New York, N.Y. (New York Post) — As FBI Director Christopher Wray started giving his response to the blistering report on the Hillary Clinton investigation, I hoped he would accept the findings as proof that the agency lost its way and must be shaken to its foundation. By the time he finished talking, I felt naive for daring to hope.
Wray’s performance was worse than disappointing. It was infuriating proof that it will take more than one election to change the corrupt culture of Washington.
Wray replaced the ousted James Comey, whose conduct in the Clinton probe was shredded by Inspector General Michael Horowitz. Investigators demonstrated with new details that the self-righteous Comey was insubordinate and duplicitous, and even used private email for government business while he investigated Clinton over her private, unsecured server. Talk about arrogance.
The report ends forever the illusion that Comey was a noble public servant. He served only himself and is now so toxic to both parties that it’s unlikely he will ever get another government job. Hallelujah.
But the FBI didn’t stink only from the head. The report paints an agency run amok, with numerous examples of serious misconduct by leaders, agents and lawyers.
We learned of more outrageous texts from Peter Strzok, the top agent who worked on both the Clinton and Russia investigations. In one, Strzok promised his lover, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, that “We’ll stop” Donald Trump from becoming president.
Horowitz found another unidentified FBI employee who, in a message to a colleague, echoed Clinton’s “deplorables” slur by calling Trump supporters “all poor to middle class, uneducated, lazy POS that think he will magically grant them jobs for doing nothing.”
Yet another one sent “heads up” emails to Clinton campaign boss John Podesta and lobbied to get his kid a job on the campaign. The report also found numerous agents having improper media contacts, with some accepting gifts.
The mystery of leaks is a mystery no more. The FBI was a giant faucet.
Except to Christopher Wray, who acted as if the disturbing findings were just another day at the office. While saying the report shows “we’ve got some work to do,” he stressed its limited scope.
“It’s focused on a specific set of events back in 2016, and a small number of FBI employees connected with those events,” he said. “Nothing in the report impugns the integrity of our workforce as a whole, or the FBI as an institution.”
Right — and otherwise, Mrs. Lincoln, did you enjoy the play?
Both Comey and his top deputy, Andrew McCabe, were fired, agents are being investigated for partisan conduct, Congress is in an uproar about FBI stonewalling of documents and public trust is plummeting. But Wray is the consummate company man as he sings the agency’s praises while suggesting the dirty doings are no big deal.
“The report did not find any evidence of political bias or improper consideration actually impacting the investigation under review,” he boasted, then diminished the improper behavior as mere “errors of judgment, violations of or disregard for policy, and decisions that, at the very least, in hindsight, were not the best choices.”
His bias bar is so low, it would never pass muster in an ordinary criminal trial. Imagine a case where the defendant is black and all the jurors have identified themselves as white racists. Would it be considered a fair trial if they found the defendant guilty just because they didn’t make racist comments during deliberations?
By circling the wagons, Wray shows he is unprepared to carry out big changes. That makes it three strikes at Justice, as Wray joins Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein as Trump’s biggest whiffs.
They are worse than weak links. They simply don’t see themselves as being part of the same administration.
Sessions’ recusal from the Russia probe turned Trump’s fate over to Rosenstein, who is acting much as Comey acted — above accountability.
He and Wray are withholding key documents that House Republicans want about the suspect FBI probe of Trump. Rosenstein threatened to subpoena House members and their staff for daring to question his actions, a chilling abuse of power that reveals his disdain for legitimate oversight.
Despite its otherwise good work, the inspector general report becomes part of the problem by refusing to second-guess Comey’s approach to the Clinton case, saying his choices were matters of discretion that fell within guidelines. Yet the approach Comey chose smacks of politics, with Clinton given every benefit of the doubt and remarkable deference.
Moreover, political bias doesn’t need to be confessed to when President Barack Obama said publicly that Clinton did nothing wrong while the probe continued. Similarly, Horowitz faults then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch for meeting with Bill Clinton before the conclusion, but calls it only “an error in judgment.”
Another shortcoming is outside the report’s scope, but can’t be ignored. The kid-glove treatment Clinton got stands in sharp contrast to the harsh way Trump and his team are being treated in the Russia probe.
Guilty pleas and indictments, capped by Paul Manafort’s jailing Friday, show special counsel Robert Mueller is playing prosecutor hardball even though he works under the same Justice Department rules Comey used to give Clinton a free pass. Political bias is the only way to explain the disparity.
Some 19 months after Trump was elected, the schism his triumph reflected is hardening. Instead of giving all Americans reasons to trust their government, Sessions, Rosenstein, Wray and Mueller act as if they are the law and everybody else should shut up.
Endless conflict will be their legacy.