December 16, 2017

WALL STREET JOURNAL: SECRETS THE FBI SHOULDN’T KEEP.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team is emphasizing its ejection of FBI agent Peter Strzok immediately upon learning about anti-Trump texts he exchanged with another FBI employee, Lisa Page, before the 2016 election. But when did the FBI learn of the messages? The inspector general’s investigation began in mid-January. The letter explains that the FBI was asked for text messages of certain key employees based on search terms, which turned up “a number of politically-oriented” Strzok-Page texts. The inspector general then demanded all of the duo’s text messages, which the FBI began producing on July 20.

But when did the FBI dig up and turn over that very first tranche? How long has the bureau known one of its lead investigators was exhibiting such bias? Was it before Mr. Mueller was even appointed? Did FBI leaders sit by as the special counsel tapped Mr. Strzok? In any case, we know from the letter that the inspector general informed both Messrs. Rosenstein and Mueller of the texts on July 27, and that both men hid that explosive information from Congress for four months. The Justice Department, pleading secrecy, defied subpoenas that would have produced the texts. It refused to make Mr. Strzok available for an interview. It didn’t do all this out of fear of hurting national security, obviously. It did it to save itself and the FBI from embarrassment.

This week’s other revelation of jaw-dropping FBI tactics came from a separate letter from Mr. Johnson. In November 2016, the Office of Special Counsel—a federal agency that polices personnel practices and is distinct from the Mueller probe—began investigating whether former FBI Director Jim Comey violated the Hatch Act, which restricts political activity by executive-branch officials, while investigating Hillary Clinton’s private server. The office conducted interviews with two of Mr. Comey’s confidantes: FBI chief of staff James Rybicki and FBI attorney Trisha Anderson.

Sen. Johnson in September demanded the full, unredacted transcripts of the interviews. But it turned out the FBI had refused to let the Office of Special Counsel interview them unless it first signed unprecedented nondisclosure agreements, giving the FBI full authority to withhold the information from Congress. The bureau has continued to insist the office keep huge swaths of the interviews secret from Congress, including the names and actions of key political players. (The Office of Special Counsel closed its investigation in May.)

In his letter this week, Mr. Johnson demanded that Mr. Wray authorize the release of the full transcripts and other documents. Even the redacted ones have revealed important information, for instance that Mr. Comey was drafting his Hillary Clinton exoneration statement well before she was interviewed. Congressional investigators believe the unredacted versions contain pertinent information about the actions of former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and key investigators such as Mr. Strzok.

This whole thing stinks.