FBI ‘Fears Lasting Damage’ from Politicization of Investigations

The WaPo story headlined “Inside the FBI: Anger, worry, work — and fears of lasting damage” is confusing. I’ve excoriated President Trump and Congressional Republicans for their release of a memo claiming an FBI conspiracy in the Russia probe. I agree with John McCain that this action aids the Putin regime in undermining public confidence in our political system and the rule of law. And I can think of several ways that these events would create fear of damage to the ability of the FBI to do its job.

But the report doesn’t get to any of that. Here’s the lede:

In the 109 years of the FBI’s existence, it has repeatedly come under fire for abuses of power, privacy or civil rights. From Red Scares to recording and threatening to expose the private conduct of Martin Luther King Jr. to benefiting from bulk surveillance in the digital age, the FBI is accustomed to intense criticism.

What is so unusual about the current moment, say current and former law enforcement officials, is the source of the attacks.

The bureau is under fire not from those on the left but rather conservatives who have long been the agency’s biggest supporters, as well as the president who handpicked the FBI’s leader.

First off, the opening examples are of actual malfeasance by the Bureau under the odious J. Edgar Hoover. Second, aside from being unexpected, it’s unclear why having attacks come from Republicans is any more harmful than having them come from Democrats. The problem is that the attacks are unfounded, not that they’re coming from the wrong side of the aisle.

Bureau officials say the accusations in the document produced by House Republicans are inaccurate and — more damaging in the long term — corrode the agency’s ability to remain independent and do its job.

Right. Partisan attacks undermine confidence in the independence of the investigatory process. But, rather than continue in that vein, the piece goes back to the previous point:

One law enforcement official summed it up bluntly: “There’s a lot of anger. The irony is it’s a conservative-leaning organization, and it’s being trashed by conservatives. At first it was just perplexing. Now there’s anger, because it’s not going away.”

So, again, the source of the anger is that it’s Republicans, who have long championed the Bureau, doing the attacking. That’s not particularly interesting.

For decades, the FBI has been trusted to investigate corruption inside the government, even at the highest levels, including the White House. In the 1970s, the FBI’s probe of the Watergate break-in led to the resignation of President Nixon. In the late 1990s, President Bill Clinton came to detest then-director Louis Freeh, but their distrust did not lead to withering public attacks from the president himself.

Okay, we’re now back to a relevant point: the FBI has always been controversial and created resentment of those in its crosshairs. But, previously, even presidents whose political careers were put in serious jeopardy by FBI investigations refrained from personally attacking its motivations. So, Trump is violating an incredibly important norm.

Rather than drawing out that point, though, the article goes off on a tangent:

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the agency was retooled to focus primarily on preventing terrorism, and public confidence in its work grew. In the past two years, however, the probe of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state and a separate Russia investigation are testing whether the FBI can maintain the trust of Congress, the courts and the country.

Right. But, as noted yesterday, there was legitimate reason to criticize former Director Jim Comey for his handling of the Clinton email investigation. While I have defended his actions in that case multiple times—and continue to think he made the best choices out of the bad options he had—Clinton and her fellow Democrats had every reason to be angry at the unprecedented announcements coming at particularly bad times in a presidential campaign. There is, however, no evidence presented in the story—or of which I’m aware—that the courts have lost any confidence in the FBI. But, sure, political criticism from both of the 2016 major party presidential nominees is bound to undermine public confidence.

Rather than expounding on that point, however, we get several paragraphs of discussion on new Director Christopher Wray’s decision to keep a low profile. We don’t get back to supporting the headline thesis until paragraph 21:

The public attacks from the president have diminished morale inside the FBI, according to current and former officials. Among themselves, senior officials and rank and file frequently debate the best way forward. Several law enforcement officials said they agreed with Wray’s low-key approach, as a means of what one called “getting back to Mueller’s FBI.”

But, really, this is a re-statement of the thesis rather than further evidence or articulation of it. That’s followed by some more navel-gazing about FBI leadership philosophy and the best way to deal with the environment.

Then, we get this:

HuffPost/YouGov poll last month found that 51 percent of the public say they have a fair amount of trust in the FBI — down 12 points from 2015. Most of that drop was driven by Republicans and independents, the poll found.

That’s useful information! Trust is down! And it’s among Republicans and independents. But, alas, the linked story is even more poorly written, so we’re not given apples-to-applies comparisons. We see that Republicans have dropped 22 points and independents 15 points in their confidence in the Bureau since the 2015 survey. But how does that compare to the Democratic confidence level? It doesn’t say.

Going to the 2015 and 2018 poll data themselves, though, we see that Democrats actually have more confidence in the FBI than before! In 2015, 60 percent of Democrats had at least a “fair amount” of confidence in the Bureau. Now, that figure is up to 69 percent.  Republicans went from 76 to 45—a massive drop. And Independents fell from 56 to 41 percent. Presuming the YouGov poll methodology is reliable, then, we see something of a scattershot.

But—again assuming that one survey is a reliable indicator—I’m not sure what we’re supposed to draw from this. Even though I find Trump’s actions here outrageous, it’s not at all obvious how much the drop in confidence among Republicans—let alone Independents—is attributable to his Tweets and statements. It’s entirely plausible that it’s the FBI’s prominent role in investigations that have major partisan implications, not the reactions of partisans to those investigations, is the primary driving factor.

Regardless, the whole kerfuffle is creating some strange bedfellows. Not only are the Democrats now the leading advocates of the FBI—a major role reversal—but we even have the ACLU on their side in this one.

Privacy advocates — whose mission often centers on trying to rein in what they view as the FBI’s overbroad and unchecked surveillance powers — have found themselves defending the agency in the current fight, saying the GOP’s claims of privacy abuses lack a factual foundation.

“For a long time we’ve had a concern about the process for obtaining surveillance, a warrant to surveil an American citizen, and abuses in that process,” said Christopher Anders, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office. “And with Congressman Nunes’s memo raising concerns that there were abuses in that process, of course that’s something that would concern us. The memo itself, though, doesn’t prove the case. It doesn’t have the kind of evidence in it that you would need to see to say that there was an abuse of that authority.”

We’ll see how this all shakes out. As a #NeverTrump erstwhile Republican with strong civil liberties leanings, I both generally admire the FBI as an incredibly professional law enforcement agency and recognize that there is always a propensity for overreach and abuse once investigators think they’re on the scent.

While they’re very different cases, it’s simply inevitable that Republicans who support Trump are going to turn against the FBI when they perceive that they’re being heavyhanded in their investigation of him, just as Democrats did in the email investigation. In the current environment, everything that can be looked at through a partisan lens will be.

FILED UNDER: James Joyner, Law and the Courts
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Command and Staff College, Marine Corps University, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. MarkedMan says:

    I’m not sure what your message is here. You are saying it is not interesting news when a group that has formerly been very supportive of the FBI and reflexively supported them throughout times of scandal are now turning on the institution. All I can say is that I disagree. It is almost always more newsworthy when supporters turn against someone or something than when those already skeptical simply restate their skepticism.

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  2. Hal_10000 says:

    I’m a bit mixed on this one. Certainly, the FBI has done more than enough to damage its own rep with violations of civil liberties and anti-terror “stings” that consist of finding some poor idiot and plotting everything for him. They’ve been a big part of the sex trafficking hysteria that serves as an excuse to wreck the lives of consenting adults. And Comey, in particular, has been happy to push the “War on Cops” narrative. But I think that most of their good work is invisible to us; we don’t see it because the crimes don’t happen or are taken care of quickly.

    The problem here is that the GOP is not really interested in FBI overreach or civil liberties or law enforcement reform. If their criticism of the FBI were based on that, I’d be with them. No, they’re doing this to protect Trump. It’s disgusting.

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  3. Mikey says:

    @Hal_10000:

    The problem here is that the GOP is not really interested in FBI overreach or civil liberties or law enforcement reform. If their criticism of the FBI were based on that, I’d be with them. No, they’re doing this to protect Trump. It’s disgusting.

    This.

    There have always been criticisms of the FBI, and many times they are fully justified. What’s new about the current Trump/GOP attacks on the FBI is how nakedly political, how completely divorced from any actual misconduct by the FBI, they are.

    There’s no real evidence the FBI has conducted itself improperly in this investigation. From “unmasking” (not FBI, I know, but a big part of Trump/GOP criticism) to the laughable “memo,” everything the Trump/GOP cabal has thrown at this particular wall has failed to stick.

    Not that it makes any difference to those mired in Trump’s cult of personality.

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  4. CSK says:

    @Hal_10000: @Mikey:

    Yes. The FBI has now become part of “The Deep State” plotting to overthrow Trump.

    I’m not surprised, though. The Party of Trump really is The Party of Trump. If you’re not 110% devoted to Trump, you’re the enemy.

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  5. Teve tory says:

    What was it Sarah Huckabee Sanders said about what it means when you’re under investigation and you attack the FBI for it?

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  6. CSK says:

    @Teve tory:

    I believe she said it meant that one was…losing.

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  7. Bob@Youngstown says:

    So, again, the source of the anger is that it’s Republicans, who have long championed the Bureau, doing the attacking. That’s not particularly interesting.

    Disagree, I think it’s profoundly interesting.

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  8. MBunge says:

    Okay, I read this twice to make sure I got it. James Joyner’s position is that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats had LEGITIMATE REASONS to criticize the FBI but Trump and the Republicans do not. There is not one single thing the FBI has done or is alleged to have done and not been disproven in the last two years that Trump or anyone else could be legitimately upset about. So literally every other person who has and is criticizing the FBI, including Trump-loathing non-conservatives like Glenn Greenwald, is either profoundly stupid or ethically corrupt.

    That is James Joyner’s position.

    Oh, and Trump and others refuting attacks on the legitimacy of the American electoral process ARE serving Putin’s interest but actually attacking the legitimacy of the American electoral process, no matter how little evidence it is based upon, IS NOT serving Putin’s interest.

    And just so we don’t forget, James Joyner is NeverTrump but not NeverBush. Hundreds of thousands of people killed for no good reason. Catastrophic foreign policy mistakes we have been dealing with for 20 years and may be dealing with for the rest of our lives. The torture of prisoners. Spying on Americans without warrants. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And every other problem plaguing this country before Donald Trump rode down that golden escalator like income inequality, decades of poor wage growth, an opioid calamity so bad it is actually affecting life-expectancy statistics, police violence against minorities, massive federal debt, etc…James Joyner was either grudgingly or happily content with all of that.

    But Donald Trump is unacceptable no matter what. If the economy grows at 3%, if millions of American are put to work restoring our crumbling infrastructure, if the federal judiciary is staffed with the best judges he could imagine, if administrative state overreach is rolled back, even if our dysfunctional immigration system is fixed and peace between Israel and the Palestinians is achieved…James Joyner is now and will eternally be NeverTrump.

    Just to be clear.

    Mike

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  9. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MBunge:

    But Donald Trump is unacceptable no matter what.

    Correct. Thanks for playing.

    If the economy grows at 3%, if millions of American are put to work restoring our crumbling infrastructure, if the federal judiciary is staffed with the best judges he could imagine, if administrative state overreach is rolled back, even if our dysfunctional immigration system is fixed and peace between Israel and the Palestinians is achieved

    RLLY? 😀

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  10. Mister Bluster says:

    …actually attacking the legitimacy of the American electoral process, no matter how little evidence it is based upon,..
    Sounds like Pud! “Rigged!” “Dead people gave Clinton popular vote!”

    The torture of prisoners.
    “Torture works!” Pumpkinhead.

    “…massive federal debt…”
    Dimwit Don just signed a Tax Plan that will add TRILLIONS$$$$$$$$$$$! to federal debt!

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  11. Mister Bluster says:

    Don’t forget that from Day One he has demonstrated that he is a fuking moron and has NO IDEA WHAT HE IS DOING!

    “I thought that when I won I would go to the Oval Office, sit down at my desk, and there would be a healthcare bill on my desk…”
    Donny Dipstick

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  12. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan:

    It is almost always more newsworthy when supporters turn against someone or something than when those already skeptical simply restate their skepticism.

    Sure. It’s just largely irrelevant to the thesis statement conveyed by the headline and the lede.

    @Hal_10000:

    The problem here is that the GOP is not really interested in FBI overreach or civil liberties or law enforcement reform. If their criticism of the FBI were based on that, I’d be with them. No, they’re doing this to protect Trump. It’s disgusting.

    Concur.

    @CSK:

    Yes. The FBI has now become part of “The Deep State” plotting to overthrow Trump.

