Election Investigations 1 21 October 2019.

James B. Stewart is nobody’s fool.[1]  His most recent book paws over what is known of the near-simultaneous and mid-election investigations of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.[2]

Hillary Clinton had used a private e-mail server for business and personal matters when federal regulations banned that practice.  She then “wiped” the hard-drive, deleting tens of thousands of messages about purely personal matters.[3]  The subsequent FBI investigation concluded that there existed no sign of criminal intent.

However, FBI agents in offices which had previously dealt with the Clintons (Little Rock, New York City) were “hotbeds of anti-Clinton hostility.”  FBI Director James Comey told Attorney General Loretta Lynch that “there is a cadre of senior people in New York who have a deep and visceral hatred of Hillary Clinton.”[4]

The Inspector General of the Justice Department later excoriated Comey for having usurped the authority of the then-compromised Attorney General Lynch.[5]  He had denounced Clinton’s “extremely careless” handling of information.  Then, an unrelated investigation of Congressman Anthony Weiner revealed that his wife, Huma Abedin—Hillary Clinton’s chief aid—had not informed the FBI that she had another computer on which “sensitive” information had been stored.  This had forced Comey to re-open the investigation late in the election.  This may have cost Hillary Clinton the 2016 election.[6]  Arguably, this was a violation of standard operating procedure in the FBI.

Stewart seems to suggest that there are a great many Republicans within the FBI and the Justice Department.[7]  Furthermore, they are motivated by their partisan commitments, rather than by a professional commitment to law enforcement.  “Comey felt bound to appease the Clinton-haters because they refused to accept any process that failed to yield their preferred outcome.”[8]

Exactly why Comey would feel obliged to appease the Clinton-haters is not clearly stated.  Would they leak embarrassing information about Clinton or someone else?  Would they compromise his re-appointment as Director?  Then, Comey seems to have leaked his memos to trigger appointment of a special prosecutor, who turned out to be Robert Mueller, a Republican.  Much remains to be learned.

[1] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_B._Stewart  I wonder if that makes him feel lonely?

[2] James B. Stewart, Deep State: Trump, the FBI, and the Rule of Law (2019).  See the review by Jonathan Chait, “There Are No Winners Here,” NYTBR, 20 October 2019, p.  11.

[3] Apparently, she did NOT transfer this trove of treasured personal communications to an external hard-drive for future reference because she isn’t someone who dwells on the past or retains e-mails from her daughter.

[4] As I understand it, the New York office had wanted to investigate the allegations of influence-peddling suggested in Peter Schweizer, Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich (2015).  They were not allowed to do so, probably because the source of the information was a partisan opponent seeking to discover harmful information.  FBI agents in the New York office may have leaked anti-Clinton information to conservative media.

[5] See: https://www.washingtonpost.com/apps/g/page/world/scathing-justice-dept-watchdog-report-rebukes-james-b-comey-cites-major-missteps-by-fbi/2309/

[6] Actually, it is difficult to say exactly what caused Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the election.  See:  Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign (2017).

[7] So it’s like military service.  Most Democrats will not fight for their country, although Pete Buttigieg and Tulsi Gabbard are exceptions.  For that matter, neither will most Republicans.

[8] Chait, “No Winners.”

Strategic Leaking.

Early in life, Jason Chaffetz (R, Utah) had a notion that he could be a Secret Service agent. Or maybe an outfielder for the Yankees. Or maybe Superman. (But I repeat myself.) So, in 2003, he filled out the Secret Service application. (May have worked on his fielding skills or bought a spandex costume for all I know.) Kids often don’t have a sense of their own real talents or inclinations. Chaffetz didn’t make the cut as a Secret Service agent. He got a letter that said that “better qualified applicants existed.”[1] Then they go on and do something better suited to themselves. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkX-TPaodoM For his part, Chaffetz went into politics, ending up—so far—as a Congersman. (See: Pogo). Chaffetz serves on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.[2]

Then the Secret Service (which is mostly charged with protecting the President of the United States), got in the glue. In April 2012, it was alleged that eleven members of the president’s security detail (and some U.S. military personnel) hired prostitutes while protecting the President at an international conference at Cartagena, Colombia. More revelations of frat-boy behavior followed. Worse, there have been several incidents in which White House security has been breached without much difficulty. Then, in early 2015, a couple of senior Secret Service officers went out “for a taste,” as they delicately phrase it in “The Wire.” Upon returning to duty at the White House, they crashed their car into one of the security barriers. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform investigated the widely-reported incident.

One of the scathing interrogators on that committee was Jason Chaffetz. He issued a bunch of subpoenas for more information. In the wake of that interrogation, a bunch of Secret Service officers began digging for information (i.e.”dirt”) on Chaffetz. Some gained access to Chaffetz’s failed application for the Secret Service. Doubtless, the files contained information explaining the rejection of Chaffetz.[3]

Then Faron Paramore, the head of public affairs for the Secret Service sent the information to Edward Lowery, an assistant director. Lowery replied that “Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out. Just to be fair.” Two days later, the story about Chaffetz’s failed application to join the Secret Service appeared in “The Daily Beast.”

This led to an investigation by the Inspector General (IG) for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Paramore stated that he did not reply to Lowery’s e-mail; Lowery stated that he did not order anyone to leak the information to the press. The IG could not determine who among the “likely…hundreds” of Secret Service agents who had received the information leaked it to the press.

Why does this squalid little story matter? It matters, first, because of the misuse of damaging or embarrassing information by the late long-time director of the F.B.I, J. Edgar Hoover. His “Personal and Confidential” files were used to intimidate politicians and government officials. It matters, second, because of Edward Snowden’s initial revelations about the bulk interception of phone and other media communications of Americans by the NSA.[4]

The chilling effect could run from Congressional critics to ordinary citizen activists.

[1] That’s nothing. I got a letter from Harvard that said that “many (my emphasis, although actually it might have been their emphasis) better qualified applicants existed.” My life-course supports their judgment.

[2] Michael Schmidt, “Senior Secret Service Official Proposed Embarrassing a Critic in Congress,” NYT, 1 October 2015.

[3] I have no idea what that information might be. What do you want people to not know about you?

[4] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Snowden and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution