internal FBI criticism

It is alleged Comey told Congress about reopening the FBI’s Clinton investigation at least partially due to fears of leaks from the FBI’s New York office.

Reuters reports that FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Congress on October 28, 2016, revealing that the Clinton email investigation was being reopened, at least partially due to fear of leaks from within the FBI.

A look inside the New York field agents office located in the Federal Plaza in NYNY. (Credit: public domain)

A look inside the FBI New York field office at the Federal Plaza in New York City. (Credit: public domain)

The investigation is being reopened due to new evidence discovered in an unrelated FBI investigation into sexual texts Anthony Weiner allegedly sent to a minor. Weiner is a former New York Congressperson and the estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

It is believed that the Weiner investigation is being conducted with the help of the FBI’s New York field office, which initially discovered the emails. Two unnamed law enforcement officials say that a faction of FBI agents in the New York office are believed to be hostile to Hillary Clinton, and have been known to leak information to the press.

These sources also say that the examination of new evidence – believed to be thousands of Abedin’s emails found on Weiner’s computer – is being conducted under very tight security at FBI headquarters in Washington, DC. (Reuters, 11/3/2016)

It is alleged leakers inside the FBI are upset at Clinton, James Comey, and/or the Justice Department.

Photo captured from NBC News report about FBI Director James Comey re-opening the Clinton email investigation. (Credit: NBC Nightly News)

Photo captured from NBC News report about FBI Director James Comey reopening the Clinton email investigation on October 28, 2016. (Credit: NBC Nightly News)

The Guardian reports that “Deep antipathy to Hillary Clinton exists within the FBI,” according to multiple FBI sources, “spurring a rapid series of leaks damaging to her campaign just days before the election.” Both current and former anonymous FBI officials “have described a chaotic internal climate that resulted from outrage over [FBI Director] James Comey’s July [2016] decision” not to recommend indictment.

One current agent says, “The FBI is Trumpland,” referring to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Clinton is “the antichrist personified to a large swath of FBI personnel,” and “the reason why they’re leaking is they’re pro-Trump.”

However, “other sources dispute the depth of support for Trump within the [FBI], though they uniformly stated that Clinton is viewed highly unfavorably.”

A former FBI official says, “There are lots of people who don’t think Trump is qualified, but also believe Clinton is corrupt. What you hear a lot is that it’s a bad choice, between an incompetent and a corrupt politician. … Many FBI agents were upset at the director, not because he didn’t [recommend to] indict, but they believe he threw the FBI under the bus by taking the heat away from [the Justice Department].”

While FBI agents are upset at Comey and his handling of the investigation, agents are also upset with what is seen as obstructionism from the Justice Department. The Guardian comments, “Some feel Comey needs to address the criticism and provide reassurance that the [FBI], with its wide-ranging investigative and surveillance powers, will comport itself in an apolitical manner.” But since October 28, 2016, when Comey announced the reopening of the investigation, he has stayed silent. (The Guardian, 11/3/2016)

Suspicions of partisan political decisions has been causing increasing conflict within both the FBI and Justice Department, as well as between them.

CNN publishes a front-page article with the title “Turmoil in the FBI,” which is based on interviews with more than a dozen anonymous government officials close to the FBI’s Clinton email investigation. It states that since the investigation began in July 2015, “infighting among some agents and officials has exposed some parts of the storied [FBI] to be buffeted by some of the same bitter [political] divisions as the rest of American society.”

Loretta Lynch (Credit: ABC News)

Loretta Lynch (Credit: ABC News)

CNN alleges, “Some of the sharpest divides have emerged between some agents in the FBI’s New York field office, the bureau’s largest and highest-profile, and officials at FBI headquarters in Washington and at the Justice Department. Some rank-and-file agents interpreted cautious steps taken by the Justice Department and FBI headquarters as being done for political reasons or to protect a powerful political figure [Clinton]. At headquarters, some have viewed the actions and complaints of some agents in the field as driven by the common desire of investigators to get a big case or, perhaps worst, because of partisan views.”

