Did the tide just change? Yesterday, we detailed The Wall Street Journal’s extraordinary claims that The FBI hid a mole in the Trump campaign and the ongoing debacle playing out between House Intel Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), the Department of Justice, and the Mueller investigation concerning a cache of intelligence that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein refuses to hand over.
And tonight, The Wall Street Journal again dares to publish an op-ed from a 33-year veteran of The FBI who reflects on the debacle above, proclaiming his “shock” at the disrespect being shown to Congress…
“When I was at the bureau, lawmakers’ requests for information got prompt responses…”
As Thomas Baker exclaims “it truly is a change in culture.”
Last week we learned that some Republican members of Congress are considering articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein if he doesn’t hand over certain Federal Bureau of Investigation documents. In January, House Speaker Paul Ryan had to threaten the deputy attorney general and FBI Director Christopher Wray with contempt to get them to comply with a House subpoena for documents about the Steele dossier.
I spent 33 years in the FBI, including several working in the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs. The recent deterioration in the bureau’s relationship with Congress is shocking. It truly is a change in culture.
Former Directors William Webster (1978-87) and Louis Freeh (1993-2001) insisted that the FBI respond promptly to any congressional request. In those days a congressional committee didn’t need a subpoena to get information from the FBI. Yes, we were particularly responsive to the appropriations committees, which are key to the bureau’s funding. But my colleagues and I shared a general sense that responding to congressional requests was the right thing to do.
The bureau’s leaders often reminded us of Congress’s legitimate oversight role. This was particularly true of the so-called Gang of Eight, which was created by statute to ensure the existence of a secure vehicle through which congressional leaders could be briefed on the most sensitive counterintelligence or terrorism investigations.
On Aug. 27, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes asked the FBI to deliver certain documents immediately. The bulk of the documents weren’t actually delivered until Jan. 11. I can’t imagine Mr. Webster or Mr. Freeh tolerating such a delay. One of the documents Mr. Nunes requested is the electronic communication believed to have initiated the counterintelligence investigation of Donald Trump in July 2016. The FBI had previously provided a redacted text of that communication, but the Intelligence Committee wanted to see more.
On March 23 the bureau essentially told the committee it wouldn’t lift the redactions. There are legitimate reasons why the FBI would want certain portions of a sensitive document redacted, such as when information comes from a foreign partner. But there are ways around such difficulties. Select members of Congress have in the past been allowed to read highly sensitive documents under specific restrictions.
Former FBI Director James Comey didn’t even inform the Gang of Eight that the bureau had opened a counterintelligence investigation into the campaign of a major-party candidate for president. He testified on March 20, 2017, that he had kept Congress in the dark about the Trump investigation because he’d been advised to do so by his assistant director of counterintelligence—due to “the sensitivity of the matter.”
The Gang of Eight exists for precisely this purpose. Not using it is inexplicable.
This isn’t the way a law-enforcement agency should behave under our system of separation of powers.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions must push Mr. Wray to get the FBI’s relationship with Congress back on track. It won’t be easy, but the American people deserve it and the Constitution demands it.
One wonders how long before Mr. Baker – a retired FBI special agent and legal attaché – is ‘probed’ for being a puppet of Putin? Or when The Wall Street Journal will be ‘investigated’ for ‘something… anything’ just to slow their roll a little on this anti-establishment tilt they seem to have taken. Either way, for now, it is a refreshing change to read some common sense.
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