The SES Star Chamber Explained. As you listen to the audio, you can read the relevant text of the IG Report below.
A Review of Various Actions by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice in Advance of the 2016 Election Oversight and Review Division 18-04 June 2018
CHAPTER SIXTEEN: CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
First, we found that several FBI employees who played critical roles in the investigation sent political messages—some of which related directly to the Midyear investigation—that created the appearance of bias and thereby raised questions about the objectivity and thoroughness of the Midyear investigation.
Even more seriously, text messages between Strzok and Page pertaining to the Russia investigation, particularly a text message from Strzok on August 8 stating “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.” in response to a Page text “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!,” are not only indicative of a biased state of mind but imply a willingness to take official action to impact a presidential candidate’s electoral prospects.
This is antithetical to the core values of the FBI and the Department of Justice. While we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected the specific investigative actions we reviewed in Chapter Five, the conduct by these employees cast a cloud over the entire FBI investigation and sowed doubt about the FBI’s work on, and its handling of, the Midyear investigation.
It also called into question Strzok’s failure in October 2016 to follow up on the Midyear-related investigative lead discovered on the Weiner laptop. The damage caused by these employees’ actions extends far beyond the scope of the Midyear investigation and goes to the heart of the FBI’s reputation for neutral factfinding and political independence.
Second, in key moments, then Director Comey chose to deviate from the FBI’s and the Department’s established procedures and norms and instead engaged in his own subjective, ad hoc decision making. In so doing, we found that Comey largely based his decisions on what he believed was in the FBI’s institutional interests and would enable him to continue to effectively lead the FBI as its Director.
While we did not find that these decisions were the result of political bias on Comey’s part, we nevertheless concluded that by departing so clearly and dramatically from FBI and Department norms, the decisions negatively impacted the perception of the FBI and the Department as fair administrators of justice. 498 Moreover, these decisions usurped the authority of the Attorney General and upset the well-established separation between investigative and prosecutorial functions and the accountability principles that guide law enforcement decisions in the United States.
As we further outline in this report, there was a troubling lack of any direct, substantive communication between Comey and then Attorney General Lynch in advance of both Comey’s July 5 press conference and his October 28 letter to Congress. With regard to the July 5 events, Comey affirmatively concealed his intentions from Lynch. When he did finally call her on the morning of July 5—after the FBI first notified the press—he told her that he was going to be speaking about the Midyear investigation but that he would not answer any of her questions, and would not tell her what he planned to say. During that call, Lynch did not instruct Comey to tell her what he intended to say at the press conference.
With respect to the October 28 letter, Comey chose not to contact Lynch or then Deputy Attorney General Yates directly; rather, he had FBI Chief of Staff Rybicki advise Yates’s senior advisor (then PADAG Axelrod) that Comey intended to send a letter to Congress and that Comey believed he had an obligation to do so. Given these circumstances, Lynch and Yates concluded it would be counterproductive to speak directly with Comey and that the most effective way to communicate their strong opposition to Comey about his decision was to relay their views to him through Axelrod and Rybicki.
We found it extraordinary that, in advance of two such consequential decisions, the FBI Director decided that the best course of conduct was to not speak directly and substantively with the Attorney General about how best to navigate these decisions and mitigate the resulting harms, and that Comey’s decision resulted in the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General concluding that it would be counterproductive to speak directly with the FBI Director.
This is not the first time the Department and the FBI have conducted a politically-charged investigation, and it will not be the last. To protect the institutions from allegations of abuse, political interference, and biased enforcement of the law, the Department and the FBI have developed policies and practices to guide their decisions. In the vast majority of cases, they are followed as a matter of routine. But they are most important to follow when the stakes are the highest, and when the pressures to divert from them—often based on well-founded concerns and highly fraught scenarios—are the greatest. No rule, policy, or practice is perfect, but at the same time, neither is any individual’s ability to make judgments under pressure or in what may seem like unique circumstances.
It is in these moments—when the rationale for keeping to the ordinary course fades from view and the temptation to make an exception is greatest—that the bedrock principles and time-tested practices of the Department and the FBI can serve their highest purpose.
Instant Messages between Agent 1 and Agent 5 Agent 1 is an experienced counterintelligence agent and was assigned to the Midyear investigative team from August 2015 through the conclusion of the investigation. Agent 1 was one of four agents responsible for the day-to-day activities of the Midyear investigation. Agent 1’s duties included conducting witness interviews and Agent 1 was one of the two agents who interviewed former Secretary Clinton on July 2. Agent 5 is also an experienced counterintelligence agent and was a member of the Midyear filter team. As a member of the filter team, Agent 5 was responsible for identifying privileged communications among the materials obtained by the FBI to ensure that they were not reviewed by the investigative team.
Neither Agent 1 nor Agent 5 was assigned to the FBI’s Russia investigation or the Special Counsel investigation. As noted previously, we identified instant messages sent by Agent 1, often to Agent 5, that expressed opinions critical of the conduct and quality of the Midyear investigation. We discussed these message in Chapter Five. In addition to those messages, we identified two instant message exchanges that appeared to combine a discussion of politics with a discussion of the Midyear investigation. We also identified instant messages between Agent 1 and Agent 5 that expressed support for Clinton and hostility toward Trump. We discuss these messages in this section, along with explanations provided by Agent 1 and Agent
Because it is relevant to their explanations, we note that Agent 1 and Agent 5, who are now married, were in a personal relationship that predated their assignment to the Midyear investigation. 1. Instant Messages Referencing the Midyear Investigation On July 6, 2016, the day after Comey’s Midyear declination announcement, Agent 1 and an FBI employee not involved with Midyear exchanged messages about the investigation. During the course of this discussion, Agent 1 described the prior weekend’s activities, which included the interview of Clinton. A portion of this 411 instant message exchange follows.