    Which, I suppose, actually makes sense. While I have misgivings about some of it, the whole “Deep State” phenomenon was a reaction to bureaucracies continuing to act normally in contravention of Trump’s trying to get them to do something abnormal.

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  13. steve says:

    Isn’t there at least a little bit of man bites dog aspect to this story? The GOP generally supports law enforcement no matter what they do. Shot an unarmed guy running away over traffic tickets? No problem. Bounce that guy around in the paddy wagon and kill him? He deserved it. From the POV of the FBI, this has got to be a bit unusual.

    Steve

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  14. michael reynolds says:

    @MBunge:

    But Donald Trump is unacceptable no matter what. If the economy grows at 3%, if millions of American are put to work restoring our crumbling infrastructure, if the federal judiciary is staffed with the best judges he could imagine, if administrative state overreach is rolled back, even if our dysfunctional immigration system is fixed and peace between Israel and the Palestinians is achieved…James Joyner is now and will eternally be NeverTrump.

    I genuinely love this. It’s so unintentionally revealing I wish I could drop in a sad trombone clip. You so want to be accepted. You so need validation. You still think you were right about Trump and we’ll all come to see it in time. But you’re a political flat-earther. You’re selling rancid steaks out of the back of your car and can’t understand why people are turning up their noses.

    Silly boy. Of course we won’t accept Trump. He’s a vile, despicable, incompetent, criminal. You have your little shoe-shine kit out, frantically polishing that turd while muttering, “Some day they’ll see I was right!” No, little Mike, you’re not ever going to be vindicated. Trump will go down in history as the president who finally bumped James Buchanan out of last place. He will go down as the pivot between America the Hegemon and America the Humiliated.

    But more to the point, you, you personally, and voters like you, will be seen as a catastrophic failure of democracy. That’s the label you wear into the future, Mike: dumb fwck who voted for Trump. I’d advise you to start hedging your bets – I saw how you tried at the start – but just like everyone who gets involved with Trump you went swirling down the porcelain appliance and now you can’t even begin to find your way back. Your best bet going forward is to kill off the @MBunge ID and re-appear as a completely different guy, maybe a guy who voted for Trump but quickly realized he’d made a mistake. That would be tenable. The guy you’ve turned yourself into? You’ll never be anything but an object of scorn. You need a reboot, kid.

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  15. michael reynolds says:

    James:

    It’s basically a bad editing job. Newspapers cut back on editorial, trusting to spellcheck and the writer’s first draft. Same thing in book publishing. I’ve had brilliant copy editors and complete ninnies. In newspapers the turn-around times are very tight in part because they are in competition with media websites which are held to far lower standards.

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  16. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: Yeah, that’s fair. I’m really evaluating this as an essay as much as anything else and finding that the evidence and argumentation aren’t organized well to support the thesis statement. There’s nothing objectionable about the report per se but it doesn’t deliver what the headline and lede promise. Were I editing this, I think I’d just reframe the opener to something like, “The FBI has long felt under assault but took comfort that they could always count on the backing of Republican politicians and at least the illusion of support from the White House. Now, both those are gone.”

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  17. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:
    I’m not sure what editing pays, but hey, if you ever need a side gig just make a cardboard sign reading, “Will edit for food.” Yeah, it’s the opening frame that sets up the cascade of not-quite-there moments.

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  18. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: I’m not sure about top publishing houses but small houses, magazines, newspapers, and the online world have either farmed the editing out to the lowest priced labor they can find or dispense with it altogether.

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  19. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner: I was responding to where you said

    Second, aside from being unexpected, it’s unclear why having attacks come from Republicans is any more harmful than having them come from Democrats.

    and

    So, again, the source of the anger is that it’s Republicans, who have long championed the Bureau, doing the attacking. That’s not particularly interesting

    I see now that your point was more to show the article didn’t fulfill it’s stated headline and lede.

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  20. Gustopher says:

    Perhaps if the FBI had a very clear set of standards to how they handle politically sensitive investigations, and followed these standards, they would not find themselves being a political football.

    The public’s knowledge of investigations done by the FBI into each of the candidates during the 2016 election could not have differed more. If there was a set of standards, it’s hard to see how they were uniformly applied.

    The FBI has always leaned right. They helped elect a man to the right who now demands that they don’t just lean right, but that they be loyal soldiers of the right. They brought this on themselves.

    Unfortunately, they also brought it on the rest of us. The next President is going to have her work cut out for her, reforming a lot of the institutions that have been damaged during the Trump era.

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  21. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I see now that your point was more to show the article didn’t fulfill it’s stated headline and lede.

    Yeah. Maybe because I’m in prime masters thesis editing mode, I’m seeing these articles as rough drafts. That the FBI doesn’t like being under fire from the President and Congressional Republicans is a blinding flash of the obvious. If you’re going to build an article around that, you have to tell me why it matters. If you’ve just got a collection of anecdotes, organize them better and come up with a new lede.

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  22. Mikey says:

    @Gustopher:

    The public’s knowledge of investigations done by the FBI into each of the candidates during the 2016 election could not have differed more.

    The investigation into Clinton’s e-mails was considered essentially concluded, while the investigation into the Trump campaign was ongoing. That explains most of the difference.

    The one thing that was unusual was Director Comey’s public statement about why the FBI wasn’t going to recommend bringing charges against Mrs. Clinton, and the main driver of that was Bill Clinton’s ill-advised tarmac meeting with AG Lynch.

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  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MBunge:

    But Donald Trump is unacceptable no matter what. If the economy grows at 3%, if millions of American are put to work restoring our crumbling infrastructure, if the federal judiciary is staffed with the best judges he could imagine, if administrative state overreach is rolled back, even if our dysfunctional immigration system is fixed and peace between Israel and the Palestinians is achieved…James Joyner is now and will eternally be NeverTrump.

    And when absolutely zero of those things happen you will still be pro-trump. By the way, how are you enjoying your $1.50 a week? Candy bar or soda? That tax break sure is a great boon to your bottom line, isn’t it?

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  24. Turgid Jacobian says:

    @michael reynolds:

    “Trump will go down in history as the president who finally bumped James Buchanan out of last place.”

    Probably. Possibly he could be even worse than that.

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  25. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    If the economy grows at 3%, if millions of American are put to work restoring our crumbling infrastructure, if the federal judiciary is staffed with the best judges he could imagine, if administrative state overreach is rolled back, even if our dysfunctional immigration system is fixed and peace between Israel and the Palestinians is achieved…

    There’s a phenomenon in grammar and syntax called “statements contrary to fact.” Mr. Bunge did not take the usual step of signaling the subjunctive mood of it all by using past tense (preferably using an unusual form, but not appropriate in this case), which means that he hopes (contrary to fact) that they will all happen.

    Unfortunately, the economy is not growing at 3% (and shows no likelihood of starting to)

    milllions of Americans have not been put to work restoring our crumbling infrastructure (and there is no sign that either the administration nor the GOP-controlled Congress has any interest in starting such a project)

    the federal judiciary is not being staffed with the best judges (and he has even gone to such lengths as to resubmit judges who had been found wanting)

    administrative overreach is not being rolled back (and Trump is seeking to privatize the Justice Department as a personal police forced)

    our dysfunctional immigration system is not being fixed (and the GOP seem to have no interest in doing so as it would necessitate amnesty and allowing people from “sh-thole” countries to still come) and

    no lasting peace is likely to be achieved by an administration that has just declared Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and seems to favor a one state solution.

    His claims are contrary to facts on the ground at this time. If Trump could (subjunctive mood signaling contrary to fact assertion–i.e. HE CAN”T) do all of those things, even I would be willing to say that Trump has been worth the trouble. Fortunately for me. I won’t have to, if any of those goals were attainable…

    But they’re not under Trump, or Republicans of any sort.

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  26. JohnMcC says:

    Mike, you must be thinking of that wonderful future predicted by the Hag:

    When the President goes through the White House door
    Does what he says he’ll do
    We’ll all be drinking that free bubble-ubb
    And eatin’ that rainbow stew.

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  27. Jake says:
  28. grumpy realist says:

    @James Joyner: This is why the self-published stuff on Amazon is so horrendous.

    It’s like dealing with the slush pile of submissions at the largest publisher in the world.

    Unfortunately, none of it ever gets edited into better quality. Very few newbie authors have the humility (or the integrity) to realize that they are TOO CLOSE to whatever they’ve written and need a battle-axe of an editor to glean out the gems of what is probably a pretty crappy manuscript.

    Anyone who thinks that he is so fantastic that he doesn’t need an editor should watch the documentary on the making of Star Wars. Lucas’s original cut was horrible. It plodded. Over two hours and the heroes had just landed on the Death Star. It was the brutal editing of those miles and miles of camera action that turned the movie into the blockbuster that it now is.

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  29. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jake:

    LOL, please explain Woods procedures for the class.

    You do get that they’re internal procedural rules within DOJ, not statutory requirements bearing the force of law, correct?

    Honestly, I think that I’ve reached the point where I believe that copy-and-paste regurgitation should be instantly fatal. It’s just far too easy for nimrods to spread stupidity that they don’t even understand to begin with.

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  30. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    Apparently it has escaped nearly everyone’s notice, but so far the Trump investigation has resulted in six high-ranking FBI officials being fired, forced to resign, reassigned, or demoted for misconduct during the course of the investigation.

    An investigation, by the way, that has developed zero proof of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and gotten two convictions on matters unrelated to the campaign.

    If the “FBI ‘Fears Lasting Damage’ from Politicization of Investigations,” then perhaps they shouldn’t politicize their investigations in the first place.

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  31. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    To clarify: while the convictions have no connection to the campaign, the aforementioned disciplinary actions within the FBI have been for conduct directly related to the investigation.

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  32. James Joyner says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    Apparently it has escaped nearly everyone’s notice, but so far the Trump investigation has resulted in six high-ranking FBI officials being fired, forced to resign, reassigned, or demoted for misconduct during the course of the investigation.

    An investigation, by the way, that has developed zero proof of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and gotten two convictions on matters unrelated to the campaign.

    Another way to look at that is that, if an investigatory agency dares go after a sitting president, its investigators should fear for their jobs. That would deter both misdeeds—a good thing—and vigorous pursuit of the truth—a bad thing, indeed.

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  33. KM says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    An investigation, by the way, that has developed zero proof of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and gotten two convictions on matters unrelated to the campaign.

    That you know of. Don’t assume you know it all because one nitwit wrote a self-serving memo and trumps it up as Watergate II. Memos are summaries at best, not evidence themselves.

    Al Capone got jail time for things unrelated to the crimes everyone knew he committed but would have a tough time proving in court. Doesn’t mean he wasn’t guilty as sin, but that the requirements for court on those charges couldn’t be met without a doubt…. and damn if lawyers aren’t good at causing doubt. So they got him on what they could. Did they want him in jail on murder charges? Sure but they were smart enough to understand jail is jail, regardless of how you got there.

    At this point, we’ll take what we can get. As satisfying as it may be to dream about Trump getting his for what he’s done to our country, I’ll settle for hard time for being a mob shill and all around crook. Even a symbolic few months in cushy celebrity jail but seizing all his assets and companies everywhere would be good enough as it would ruin his “business acumen” and take away the only thing he really cares about: money. Collusion’s the gold standard but we’ll survive with RICO just fine.

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  34. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @James Joyner: Another way to look at that is that, if an investigatory agency dares go after a sitting president, its investigators should fear for their jobs. That would deter both misdeeds—a good thing—and vigorous pursuit of the truth—a bad thing, indeed.

    Yes, that’s another way to look at that. It would have a bit more credibility if the disciplinary action taken so far was in any way unjustified, or in some way unrelated to the investigation. But in these cases, the misconduct was conducted as a part of the investigation.

    Your argument, however, has a more interesting parallel: the convictions obtained so far have been not related to the subject of the investigation — meaning that the lesson there could be that, if a zealous prosecutor wants you, they’ll find something to get you on, even if you didn’t do anything wrong related to the matter at hand. Manafort’s and Gates’ convictiosn were for dealings with Russia long before they joined Trump’s campaign (hell, from long before there was a campaign), and Flynn and Papadopolous for lying to the FBI.

    Interestingly, the Podestas have admitted to essentially the same violations that Manafort and Gates were convicted over, and Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills have also been shown to have lied to the FBI, but I haven’t heard about any prosecutions in those cases…

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  35. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @KM: That you know of. Don’t assume you know it all because one nitwit wrote a self-serving memo and trumps it up as Watergate II. Memos are summaries at best, not evidence themselves.

    As I noted in another thread, if there’s one thing you can count on from DC these days, it’s anti-Trump leaks. If there was any actual evidence that Trump had done something wrong, I would be utterly astonished if it had been kept quiet.

