The FBI already has amassed a record of misconduct by top officials leading up to Monday, when the Justice Department inspector general is scheduled to release conclusions on whether agents also abused the bureau’s intrusive wiretapping powers.
To date, four inspector general reports and internal Justice Department documents have found senior FBI officials guilty of lying, insubordination, security violations, mishandling confidential material and personal biases against President Trump.
Rep. Devin Nunes, the California Republican who discovered that the FBI had used a Democratic Party-financed dossier as evidence, often refers to bureau leaders as “dirty cops.”
Lisa Page, a former FBI senior counsel and one of those singled out, portrayed herself this week as an innocent victim of FBI betrayal.
Meanwhile, news media stories have downplayed the significance of the upcoming inspector general’s report on how the FBI spied on the Trump campaign through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and other means.
Ms. Page told The Daily Beast: “It’s very painful to see to places like the FBI and the Department of Justice that represent so much of what is excellent about this country, not fulfilling the critical obligation that they have to speak truth to power. The thing about the FBI that is so extraordinary is that it is made up of a group of men and women whose every instinct is to run toward the fight. It’s in the fiber of everybody there. It’s the lifeblood. So it’s particularly devastating to be betrayed by an organization I still care about so deeply.”
DOCUMENT: Read DOJ's letter to Peter Strzok
A historical record already shows FBI misdeeds by then-Director James B. Comey; his deputy, Andrew McCabe; Ms. Page; and former agent Peter Strzok, Ms. Page’s married lover.
It was Ms. Page who came under some of the sharpest criticism by Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz over her text messages with Mr. Strzok.
Mr. Strzok, since fired, headed the FBI’s probe into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s State.gov email malpractices and then shifted to overseeing the investigation into Russian election interference and the 2016 Trump campaign.
Ms. Page and Mr. Strzok talked of how they would “stop” Mr. Trump. After Mr. Trump captured the White House, Ms. Page said she needed to brush up on Watergate. They also talked of not wanting to offend Mrs. Clinton because she would be the next president and hoped she realized that the Justice Department was pushing the email probe.
Said Mr. Horowitz in his report: “We 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. Most of the text messages raising such questions pertained to the Russia investigation. … When one senior FBI official, Strzok, who was helping to lead the Russia investigation at the time, conveys in a text message to another senior FBI official, Page, that ‘we’ll stop’ candidate Trump from being elected — after other extensive text messages between the two disparaging candidate Trump — it is not only indicative of a biased state of mind but, even more seriously, implies a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects.”
Mr. Horowitz produced two investigations in one: Mrs. Clinton’s emails and the strident Page-Strzok messaging on Mr. Trump.
On Mr. Comey’s decision to unilaterally exonerate Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Horowitz found the FBI director’s action “insubordinate.” At a July 5, 2016, press conference, Mr. Comey said Mrs. Clinton was “extremely careless” but did not break the law.
“Comey admitted that he concealed his intentions from the Department until the morning of his press conference on July 5, and instructed his staff to do the same, to make it impracticable for Department leadership to prevent him from delivering his statement. We found that it was extraordinary and insubordinate for Comey to do so,” Mr. Horowitz concluded.
In a separate 2018 report, Mr. Horowitz found that Mr. McCabe, the No. 2 FBI agent, lied to investigators about his involvement in leaking a story about himself to The Wall Street Journal. The story’s aim was to burnish his image as an independent lawman.
He allegedly lied when he said Mr. Comey approved of the leak, post-story, and when he tried to blame the leak on unidentified agents in his circle of associates.
The Trump Justice Department ended up firing Mr. McCabe and Mr. Strzok. Ms. Page resigned.
In August, Mr. Horowitz announced the results of his fourth Comey-era probe, this one into the director himself. The focus was on Mr. Comey’s unprecedented decision to write and retain his personal memos about the president. He leaked the contents of one memo to The New York Times.
Fired by Mr. Trump in May 2017, Mr. Comey had a simple motive: to provoke the appointment of a special prosecutor, which happened.
“Comey’s actions with respect to the Memos violated Department and FBI policies concerning the retention, handling, and dissemination of FBI records and information, and violated the requirements of Comey’s FBI Employment Agreement,” Mr. Horowitz concluded.
The Justice Department declined to bring criminal charges. Mr. Comey has steadfastly defended the Trump probe he started in July 2016 and at times has continued his feud with Mr. Trump via tweets.
“There was no corruption. There was no treason. There was no attempted coup. Those are lies, and dumb lies at that,” Mr. Comey wrote this spring in an op-ed in The Washington Post. “There were just good people trying to figure out what was true, under unprecedented circumstances.”
Mr. Strzok, the counterintelligence specialist, filed a lawsuit against the department in August to try to gain his reinstatement.
“The decision to fire Special Agent Strzok in violation of his Constitutional rights was the result of a long and public campaign by President Trump and his allies to vilify Strzok and pressure the agency to terminate him,” the lawsuit states.
Justice Department attorneys responded last month by filing in court the Aug. 8, 2018, letter notifying Mr. Strzok of his initial suspension. The letter, signed by Candice Hill, assistant director of the FBI’s office of professional responsibility, lists a series of transgressions.
“Of serious concern was the overly political tone of many of your text messages related to the 2016 presidential election, including statements expressing hostility for then-candidate Donald Trump and support for then-candidate Hillary Clinton,” the letter states. “Even more concerning, certain text messages mixed your political opinions with discussions about the work you were conducting on the Clinton email and Russia investigations, which raised serious questions about your impartiality and whether your political opinions affected your investigative decisions.”
The letter adds to a list of “unprofessional conduct” the fact that Mr. Strzok used a personal email account to conduct FBI business.
The letter notes a text on July 31, 2016, the day Mr. Strzok opened the counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign: “And damn this [Russia investigation] feel momentous. Because this matters. The other [Clinton] did too, but that was to ensure we didn’t F something up. this matters because this MATTERS.”
A week later, Ms. Page texted, “[Mr. Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right?!”
Mr. Strzok: “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”
After Mr. Trump won the presidency, Ms. Page texted: “I bought all the president’s men. Figure I needed to brush up on Watergate.”
On July 26, 2016, while they were watching the Democratic National Convention, Ms. Page texted, “Yeah, it is pretty cool. [Mrs. Clinton] just has to win now. I’m not going to lie, I got a flash of nervousness yesterday about Trump. The ‘sandernistas’ have the potential to make a very big mistake here.”
The Strzok-Page team ended up transferring to special counsel Robert Mueller’s office. The stay was short. Mr. Horowitz discovered the texts during the email probe. Mr. Mueller removed the two from his investigation. Word leaked out months later, in December 2017.
“When media outlets learned of your illicit relationship with [Ms. Page], and the nature of your political text messaging, the story became a media sensation,” the suspension letter said. “It was widely reported, cast doubt on the FBI’s investigative findings and the Special Counsel’s investigation and brought harsh criticism upon the FBI from politicians at all levels in both political parties, President Trump and the media and the public.”
The letter also accuses Mr. Strzok of numerous security violations by using his personal phone to conduct FBI business. On one occasion, his wife gained access to his phone, which Mr. Strzok called “unusual.”
The FBI’s internal probe found Mr. Strzok guilty of “dereliction of supervisory responsibility.”
The letter said he failed to act in a timely manner when the New York field office informed him that Mrs. Clinton’s State.gov emails showed up in the laptop of Anthony Weiner, the husband of close Clinton aide Huma Abedin.