Friday, June 15, 2018

Inspector General Says Comey Was 'Insubordinate' But Finds No FBI Bias in Clinton Email Probe

The Justice Department inspector general on Thursday castigated former FBI Director James Comey for his actions during the Hillary Clinton email investigation and found that other senior bureau officials showed a “willingness to take official action” to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president. The 500-page report, documenting major missteps in one of the most politically charged cases in the FBI’s history, provides the most exhaustive account to date of bureau and Justice Department decision-making throughout the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email, particularly in the lead up to the 2016 election.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz rebuked Comey for insubordination, saying he flouted Justice Department practices and made a “serious error of judgment” in sending a letter to Congress on Oct. 28, 2016 announcing he was reopening the investigation into Clinton’s emails. The report said it was “extraordinary that Comey assessed that it was best” for him not to speak directly with either the attorney general or the deputy attorney general about his decision beforehand.

In addition, while the inspector general did not find evidence supporting assertions made by Trump and his allies that political bias inside the FBI rigged the case to clear Clinton, the report cites numerous instances of unprofessionalism and misjudgment. New York Times, Washington Post

New texts released by the Justice Department on Thursday show that Peter Strzok, the FBI agent overseeing the FBI’s investigation into links between Trump’s campaign and Russia, pledged to stop Trump from becoming president. “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right?” asked a top FBI lawyer, Lisa Page, in one text. “Right?!” Strzok answered, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.” Investigators “were deeply troubled by text messages sent by Strzok and Page that potentially indicated or created the appearance that investigative decisions were impacted by bias or improper considerations.” But Horowitz said he found no evidence that the agents’ political views affected the inquiry. New York Times

At a news conference, FBI Director Christopher Wray said he was “disappointed” by the conduct described in the report and that some employees would be subject to a disciplinary review. But he added that nothing in the report pointed towards political bias or impugned the FBI as an institution. BBC News
Just Security: The Complicated Truths of the DOJ IG Report
NPR: President Trump Attacks Credibility Of FBI, DOJ After Watchdog Report
CNN: Inspector General: Comey Used Personal Email Account for FBI Business
Washington Post: How the Two Rogue FBI Officials Explain Their Text Messages About Trump


This report says I was wrong. But that’s good for the FBI: “I do not agree with all of the inspector general’s conclusions, but I respect the work of his office and salute its professionalism. All of our leaders need to understand that accountability and transparency are essential to the functioning of our democracy, even when it involves criticism. This is how the process is supposed to work,” James Comey writes in the New York Times.

The long shadow of 9/11: “Many compelling reasons explain why U.S. policymakers have made the fight against terrorism a priority and why that fight often has taken on the character of a military campaign. But there are costs to this singular preoccupation and approach that are seldom acknowledged,” Robert Malley and Jon Finer write in Foreign Affairs. “An excessive focus on this issue disfigures American politics, distorts U.S. policies, and in the long run will undermine national security.”

A window for peace may be opening in Afghanistan: “After several years of trying to support peace as the U.N. secretary general’s special representative for Afghanistan, I strongly believe that the elements of a potential deal are now discernible through the haze and dust of war,” Tadamichi Yamamoto writes in the Washington Post. “Both sides want an Islamic government. Both agree that the state should be governed by a constitution. Both agree that Afghanistan should neither be a haven for global terrorists nor a threat to its neighbors.”

The World Cup is Russia’s latest makeover attempt: “To put it in soccer terms, Putin has shown that the best defense for him is a good offense. He has kept possession of the ball in his opponents’ half, dictated the course of play, and waited for them to make a mistake. They haven’t disappointed him,” Krishnadev Calamur writes in The Atlantic.

Editor's Picks


Senate votes down plan to expand Congress’s national security oversight: The Senate sided with the Trump administration on Thursday to vote down a GOP plan that would have given Congress greater oversight over deals between foreign and U.S. firms that could affect national security. The legislation, pushed by Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-PA), failed to clear a procedural hurdle when the Senate blocked it with a 62-to-35 vote. The vote was another instance of the Senate declining to assert authority over Trump administration decision-making on trade-related issues. Earlier this week, GOP leaders blocked an amendment by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) that would have given Congress veto power over certain tariff decisions by the administration. Washington Post, The Hill

U.S. warns of North Korea cyber campaign, days after historic summit: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said that it has identified malicious cyber activity by the North Korean government, according to a new report released on Thursday, just days after the historic summit between President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. DHS and FBI analysts highlighted the use of what are known as Trojan malware variants - software used by the North Korean government that is intended to damage or disable computers and computer systems. CNN