The sender of each message is noted after the timestamp.206 15:07:41, Agent 1: “…I’m done interviewing the President – then type the 302. 18 hour day….” 15:13:32, FBI Employee: “you interviewed the president?” 15:17:09, Agent 1: “you know – HRC” [Hillary Rodham Clinton] 15:17:18, Agent 1: “future pres” 15:17:22, Agent 1: “Trump cant win” 15:17:31, Agent 1: “demographics dont line up” 15:17:37, Agent 1: “America has changed”
We asked Agent 1 if he thought of Clinton as the next president while conducting the Midyear investigation. Agent 1 stated, “I think my impression going into the election in that personal realm is that all of the polls were favoring Hillary Clinton.” We asked Agent 1 if he treated Clinton differently because of this assumption. Agent 1 stated, “Absolutely not. I think the message they said that our leadership told us and our actions were to find whatever was there and whatever, whatever that means is what it means.” Comey sent the first letter to Congress about the Weiner laptop discovery on October 28, 2016.
Agent 1 and Agent 5 exchanged instant messages about the letter and Trump’s reaction to it later that day. The sender of each messages is noted after the timestamp. 13:46:48, Agent 5: “jesus christ… Trump: Glad FBI is fixing ‘horrible mistake’ on clinton emails… for fuck’s sake.” 13:47:27, Agent 5: “the fuck’s sake part was me, the rest was Trump.” 13:49:07, Agent 1: “Not sure if Trump or the fifth floor is worse…” 13:49:22, Agent 5: “I’m so sick of both…” 13:50:25, Agent 5: “+o( TRUMP”207 13:50:30, Agent 5: “+o( Fifth floor” 13:50:34, Agent 5: “+o( FBI” 13:50:44, Agent 5: “+o( Average American public” 206 All instant messages produced to the OIG reflected Greenwich Mean Time.
We have corrected times to the Eastern Time Zone as a result. In addition, some instant messages contained emojis, which we omitted unless they affected the meaning of the message. We also do not include other intervening instant messages unless they contribute to understanding the highlighted messages. 207 The symbol used in these messages is a “sick face” emoticon. See IM Emoticons, at http://sheet.shiar.nl/emoji (last accessed April 28, 2018). 412 We asked both Agent 1 and Agent 5 about these messages. Agent 1 and Agent 5 both stated the reference to “fifth floor” referred to the location of the FBI WFO’s Counterintelligence Division. Agent 1 continued: “Again, you know, I think a general, general theme in a lot of this is some personal comment, or, you know, complaining about common topics and leadership and, and venting.”
Agent 5 also described this as general complaining to Agent 1 and also as an example of her being “very tired of working” these types of cases. Agent 5 also noted that she was not involved in the review of the Weiner laptop.
Instant Messages Commenting on Trump or Clinton On August 29, 2016, Agent 1 and Agent 5 exchanged the following instant messages as part of a discussion about their jobs. The sender of each message is noted after the timestamp. 10:39:49, Agent 1: “I find anyone who enjoys [this job] an absolute fucking idiot.
If you dont think so, ask them one more question. Who are you voting for? I guarantee you it will be Donald Drumpf.” 10:40:13, Agent 5: “i forgot about drumpf…” 10:40:27, Agent 5: “that’s so sad and pathetic if they want to vote for him.” 10:40:43, Agent 5: “someone who can’t answer a question” 10:40:51, Agent 5: “someone who can’t be professional for even a second” On September 9, 2016, Agent 1 and Agent 5 exchanged the following instant messages. 08:56:43, Agent 5: “i’m trying to think of a ‘would i rather’ instead of spending time with those people” 08:56:54, Agent 1: “stick your tongue in a fan??” 08:56:58, Agent 5: “i would rather have brunch with trump” 08:57:03, Agent 1: “ha” 08:57:15, Agent 1: “french toast with drumpf” 08:57:19, Agent 5: “i would rather have brunch with trump and a bunch of his supporters like the ones from ohio that are retarded” 08:57:23, Agent 5: “:)” Agent 5 told the OIG these instant messages “referenced TV programming and commentary that Agent 1 and Agent 5 had recently viewed together.”
Agent 5 continued, “The reference was not a general statement about a particular part of the country, rather it was in jest and pertained to individuals’ inability to articulate any reason why they so strongly favored one candidate over another.” 413 On Election Day on November 8, 2016, Agent 1 and Agent 5 exchanged the following instant messages. 14:21:10, Agent 1: “You think HRC is gonna win right? You think we should get nails and some boards in case she doesnt” 14:21:56, Agent 5: “she better win… otherwise i’m gonna be walking around with both of my guns.” 14:22:05, Agent 5: “and likely quitting on the spot” 14:28:43, Agent 1: “You should know;…..” 14:28:45, Agent 1: “that” 14:28:50, Agent 1: “I’m…..” 14:28:56, Agent 1: “with her.” 14:28:58, Agent 1: “ooooooooooooooooooo” 14:29:02, Agent 1: “show me the money” 14:29:03, Agent 5: “