(National Sentinel) NOversight: As various congressional committees continue to investigate a series of irregularities that occurred during last year’s contested presidential race, many analysts have come to the conclusion that the committees’ work is being thwarted by uncooperative forces within the FBI and the Department of Justice, writes Kimberley A. Strassel of The Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
In particular, she noted, even as special counsel Robert Mueller directs an investigation into whether President Donald J. Trump committed obstruction of justice over his firing of Mueller friend and former FBI director James Comey, the bureau and elements within the Department of Justice are obstructing Congress’ attempts to conduct its own investigations.
“The media echo chamber spent the week speculating about whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller can or will nab President Trump on obstruction-of-justice charges,” she wrote. “All the while it continues to ignore Washington’s most obvious obstruction—the coordinated effort to thwart congressional probes of the role law enforcement played in the 2016 election.”
Strassel said that the news last week regarding FBI agent Peter Strzok’s exchange of anti-Trump, pro-Hillary text messages with another FBI official “matters,” and yet thus far not only have the texts not been revealed to the American people, but it appears as though Mueller, the FBI, and top officials at DoJ were aware of Strozok’s behavioral bias for months but did not inform lawmakers.
This, despite the fact that the House Intelligence Committee sent subpoenas months ago to the department and the FBI seeking information about Strzok, but those were ignored while both the DoJ and FBI refused to make him available to congressional investigators.
Attorney General Bruce Ohr, was in contact with ex-spook Christopher Steele and the opposition-research firm Fusion GPS,” she wrote. “It has refused to say what role the Steele dossier—Clinton-commissioned oppo research—played in its Trump investigation. It won’t turn over files about its wiretapping.”
But Mueller “—who is well aware the House is probing all this, and considered the Strzok texts relevant enough to earn the agent a demotion—nonetheless did not inform Congress about the matter. Why?” writes Strassel.
She further writes:
Andrew Weissmann, Mr. Mueller’s deputy, is chief of the Justice Department’s criminal fraud section and was once FBI general counsel. Until Mr. Strzok’s demotion, he was a top FBI counterintelligence officer, lead on the Trump probe. Michael Dreeben is a deputy solicitor general. Elizabeth Prelogar, Brandon Van Grack, Kyle Freeny, Adam Jed, Andrew Goldstein —every one is a highly placed, influential lawyer on loan from the Justice Department. Lisa Page —Mr. Strzok’s mistress, with whom he exchanged those texts—was on loan from the FBI general counsel’s office.
Does anyone think this crowd intends to investigate Justice Department or FBI misdeeds? To put it another way, does anyone think they intend to investigate themselves? Or that they’d investigate their longtime colleagues— Andrew McCabe, or Mr. Ohr or Mr. Strzok? Or could we instead just acknowledge the Mueller team has enormous personal and institutional interests in justifying the actions their agencies took in 2016—and therefore in stonewalling Congress?
Strassel said that there are various calls for President Trump or Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “clean house” and get rid of Mueller. The first suggestion would mean firing a large number of career, otherwise experienced Justice Department lawyers, while the second notion would be “counterproductive.”
The better way forward, she writes, is the short-term creation of a position “for an official whose only job is to ensure Justice Department and FBI compliance with congressional oversight.
“This person needs to be a straight shooter and versed in law enforcement, but with no history at or substantial ties to the Justice Department or FBI,” she said.
“It would be a first, but we are in an era of firsts. Congress is the only body with an interest and ability to get the full story of 2016 to the public, thereby ending this drama quickly. But that requires putting an end to the obstruction,” said Strassel.
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