The IG Report on Spygate has been released, and according to the report it “did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the decisions to open the four individual investigations.” However, the report did find that “mistakes” were made in the investigation.
Heh, I’ll say.
At 476 pages long it will take a while to sort out the details, but out of my own curiosity, I was couldn’t help reviewing the document to see what it had to say. Given the details we already know, how could the IG possibly conclude that there was no political bias?
The most notable evidence we have that there was political bias are text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. “As part of our review, we also sought to determine whether there was evidence that political bias or other improper considerations affected decision making in Crossfire Hurricane, including the decision to open the investigation,” the report states in the executive summary. “We discussed the issue of political bias in a prior OIG report, Review of Various Actions in Advance of the 2016 Election, where we described text and instant messages between then Special Counsel to the Deputy Director Lisa Page and then Section Chief Peter Strzok, among others, that included statements of hostility toward then-candidate Trump and statements of support for then-candidate Hillary Clinton.”
The executive summary then states:
In this review, we found that, while Lisa Page attended some of the discussions regarding the opening of the investigations, she did not play a role in the decision to open Crossfire Hurricane or the four individual cases. We further found that while Strzok was directly involved in the decisions to open Crossfire Hurricane and the four individual cases, he was not the sole, or even the highest-level, decision maker as to any of those matters.
And my response to that: So what? This conclusion is justified that Counterintelligence Division Assistant Director Bill Priestap was the one who ultimately approved the opening of the investigation. “We concluded that Priestap’s exercise of discretion in opening the investigation was in compliance with Department and FBI policies, and we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced his decision.”
How are we to be sure that the information he was provided wasn’t improperly influenced by Strzok’s earlier involvement?
Strzok’s hatred of Trump was so strong that it came up regularly in his texts with Lisa Page, and some of the worst were compiled by Ben Shapiro at The Daily Wire. The most noteworthy text was on August 15, 2016: “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office that there’s no way he gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40…”
This text came two weeks after the launch of the FBI investigation. Surely this text must have come up in the report, right? Did the OIG look into this “insurance policy” Strzok was so confident would thwart Trump’s election? As a searchable document, it was easy to look for any specific reference to that one specific text.
Not once in the report is this text quoted.
I kid you not. One of the most substantively important text messages regarding the question of political bias doesn’t even come up. Other text messages do. On page 76 of the report, we get a series of time-stamped text messages between Strzok and Page regarding Obama’s interest in the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference. “POTUS wants to know everything we are doing,” wrote Page to Strzok. But nothing about this “insurance policy”—what it was, what it wasn’t. Whether Strzok was all bark and no bite. Other text messages are quoted in the section of the report titled “The Role of Peter Strzok and Lisa Page in Crossfire Hurricane and Relevant Text Messages” but the “insurance policy” text was not. This suggests (to me) that any unofficial backchannel efforts to taint the investigation were not investigated. Why wouldn’t the OIG mention this text and attempt to determine what was meant by it? That text is incredibly consequential and appears to have been ignored. It’s not even transcribed in a footnote.
That’s a rather stunning omission. Even if you want to give Strzok the benefit of the doubt that the text was somehow innocent, one would think that it ought to have been addressed specifically by this report.
Perhaps that’s why U.S. Attorney John Durham, who was appointed by Attorney General William Barr to investigate the Russia probe, said he did “not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened.”
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis