night to view private text messages.
- The messages were sent during the 2016 campaign by former investigators on the special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, and some expressed a negative sentiment toward President Donald Trump.
- The department’s invitation was “highly unusual,” one source said, since the texts are the subject of an ongoing investigation by its inspector general.
“Giving journalists access to texts that are evidence in an internal investigation is highly irregular and itself suggests a partisan political motive by the Department Of Justice,” former federal prosecutor and Democratic candidate for Illinois Attorney General Renato Mariotti told Verified Politics.
Investigative files are generally kept secret until criminal probes are completed, and Department of Justice policy doesn’t even permit comment about an ongoing investigation, let alone releasing evidence.
But the DOJ took things one big step further, not only delivering secret information, but doing so to ensure publication ahead of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s testimony to Congress today. Business Insider wrote:
One source close to the process who requested anonymity to discuss internal DOJ deliberations said the texts were given to reporters in case they did not leak in time for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s public hearing on Wednesday morning.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) asked Rosenstein if Attorney General Sessions was involved in the intentional leak, and he replied: “Not to my knowledge.”
“I don’t see this as potential obstruction of justice,” said Mariotti when asked if the DOJ’s intentional leak about FBI agent Strzok could wind up spurring a criminal investigation, “It is highly prejudicial to the agents being investigated and it is improper, but I don’t think their disclosure to the press a crime.”
Frequently public Republican Congressional demands to investigate leaks compound the irony of today’s report.
Furthermore, it’s not a crime for federal employees to hold political opinions or to privately express those opinions. In fact, it is a crime for someone like Special Counsel Mueller – incidentally, himself a lifelong Republican – to consider party affiliation in his hiring decisions.
In questioning Rosenstein, Representative Lofgren (@RepZoeLofgren) rightly points out that it would have been an illegal Prohibited Personnel Practice to consider the party affiliation of investigators when Mueller was forming his team. See 5 U.S. Code § 2302(b)(1)(E).
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) December 13, 2017
“FBI agents, like every other human being, have private political beliefs. They have a First Amendment right to express them,” Mariotti explained about the FBI agent’s political commentary, which took place during last year’s national elections that swallowed the news cycle.
“While sometimes expressing those views may be unwise, depending on whom they are investigating, expressing political opinions is not a crime or itself a cause for alarm.”
The stunning news that Trump’s Department of Justice is carrying secret evidence to the media to ensure sensational, out of context stories are reported by the likes of a Fox News or Breitbart is a major violation of political norms.
But it’s an even more terrifying prospect how to learn that the non-partisan DOJ has been hijacked to such a degree that they’ll leak secret evidence to the media just to harm a witness or investigatory subject, even if it tramples the FBI agent’s right to due process in an investigation.
Donald Trump’s crony political appointees at the Department of Justice have crossed a major red line between non-partisan justice and using the machinery of government in a political attack.
h/t Business Insider’s Natascha Bertrand