State Dept nominee would warn Saudi, Qatar, Egypt against Russia military deals: President Trump’s nominee for a top State Department Middle East post said on Thursday he would dissuade countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt from weapons deals with Russia that could trigger U.S. sanctions. “I would work with our allies to dissuade them, or encourage them, to avoid military purchases that would be potentially sanctionable,” David Schenker, the nominee to be Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, said at his Senate confirmation hearing. Reuters


The U.S. will release some $6.6 million in previously frozen funding for a humanitarian aid group in Syria, the State Department announced Thursday. The move comes over a month after the Trump administration froze funding for the Syrian Civil Defense – known as the “White Helmets” – a group of volunteer first-responders that provides aid to war-ravaged areas of Syria. The funding, which comes from the State Department and USAID, is intended to help provide the White Helmets with equipment, vehicles, and other resources. In the past, the U.S. has typically provided about a third of the White Helmets’ funding.

President Donald Trump in March decided to halt funding for the group as part of a broader decision to suspend $200 million in aid, in line with plans he outlined to withdraw swiftly from Syria and push other countries to step in. The Hill, Wall Street Journal
Reuters: U.S. to Take ‘Firm, Appropriate Measures’ Against Syria Violations

Pakistani Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah has been killed in a U.S.-Afghan air strike in Afghanistan, a senior Afghan Defense Ministry official said on Friday. The U.S. military said Thursday it had carried out a strike aimed at a senior militant figure in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar, which is on the Pakistani border. Fazlullah was Pakistan’s most-wanted militant, notorious for attacks including a 2014 school massacre that killed 132 children and the 2012 shooting of schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai. Reuters

UN rejects plan to demand immediate ceasefire in Yemen’s Hodeidah: The UN Security Council rejected a move to demand an immediate end to the fighting around the strategic Yemeni port of Hodeidah despite warnings from aid agencies that an attack could jeopardize vital aid to the country. The Security Council failed to agree to a statement calling on Saudi-led forces and the United Arab Emirates to implement a ceasefire, with the US and UK both voicing opposition to the text introduced by Sweden. The council instead called for restraint and “urged all sides to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law” in the fighting. The Guardian

UN says parts of missiles fired at Saudi Arabia came from Iran: Debris from five missiles fired at Saudi Arabia by Yemen’s Houthi group since July 2017 “share key design features with a known type of missile” manufactured by Iran and some of the components were manufactured in Iran, UN chief Antonio Guterres wrote in a confidential report to the Security Council. However, the UN has not been able to determine when the missiles, components, or related technology were transferred from Iran and if they violated UN restrictions. Reuters

U.S. air strike in Libya kills member of al Qaeda affiliate: U.S. forces working in coordination with the Libyan government carried out an air strike against an al Qaeda affiliate group southeast of Bani Walid this week, killing one fighter, U.S. military said in a statement on Thursday. The strike was undertaken in an effort to disrupt al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The attack was the second against AQIM in recent months. A U.S. strike on March 24 reportedly killed Musa Abu Dawud, a high-ranking member of the group. Reuters

Attack shuts major Libyan oil ports: The major Libyan oil ports of Ras Lanuf and Es Sider were closed and evacuated on Thursday after armed brigades opposed to the powerful eastern commander Khalifa Haftar stormed them, causing a production loss of 240,000 barrels per day. The clashes between forces loyal to Haftar’s Libyan National Army and rival armed groups continued throughout the day south of Ras Lanuf. Reuters


U.S. and Russia ‘exploring’ possible Trump-Putin meeting: With his first meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un behind him, President Donald Trump may be turning his attention to the possibility of a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Moscow and Washington are “exploring” the possibility of a meeting between the two leaders, said Richard Hooker, senior director for Europe and Russia at the NSC. “I don't think any decisions have been made, or details have been worked out, but I believe both sides are exploring an opportunity to try to do that,” he told Russian state media. CNN

Immigration, terrorism top concern list of Europeans: Immigration and terrorism are the two top concerns for the European Union as a bloc, but trust in the EU and optimism about its future are on the rise, a new European Commission poll shows. The Commission’s twice-a-year Eurobarometer poll showed 38 percent of the EU’s 510 million citizens saw immigration as the most important issue facing the bloc. Concern over terrorism was mentioned by 29 percent of Europeans. Still, optimism about the EU’s future prevailed in all of the Union’s countries except, Greece and Britain. Reuters


For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSC IntelBrief.
Editor-in-Chief, Karen J. Greenberg, Center on National Security, Fordham Law School

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