    For every case of “absence of proof is not proof is not absence,” there’s another curious case of the dog that did not bark in the night.

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  36. KM says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier

    If there was any actual evidence that Trump had done something wrong, I would be utterly astonished if it had been kept quiet.

    Ordinarily I’d give that one to you since you are correct that the leaking is usually prevalent these days. However, the leaks rarely come from Mueller’s side of the fence; it’s almost always Trump’s people that can’t keep their mouths shut. He can’t keep his house in order while it’s been noted time and time again Mueller’s team is running a fairly tight ship in these leaky waters.

    Congress, WH staff, people associated with Trump – they are the ones who are talking sh^t about their boss. Even the occasional “Resistance” leaks are WH-focused and are specific on what they’re doing behind the scenes (Zinke for example). The reason nobody’s talking about what Mueller may or may not have is *they don’t know* – nobody’s got access to the good dirt so they have to pull things like the Nunes memo to cast a wide preemptive aspersion net.

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  37. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @KM: I”m trying to recall a case where there was this much misconduct on the part of the federal investigators, and I’m kinda drawing a blank.

    I’ve always liked the principle that, if people have good stuff, they’ll use it; if they use garbage, that’s all they have. And in this case, we have 1) no convictions actually related to the subject of the investigation, and 2) a lot of misconduct by the investigators. Between those two elements, I find myself extremely skeptical that there’s really anything “there” there.

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  38. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    Or, I suppose, alternately, it could be that the investigators believe that they have such a slam-dunk case that they can’t screw it up, no matter how much they break the rules.

    But betting against Trump has been a very losing game so far. I thought he was done for with his shot at McCain and ““He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” and not even that stuck.

    The traditional rules for politics simply don’t apply to Trump, and expecting them to suddenly start mattering seems rather foolish. The only thing more foolish would be to depend on them suddenly starting to apply.

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  39. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    Know how long the Southern District investigated the Gambinos and built its case before it moved out of nowhere, with no warning, on the main body of indictable offenses?

    Four years

    Investigations aren’t over until they’re over. You should not, in any way, presume that just because you haven’t been privy to every detail in real-time that there is no “there” there. The next step in this drama is Trump giving his deposition. You don’t need me to tell you how that will play out.

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  40. michael reynolds says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    But betting against Trump has been a very losing game so far.

    This is the short list of people who bet on Trump and are now are either unemployed and unemployable, indicted, convicted of a felony or flipped:

    Mike Flynn
    Mike Flynn Jr.
    Paul Manafort
    Rick Gates
    George Papadopolous
    Carter Page
    Steve Bannon
    Sebastian Gorka
    Sean Spicer
    Katie Walsh
    Tom Price
    Michael Dubke
    Anthony Scaramucci
    Reince Priebus
    Omarosa

    Here are some who will be indicted within 6 months:

    Jared Kushner
    Ivanka Trump
    Donald Trump Jr.
    Jeff Sessions

    Trump’s turnover is three times what Obama’s was. And how many of Obama’s people were indicted? Would that number be zero? Yes, it would be zero, after 8 years.

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  41. michael reynolds says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    He has no idea what is or isn’t there. He lives on Breitbart and Fox and they keep telling him it’s a big nothing.

    Which explains why Trump is so sweatily desperate to stop the investigation. Because it’s a big nothing.

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  42. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @michael reynolds: Are you saying that a man who spent YEARS on TV telling people “you’re fired!” has actually had turnover in his first year? I’m shocked, SHOCKED to hear that!

    The lack of indictments under Obama are themselves an indictment of just how corrupt things were. Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin both told the FBI that they did not know about Hillary’s email server until after they left office, but there are public records of them sending emails that explicitly referred to the server. That translates to “lying to the FBI,” and (for most people, like Scooter Libby, Mr. Papadopolous, and Mike Flynn), that’s a felony.

    Oh, and Obama himself, who repeatedly said that he didn’t know about the server, also swapped emails with Hillary — under a pseudonym, of course.

    Eric Holder was found in contempt of Congress — the first Attorney General to achieve that distinction.

    Finally…

    Here are some who will be indicted within 6 months:

    Jared Kushner
    Ivanka Trump
    Donald Trump Jr.
    Jeff Sessions

    Six months from today would be August 5 or thereabouts. I’ll be generous and say August 15. Just how willing are you to stand behind that prediction, sport? That all four of those people will be indicted by a grand jury on or before August 15, 2018? (That’s Trump’s son, daughter, son-in-law, and the Attorney General, for the record.) Just what are you willing to put up to stand behind your big mouth?

    Your words, sport. Those four — every one of those four — under indictment within half a year of today. Not one, not two, not three, but all four.

    The only way I see that happening is if — somehow — you got Ronnie Earle involved. Short of him, it ain’t happening. Or, if it did, it would get thrown out as an obvious joke in incredibly short order.

    So, tough guy, you gonna stand behind that boast?

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  43. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @HarvardLaw92: With the Gambinos, at least there was an actual crime to have occurred and known about before they started digging.

    But if you’re predicting that this farce will drag on for four years before we see anything of actual substance… I wouldn’t disagree. Just that in this case, it’ll be because there isn’t anything there there.

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  44. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    Now if you’ll pardon me, I’m expecting to get discharged from the Cardiac ICU in short order, and getting my Pants Privileges restored and getting home (to a second-floor apartment, NOT my 25-years-dead mother’s basement, as one idiot keeps insisting) is a higher priority than this discussion is. Once I’m home, I might check back in.

    The docs weren’t thrilled about my participating here, because it was a blood-pressure spike that put me back here, but I assured them that it’s far, far more amusing than aggravating — and, as they say, “laughter is the best medicine.”

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  45. Joe says:

    @James Joyner:

    While I have misgivings about some of it, the whole “Deep State” phenomenon was a reaction to bureaucracies continuing to act normally in contravention of Trump’s trying to get them to do something abnormal.

    I think that this is an interesting concept that deserves its own essay from you James. I have been pondering for some months now how the “deep state” is the opposite of the cult of a single personalty. It is another name for institutional government (or institutional inertia). To successfully run a government as big as the federal government, a leader needs to know how to operate it, work with it. Trump thinks he is the government. He is not the government any more than Obama or Bush, etc. were before him. That’s always a frustration for those who back whatever President’s change agenda, but it’s also a check on any President who wants too much change. Trump demonizes with the concept of “deep state” because he can’t figure out (is unwilling, incurious) to manipulate it. So he just rails against it.

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  46. John430 says:

    I think that an unrecognized problem is that too many people wrongly believe that the FBI is a monolithic “thing”. It is made up of people and need I remind everyone of rotten apples and barrels?

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  47. JKB says:

    “its investigators should fear for their jobs. ”

    That already happens at much lower levels. I have a close friend who had an investigation end up with a lot of state legislators culpable. His immediate boss at the state bureau of investigation was a crony of one of the legislators. At FBI insistence and approval of the agency deputy director, he did not include salient facts in the reports that went through his boss but were documented elsewhere. The boss wasn’t implicated, the legislators did the perp walk. But within a few years, his boss had retaliated and relegated him to “siberia”. The agent who took over his area of investigation was not known as a go-getter. The political establishment in his region found peace.

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  48. michael reynolds says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:
    I place my political bets on predictit.org. They pay off. You on the other hand are devoid of integrity and thoroughly dishonest. Only a fool would bother to bet with you.

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  49. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    Nope. There was the supposition that crimes had occurred. You investigate in order to establish proof of these crimes, so that you can 1) indict 2) go to trial and 3) convict.

    Am I saying Mueller will drag on for four years? No. Nothing close to it, because (and I’m being charitable here) the Gambinos, on their worst day, were light years better at hiding their criminality than Trump has ever been. They knew they had to hide. Trump thinks he’ll never get caught.

    I can tell you, without hesitation: when they get into his finances, there is “there” there to find. I can also tell you that I have friends in Albany in the AG’s office who are in their offices at 11pm a great deal lately. We get two bites at this apple. You should be aware of that.

    The team investigating Trump & Friends? Same team that gutted those Gambinos, almost exactly. Allow me to tell you how this will go:

    You’ll hear about this indictment or that one, but you won’t have any idea what’s waiting behind curtain number 2. Neither will Trump. You’ll later be dividing time into “Before the shit hit the fan” and “after”.

    You see a leaf fall and think you know which way the wind blows.

    Trust me, you don’t. You’re not even close.

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