The tensions are said to have “multiplied” since FBI Director James Comey announced in July 2016 that he would not recommend indicting Clinton. In addition to increasing conflicts within the FBI, his announcement “also opened up sharp divides between Justice [Department] and FBI officials, and even within the Justice Department itself, where some officials have pushed for Attorney General Loretta Lynch to more forcefully assert her power over the FBI.”

The tensions in the Clinton email investigation have been duplicated by the Clinton Foundation investigation, with some FBI agents again frustrated at what they consider political obstructionism from FBI leaders and the Justice Department to protect Clinton. That has also led to friction between FBI headquarters and the New York field office.

Since then, conflicts have increased still more due to the reopening of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation on October 28, 2016. Potentially relevant evidence was discovered on the computer of Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin, shortly after October 3, 2016. “The longer it took for officials at FBI headquarters and at the Justice Department to decide how to proceed with the matter, the more conspiracies spread among some agents that perhaps senior FBI officials were trying to cover up the matter.”

Rick DesLauriers (Credit: Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters)

Rick DesLauriers (Credit: Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters)

One unnamed “senior law enforcement official” says, “It’s the times we are living in. No one has emerged from this election unscathed.”

Rick DesLauriers, who was head of the FBI’s Boston field office until he retired three years ago, says, “Politics is running rampant. Passions are high.” He adds that “[Comey] made a decision that angered Republicans in July [2016] and one that angered Democrats in October [2016]. That’s a pretty good indication he’s nonpartisan.”

CNN also notes that “Some of the tensions are built-in because of the FBI’s unique position as part of the Justice Department but also projecting a large measure of independence. The FBI director’s job has a 10-year tenure, spanning presidential administrations, while his bosses at the Justice Department are politically appointed and they leave when the administration ends.” (CNN, 11/2/2016)

FBI agents felt “handcuffed” over what they could do in the FBI’s Clinton email investigation.

The Washington Examiner reports claims to have heard from two anonymous FBI agents. “One source with knowledge of the investigation told the Examiner this week that agents felt gratified both by Comey’s public statement on the investigation and their early findings from the new Clinton-related emails. A second source confirmed that agents, at times, felt ‘handcuffed’ during the initial investigation into Clinton’s private server in terms of what investigative steps they could take.”

The Examiner notes that this is part of a trend of “more than a dozen current and former agents [who] have spoken anonymously to multiple media outlets over the past week, including to the Examiner. Agents are frequently complaining about how FBI Director James Comey handled the FBI Clinton email investigation, as well as facing obstruction from the Justice Department. (The Washington Examiner, 11/2/2016)

The supervisor of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation is revealed.

Michael Steinbach (Credit: public domain)

Michael Steinbach (Credit: public domain)

It is reported that Michael Steinbach recently spoke at a meeting of the Washington, DC, chapter of the Society of Former FBI Agents. Steinbach is the FBI’s executive assistant director in charge of national security investigations.

According to one former FBI agent who attended the meeting, Steinbach said that he supervised the FBI’s Clinton email investigation, though FBI Director James Comey made the final decision on whether to recommend an indictment or not. It is unclear if Steinbach was the sole supervisor of the investigation or if there were others of his similar authority.

He claims that about 25 FBI employees worked on the investigation. He says that all of them agreed with Comey’s decision not to recommend an indictment. Furthermore, contrary to media reports, there has been no rebellion of FBI agents due to dissatisfaction with the investigation. He staunchly supports everything Comey has done, and finds no fault with any aspect of the investigation. (The Washington Times, 10/31/2016)

Ironically, the same day the article is published in which Steinbach claims there is no FBI rebellion, an unnamed “former FBI top official” is quoted in another article, saying, “The stuff about a rebellion going on inside the [FBI] is absolutely true…” (Politico, 10/31/2016)

FBI Director Comey may be facing a “rebellion” of rank and file FBI agents.

