New York Post, January 18, 2023
The White House is being whipsawed by the discovery of secret documents from President Joe Biden’s vice presidency recklessly stored around his garage, his Delaware house and his rented Washington office. The appointment of a special counsel to investigate Biden’s classified-document violations could imperil the president’s survival. But Biden may be saved by the charades the FBI concocted to rescue Hillary Clinton.
But breaking news Tuesday night revealed the investigation may already be turning into a farce. Amazingly, the Justice Department is permitting Biden’s personal lawyers to control the evidence — without the FBI.
Federal law penalizes the removal or mishandling of classified documents via “gross negligence” by up to 10 years in prison. The number of clearly marked confidential documents discovered on Biden’s turfs is up to 20 — all of which were supposedly “inadvertently misplaced” (for at least six years), per White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
It looks bad — but the FBI got Hillary out of a worse legal tar pit.
Clinton’s presidential campaign was roiled by the disclosure she’d used an insecure private email server to handle top-secret documents while she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013. In 2015, the FBI Counterintelligence Division opened a criminal investigation of the “potential unauthorized storage of classified information on an unauthorized system.”
The FBI treated Clinton and her coterie like royalty worthy of endless deference, according to a 2018 report by the Justice Department inspector general. The FBI agreed to destroy the laptops of top Clinton aides after a limited examination of their contents (including a promise not to examine any post-Jan. 31, 2015, emails or content). When BleachBit software and hammers were used to destroy email evidence under congressional subpoena, the FBI treated it as a harmless error.
The IG criticized federal investigators for relying on “rapport building” with Team Hillary instead of using subpoenas to compel the discovery of key evidence. The IG recommended possible disciplinary penalties for five FBI employees who sent blatant anti-Trump texts (some of those agents later staffed special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of President Donald Trump).
FBI investigators shrugged off every brazen deceit they encountered. The IG report quoted an unnamed FBI agent responding to a fellow agent’s question on how an interview went with a witness who worked with the Clintons at their Chappaqua residence: “Awesome. Lied his ass off. Went from never inside the scif [sensitive compartmented information facility for classified documents] at res [residence], to looked in when it was being constructed, to removed the trash twice, to troubleshot the secure fax with HRC a couple times, to everytime there was a secure fax i did it with HRC. Ridic.”
The agency waited until the end of the investigation in July 2016 to question Clinton and refused to videotape that crucial interview. Bizarrely, the FBI planned to absolve her “absent a confession” by Clinton during the interview, the IG report noted.
There was no question of whether Clinton violated federal law, since she received numerous classified emails marked with “(C)” on her private server. The IG report notes, “According to the [FBI memo] from Clinton’s interview, Clinton told the FBI that she did not know what the ‘(C)’ meant and ‘speculated it was a reference to paragraphs ranked in alphabetical order.’”
The report declared, “Witnesses told us, and contemporaneous emails show, that the FBI and Department officials who attended Clinton’s interview found that her claim that she did not understand the significance of the ‘(C)’ marking strained credulity. [FBI] Agent 1 stated, ‘I filed that in the bucket of hard-to-impossible to believe.’”
Shortly after that interview, FBI chief James Comey publicly announced that “no charges are appropriate” because Hillary didn’t intend to violate a federal law that had no intent requirement. Comey told the inspector general, “By her demeanor, she was credible and open and all that kind of stuff” in her interview.
A video recording of the showdown (especially that alphabet line) would have enabled Americans to judge both Clinton and the FBI. But minimizing disclosures maximized the arbitrary power of Comey and other FBI officials in a landmark political case.
House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) Friday condemned Biden’s “three strikes against transparency” and declared it was “alarming” that “Biden aides were combing through documents knowing there would be a special counsel appointed.” Some Republicans, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, are clamoring for full FBI raids of Biden properties.
Unfortunately, there may be no reliable way to conduct a full, honest search when the suspect is the most powerful individual in the land. Why expect the FBI to be more honest with Biden’s secret stashes than with Hunter Biden’s laptop?
Perhaps the investigation will be “fixed” even before the FBI arrives on the scene. After illegally stored confidential documents in Biden’s DC office turned up, the Justice Department prevented FBI agents from being present for searches at his other locales. Instead, Biden’s personal attorneys were permitted to check out the properties and trusted to report if they found any more evidence incriminating their boss, The Wall Street Journal reported late Tuesday.
Democrats are boasting that Biden is “cooperating” with the investigation. But why wouldn’t he “cooperate” when the Justice Department is letting Biden’s tools control the evidence?
The Journal said law-enforcement officials justified keeping the FBI out of the investigation to “preserve the [Justice Dept.] ability to take a tougher line, including executing a future search warrant, if negotiations ever turned hostile.” As with the Hillary Clinton investigation, “rapport building” is trumping finding smoking guns.
The FBI’s treatment of Hillary Clinton vivifies how far federal law enforcement will twist the law to absolve the nation’s political elite. Will the latest Biden scandal be dead-ended by the old Roman question, “Who guards the guardians”?
James Bovard is the author of 10 books and a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors.