‘Bias” isn’t complicated, and recognizing it is so easy a child can see it, and usually does. Every parent discovers this. If bias and the appearance of bias were persons, they would be identical twins whose mother couldn’t tell them apart. Though usually personae non grata in law enforcement, these twins palled around with key players in the investigations of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. So, too, the inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified emails, and it fueled hatred for one and affection for the other. There won’t be a satisfactory explanation for the sordid behavior of the Justice Department and its subsidiary, the FBI, until the curious decision that exonerated Mrs. Clinton and targeted Mr. Trump is explained, and in full.
Anyone who watched the televised questioning of FBI agent Peter Strzok last week is still puzzling over the distinction between bias, and the appearance of bias, that Mr. Strzok says is elementary. To hear him tell it, 50,000 text messages that included references to Mr. Trump in the context of unmentionable sex acts were simply random words that flickered across the screens of his electronic devices unbidden by mind or heart. He was trying to explain something that might be described as “the immaculate composition.”
The bias in his text exchange with his mistress Lisa Page, in which he tried to assure Miss Page that Donald Trump would never become president because “we’ll stop it,” reeks of unbridled bias. He didn’t want to talk about it, and responded to congressional questions with lips curled and gnashing of teeth, insisting there “was in no way, unequivocally, any suggestion that me, the FBI, would take any action whatsoever to improperly impact the electoral process, for any candidate.”
Then he ventured deeper into the nonsense zone. He denied that his personal bias was the reason he was removed from the FBI investigation into whether Mr. Trump colluded with Russia to influence the presidential election. Special counsel Robert Mueller took him off the case, he said, only because of “the appearance of bias.” If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, he wants us to believe it’s a giraffe.
The agent’s concerns for Mrs. Clinton, in contrast, were apparently as different as day is to night. Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, a Republican, observed at the hearings that during the Clinton email investigation, Inspector General Frank Rucker discovered that 30,000 of the messages on Mrs. Clinton’s home email server had been rerouted to an unknown destination. “It was going to an unauthorized source that was a foreign entity unrelated to Russia,” he said.
When he was assigned to lead the search for clear evidence of a national security breach leading back to Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Strzok looked the other way. “You were given that information and you did nothing with it,” Mr. Gohmert told him. He acknowledged meeting with the inspector general but said he did not recall “specific content.” Covering up a violation of espionage laws in order to say “I’m with her” could have cost many American lives.
By conceding he “detested” Mr. Trump but standing by his assertion that he held no “bias” against the president, Mr. Strzok surrendered his last shred of credibility, leaving everyone only to wonder how a man of such intemperate disposition could have been elevated to an exalted position with the nation’s premier law enforcement agency.
Ultimately, bias and its appearance are subjective human expressions that can’t be measured objectively like the room temperature. The presence of bias, however, is clear enough in the way federal officials applied different standards of justice in the twin investigations of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. In Hillary’s case, it was decided not to charge her even before interviewing her, and the FBI neglected to question her under oath, enabling her staff to destroy electronic devices containing damaging evidence. In contrast, the investigators pursue Mr. Trump and his associates to this day, though no one has yet been found to have colluded with Russians to influence the election.
Bias is as old as the human story. Even God is given to choosing sides for His own providential reasons, as the Bible says he favored Abel over Cain. In the event that human beings someday shed their narrow-minded instincts, claims of pure motivations may ring true. What we know now, however, is that Peter Strzok doth protest considerably too much.