Politico speculates that FBI Director James Comey may have reopened the FBI’s Clinton email investigation on October 28, 2016 at least in part as a response to FBI agents who have been critical of how the investigation was handled. “Comey is also facing dissent from his traditionally conservative rank-and-file agents over the decision in July [2016] not to recommend charges in the Clinton email case. It’s unclear whether that played any role in his decision to essentially announce last week’s development.”

Emily Pierce (Credit: public domain)

Emily Pierce (Credit: public domain)

An unnamed “former FBI top official who has worked on similar investigations” says, “The stuff about a rebellion going on inside the [FBI] is absolutely true, but that’s not going to influence his decision. He loves his troops, but it’s not a fair judgment that that’s why he did it.” (Politico, 10/31/2016)

Former Justice Department spokesperson Emily Pierce says that Comey has “come under a lot of criticism from his own people for how he’s handled this. He’s trying to gain back some of their respect. … His ability to do what he does largely depends on the respect within his own ranks. He often does things because he’s trying to prove his bona fides to his rank and file. I think that’s part of it.” (Politico, 10/28/2016)

Between October 6 and 17, 2016, the New York Post, Fox News, and the Daily Caller reported on FBI agents, usually unnamed, who are upset with Comey and the FBI’s Clinton email investigation.

A former assistant FBI director criticizes the Clintons, the Clinton Foundation, and the FBI’s Clinton email investigation.

James Kallstrom (Credit: Fox News)

James Kallstrom (Credit: Fox News)

Former Assistant FBI Director James Kallstrom says in an interview, “The Clintons, that’s a crime family, basically. It’s like organized crime. I mean, the Clinton Foundation is a cesspool.”

He also criticizes the FBI’s Clinton email investigation. “The problem here is this investigation was never a real investigation. That’s the problem. They never had a grand jury empaneled, and the reason they never had a grand jury empaneled, I’m sure, is [Attorney General] Loretta Lynch would not go along with that. … The agents are furious with what’s going on, I know that for a fact.”

He also says that he is supporting Republican nominee Donald Trump for president, and calls Clinton a “pathological liar.”

Kallstrom is best known for leading the investigation into the explosion of TWA Flight 800 in the late 1990s. (The Hill, 10/30/2016)

Since July 2016, he has occasionally appeared on Fox News and claimed to be in contact with an increasing number of FBI agents upset with the FBI’s Clinton email investigation.

Rudy Giuliani seemingly predicts Comey’s bombshell reopening of the Clinton email investigation, leading to calls he should be investigated for taking part in leaks.

Rudy Giuliani appears on Fox News, on November 4, 2016. (Credit: Fox News)

Rudy Giuliani says in a Fox News interview that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had “a surprise or two that you’re going to hear about in the next two days. I’m talking about some pretty big surprise.”

Pressed for specifics, he says he’s “got a couple of things up our sleeve that should turn this thing around.” Giuliani is a former US attorney, former mayor of New York City, and a frequent media surrogate for the Trump campaign. (Real Clear Politics, 10/25/2016)

Three days after his comments, FBI Director James Comey will send a letter to Congress announcing that the FBI’s Clinton email investigation is being at least partially reopened, due to the discovery of new evidence.

As a result of this sequence of events, Democratic Representatives Elijah Cummings and John Conyers will call for an investigation into a possible leak of confidential information to Giuliani.

Megyn Kelly (Credit: Fox News)

On November 4, 2016, Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly will ask Giuliani about this controversy. He will say, “You can investigate me. I spoke to no current FBI agents ever in the last ten months. I’ve had no communication with them.” He says he has spoken to many former FBI agents though, but he was only told they were “in revolt” since July 2016 when Comey announced he wasn’t going to recommend the indictment of Clinton.

Giuliani will claim he was talking about Trump’s planned television advertising over the weekend.

Kelly will comment, “That would have been kind of lame. You should have been glad that something bigger came out to not make a liar out of you.”

He will then say, “I had no idea that Jim Comey was going to do what he did. Not the slightest idea.” (Fox News, 11/4/2016)

On a different interview the same day, with Fox News journalist Brian Kilmeade, Giuliani will say, “All I heard were former FBI agents telling me that there’s revolution going on inside the FBI and it’s now at a boiling point…”

Kilmeade will interrupt, “So you had a general idea that something was coming.”

Giuliani will respond, “I had expected this for the last, honestly to tell you the truth, I thought it was going to be about three or four weeks ago, because back, way back in July [2016] this started, they kept getting stymied looking for subpoenas, looking for records.”

The Washington Post will comment, “The answer suggests Giuliani is claiming to have known not of the development in the Clinton email case, but of [general FBI agent] frustration over the Clinton Foundation matter.” (The Washington Post, 11/4/2016)

The FBI Agents Association Logo (Credit: public domain)

The FBI Agents Association Logo (Credit: public domain)

However, in contradiction to Giuliani’s claim “I spoke to no current FBI agents ever in the last ten months,” on October 28, 2016, hours after Comey’s letter is made public, Giuliani will say in a radio interview,  “The other rumor that I get is that there’s a kind of revolution going on inside the FBI about the original conclusion [not to charge Clinton] being completely unjustified and almost a slap in the face to the FBI’s integrity. I know that from former agents. I know that even from a few active agents.”

The Daily Beast will note that Giuliani “spent decades of his life as a federal prosecutor and then mayor working closely with the FBI, and especially its New York office. One of Giuliani’s security firms employed a former head of the New York FBI office, and other alumni of it.” Furthermore, his former law firm has long been general counsel to the FBI Agents Association (FBIAA), which represents 13,000 former and current agents. (The Daily Beast, 11/2/2016)

It is alleged two disgruntled FBI agents complain about Comey’s handling of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation.

The Daily Caller claims to have a transcript of two active FBI agents who were interviewed by an intermediary on October 14, 2016. Both of them are very critical of the way FBI Director James Comey handled the FBI’s Clinton email investigation.

One unnamed FBI agent “who has worked public corruption and criminal cases” says, “This is a textbook case where a grand jury should have convened but was not. That is appalling. We talk about it in the office and don’t know how Comey can keep going.”

The Clinton family home in Chappaqua, New York. (Credit: Kathy Willens / The Associated Press)

The Clinton family home in Chappaqua, New York. (Credit: Kathy Willens / The Associated Press)

This agent also complains, “We didn’t search their house [the Clinton residence in Chappaqua, New York]. We always search the house. The search should not just have been for private electronics, which contained classified material, but even for printouts of such material. … There should have been a complete search of their residence. That the FBI did not seize devices is unbelievable. The FBI even seizes devices that have been set on fire.”

A different unnamed FBI agent who has “worked counter-terrorism and criminal cases” says he was offended by Comey saying: “we” and “I’ve been an investigator.” This agent points out, “Comey was never an investigator or [FBI] agent. The special agents are trained investigators and they are insulted that Comey included them in ‘collective we’ statements in his testimony to imply that the [agents] agreed that there was nothing there to prosecute. All the trained investigators agree that there is a lot to prosecuted, but he stood in the way. … The idea that [the investigation] didn’t go to a grand jury is ridiculous.”

Joseph DiGenova (Credit: public domain)

Joseph DiGenova (Credit: public domain)

Joseph DiGenova, a former US attorney for the District of Columbia, says, “People [inside the FBI] are starting to talk. They’re calling their former friends outside the bureau asking for help. We were asked today to provide legal representation to people inside the bureau and agreed to do so and to former agents who want to come forward and talk. Comey thought this was going to go away. It’s not. People inside the bureau are furious. They are embarrassed. They feel like they are being led by a hack but more than that that they think he’s a crook. They think he’s fundamentally dishonest. They have no confidence in him.” (The Daily Caller, 10/17/2016)

An unnamed high-ranking FBI official claims that the “vast majority” of agents working on the FBI’s Clinton email investigation believe Clinton should have been indicted.

The “high-ranking FBI official” speaks to Fox News on the condition of anonymity, but the person’s “identity and role in the case has been verified by FoxNews.com.” According to this source, “No trial level attorney agreed, no agent working the case agreed, with the decision not to prosecute” anyone in the investigation at all, but “it was a top-down decision” by FBI Director James Comey.

The source says that when it came to Clinton specifically, “It is safe to say the vast majority felt she should be prosecuted. We were floored while listening to the FBI briefing [on July 5, 2016] because Comey laid it all out, and then said ‘but we are doing nothing,’ which made no sense to us.” And while it might not have been a totally unanimous decision to recommend Clinton’s indictment, “It was unanimous that we all wanted her [Clinton’s] security clearance yanked.” However, even that never happened, despite it being standard procedure in similar cases.

The source adds that FBI agents were particularly upset that Comey unilaterally made the decision not to indict when the FBI’s role is merely to present an investigative report to the Justice Department. “Basically, James Comey hijacked the [Justice Department]’s role by saying ‘no reasonable prosecutor would bring this case.’ The FBI does not decide who to prosecute and when, that is the sole province of a prosecutor. … I know zero prosecutors in the [Justice Department]’s National Security Division who would not have taken the case to a grand jury. One was never even convened.” Without a grand jury, FBI agents were not allowed to issue subpoenas or search warrants and could only request evidence and interviews.

The source also complains that the FBI required its agents and analysts involved in the investigation to sign non-disclosure agreements. “This is unheard of, because of the stifling nature it has on the investigative process.”

Furthermore, immunity deals were made with five key figures in the investigation: Cheryl Mills, Bryan Pagliano, Paul Combetta, John Bentel, and Heather Samuelson. The source says none of them should have been granted immunity if no charges were being brought. “[Immunity] is issued because you know someone possesses evidence you need to charge the target, and you almost always know what it is they possess. That’s why you give immunity. … Mills and Samuelson receiving immunity with the agreement their laptops would be destroyed by the FBI afterwards is, in itself, illegal. We know those laptops contained classified information. That’s also illegal, and they got a pass.”

Additionally, “Mills was allowed to sit in on the interview of Clinton as her lawyer. That’s absurd. Someone who is supposedly cooperating against the target of an investigation [being] permitted to sit by the target as counsel violates any semblance of ethical responsibility.”

The source also comments, “Every agent and attorney I have spoken to is embarrassed and has lost total respect for James Comey and [Attorney General] Loretta Lynch. The bar for [the Justice Department] is whether the evidence supports a case for charges — it did here. It should have been taken to the grand jury.”

Finally, the source claims that many in the FBI and the Justice Department believe Comey and Lynch were motivated by ambition instead of justice. “Loretta Lynch simply wants to stay on as attorney general under Clinton, so there is no way she would indict. James Comey thought his position [heavily criticizing Clinton even as he decides against indicting her] gave himself cover to remain on as director regardless of who wins.”

Andrew Napolitano (Credit: Fox News)

Andrew Napolitano (Credit: Fox News)

Andrew Napolitano, a former judge and judicial analyst for Fox News, also claims to know of many law enforcement agents involved with the Clinton email investigation who have similar beliefs. He says, “It is well known that the FBI agents on the ground, the human beings who did the investigative work, had built an extremely strong case against Hillary Clinton and were furious when the case did not move forward. They believe the decision not to prosecute came from the White House.” (Fox News, 10/12/2016)

The next day, Malia Zimmerman, a co-writer of the article, is questioned on Fox News television. She claims that she has been speaking to other disgruntled FBI agents as well. “They’re saying that the morale is very low and that a lot of them are looking for other jobs. They’re very disappointed. They feel like the agency has been polluted… and they’re embarrassed. They feel like they’ve been betrayed.”

She adds that some of her sources might be willing to speak on the record if they retire or change jobs, which some of them are in the process of doing. But they are currently worried about retaliation. “There are a lot of disgruntled agents, analysts, and [Justice Department] attorneys as well.” These people feel Clinton could have been charged for various reasons, but her 22 “top secret” emails made the most compelling case. (Fox News, 10/13/2016)