| April 19, 2019 01:27 PM
I’m angry. I’m furious over how much damage has been wreaked upon my beloved FBI by supposedly impartial, unbiased, and honorable public servants.
Thursday’s release of the 448-page, partially redacted Mueller report was supposed to conclude our long national nightmare. But here we are, with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., subpoenaing the unredacted report and calling for Robert Mueller to testify on May 23.
Many media headlines ignored the report’s central findings and instead focused on the sordid details of a corrupt White House seemingly in chaos, a press secretary forced to admit to investigators her fabrication of particular events, and a president who escaped prosecution only due to long-standing Justice Department protocols and his own ineptitude to obstruct justice.
But I’m not here to defend or attack Trump. While our system of jurisprudence holds that where there may not be sufficient evidence to indict someone, that doesn’t mean a person wasn’t predisposed to or clumsily attempted to engage in criminal activity. Regardless, he’s not in my orbit.
But as someone who spent 25 years working for the FBI, every man or woman who has ever served within the FBI is in my orbit. For that reason, I view their conduct, as they should view my own, through a vastly more scrutable lens.
The events involving credible information and allegations that led up to the initiation of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane case occurred during the Obama administration. An intelligence community led by notable Trump critics John Brennan, James Clapper, Michael Hayden, Susan Rice, Loretta Lynch, and James Comey recognized the efforts from the Kremlin to sow chaos in our democratic system — dating back to the inception of the Cold War. Tradecraft has evolved significantly since the 1950s. Efforts to undermine our democracy are conducted in plain sight across the internet and social media platforms.
But no one, least of all Trump, expected Trump to win. The leader of the FBI at the time of the 2016 election, James Comey, nicknamed the “Cardinal” for his holier-than-thou mien and nonstop virtue-signaling, had surrounded himself at FBI headquarters with callow sycophants bent on career advancement who denigrated political candidates they loathed on their bureau cellphones. Afflicted with groupthink and endowed with a penchant for confirmation bias, these Comey idolaters were oblivious to their resemblance to the gaggle of admirers who couldn’t bring themselves to advise the naked emperor about his invisible threads.
No, the true disappointment for me and other retired FBI agents isn’t our president’s conduct. It’s the conduct of promoted-before-their time, panicked senior executives who made poor decisions in promoting a shoddily prepared, political opposition-financed, wholly unverified piece of garbage known as “the dossier” to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court.
Don’t tell me they didn’t realize what they were championing as evidence was dreck.
For the Adam Schiffs of the world, those who purposely mischaracterized and misrepresented what they claimed to have seen with their own eyes in closed chambers, shame on you. Your clownish double down is injurious to our justice system. Please stop. Your self-righteous, sanctimonious, pious indignation is a joke.
But cravenly misbehaving politicians aside, allow me to focus on the two men most familiar with the potent weaponization of the flawed cornerstone behind the predicate for spying on George Papadopoulos and Carter Page. James Comey and former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, please announce yourselves. Both of you shamelessly attempted to manage outsized expectations prior to the Mueller report’s release.
McCabe, in his recent book The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump, deftly leverages the bureau’s widely criticized decision to “announce a result that did not include bringing charges against anyone” in the Clinton email investigation. Comparing it to the collusion case, McCabe meekly allows that “the same might happen with the Russia case.”
Here’s the guy who sounded the alarm, supposedly discussed 25th Amendment provisions for presidential removal with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and offered the dossier as unimpeachable evidence for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant and three renewals.
This is the same man who in February said, “I think it’s possible” Trump is a Russian asset. McCabe signed off on the dossier multiple times as the predicate to continue re-upping the FISA warrant against the Trump campaign and had all the relevant information. Yet somehow the reality of the Mueller report, which found not a shred of evidence of Trump campaign collusion, let alone evidence of Trump being a Russian asset, was light-years away from McCabe’s judgment.
Shameful. But when one nurses at the teat of an FBI director whose ego grows with every word he hears himself speak, we understand.
Comey, of course, released a post-report Twitter follow-up to his “So many questions” forest photo of his gazing high into the redwoods. This one, simply captioned “So many answers,” featured the forest floor, with new growth flora emergent. The man who famously advised Katie Couric that “I hope to be forgotten” craves remaining a central figure in the continued diminution of the FBI. After disgracefully leaking FBI documents to the New York Times, he testified to the Senate to his fecklessness and lack of courage while at the helm. An overtly partisan second act beclowns him and adds fuel to the fire for those who always believed his FBI decision-making was tainted by political considerations.
His insulting pronouncement, “I have no idea what he’s talking about,” regarding Barr’s comments that the Trump campaign was “spied” upon are rich. This is the same Comey who, along with his ardent supporters, continues to argue that any criticism of the FBI’s actions in the Trump-Russia case are “corrosive attacks on our institutions of justice.”
The reckoning is coming, folks. There are four ongoing investigations that will seek to explain why a collection of falsehoods, including pee tapes and meetings in Prague that never occurred, were eagerly accepted as fact by Comey’s Keystone Cops.
The Mueller report will assuredly marinate a while longer in the disappointed mainstream media echo chamber. Let’s face some uncomfortable facts when we can turn our attention to the pending inspector general report, the Senate investigation, the attorney general’s review of bureau actions, and Utah U.S. Attorney John Huber’s investigation into Crossfire Hurricane misconduct.
I bleed FBI blue and gold. I spent half of my life serving an agency I love dearly. But it’s time to cease the political papering-over of the Comey era. I’m angry, and you should be as well.
James A. Gagliano (@JamesAGagliano) worked in the FBI for 25 years. He is a law enforcement analyst for CNN and an adjunct assistant professor in homeland security and criminal justice at St. John’s University.