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Normally, a congressional hearing is not the place to look for revelations of undiscovered truths. Typically, not much “hearing” happens at a hearing, anyway. It’s often just an opportunity for congressmen to grandstand and yell out a few talking points so their staffers can make a quick video to post on Facebook.
Last Thursday’s hearing with FBI agent Peter Strzok followed the usual pattern, for the most part, with one key difference: the American people finally saw the truth about Strzok.
Strzok, the disgraced but somehow-still-employed-with-security-clearance agent, is a real piece of work. His behavior has been so shameful that he was booted from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. He became a prime focus of the Justice Department inspector general’s report on the FBI’s political bias during the 2016 presidential election. Nearly an entire section of the report was devoted to Strzok’s actions, inactions, and (crucially) his text messages.
Strzok served as the chief of the FBI’s counterespionage section, heading the Hillary Clinton server “matter” before launching the probe into the Trump campaign’s alleged and as yet unproven Russian collusion. It’s perhaps not enough to say he’s been at the very center of the FBI’s most controversial investigations.
Who Do These Guys Think They Work For?
What was fascinating about Strzok’s behavior and demeanor last week was his defiant, smug, arrogant, biased, catch-me-if-you-can attitude. It was almost as if he felt he was protected and above the law, but most assuredly, he felt he was untouchable and above Congress.
Yet the FBI, as a division of the Department of Justice, is subject to the oversight of Congress. Congress established the Justice Department in 1789—and it could unmake the Justice Department if it wanted. Congress provides funding that allows the department and the bureau to operate, and Congress has not only the right to oversee the actions of the FBI but also the obligation to ensure the bureau acts within its legal authority. What we saw Thursday was a smug bureaucrat who clearly has forgotten that in a constitutional republic, power flows from the people to their duly elected representatives who are to do the people’s business, which includes funding—with the people’s tax dollars—the various departments and agencies, followed by oversight of those departments.
So when you see Justice Department lawyers and federal agents arrogantly suggest that Congress go pound sand and wait around for the FBI, they’re not just telling Congress off: they’re telling the people off. They’re also communicating that an institution, a creation of our constitutional government, is greater than the Constitution and more sovereign than the sovereign people.
The FBI and the Justice Department are stonewalling by instructing Strzok not to answer certain questions, so FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions had better decide to whom they are more loyal: corrupt and broken institutions, or the Constitution, rule of law, and the American people.
In spite of protests to the contrary, many of us believe that the Obama Justice Department and FBI used the thinnest of pretexts (a fake dossier funded by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party and filled with Russian misinformation) to gin up an investigation into Donald Trump. Driven by partisan hatred of Trump (see John Brennan’s and James Comey’s Twitter feeds), they and their buddies in the mainstream media helped Putin immeasurably in his goal of destabilizing Western democracies.
No sane person really thinks that somehow a very limited set of Facebook ad buys impacted an election, or that the overall Russian effort was anything more than a molehill that the Democrats and their allies in the mainstream press have turned into Mount Putin. In fact, Rod Rosenstein’s press conference last Friday stated very clearly that Russia’s attempts to impact the 2016 election did not change votes or change the election results.
Democrats Run Interference
But what was also fascinating on the day of Strzok’s hearing is how the Democrats were defending and obstructing on behalf of a biased, discredited FBI agent. Clearly, they were not interested in transparency or in getting to the bottom of what took place. Rather than join their Republican colleagues asking difficult questions, Democrats ran interference.
After Strzok was asked a question, Democrats frequently began shrieking about a “point of order,” interjecting with any kind of procedural delay, question, or whatever random thought came to mind. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) took his obstruction to the next level, making motions to try to subpoena Steve Bannon, who hasn’t been part of the Trump Administration for almost a year and was entirely unrelated to the subject of the hearing. That doesn’t matter to Swalwell of course, who’d rather grandstand than perform his duties as a congressman.
If you believed any of absurdities that Strzok was selling last week, from his claiming his texts showed no bias, that he held himself to the highest of standards, and that he was a super-patriot who is only speaking on behalf of the American people, I’ve got ocean front property in Kansas to sell you.
Let me put a fine point on it: Strzok and his colleagues at the Justice Department and FBI think that they’re better than us. Strzok and the previous senior management of the FBI think they’re above the law. They think they can try to manipulate an election, then lie to our faces and expect that we’re dumb enough to believe it. The smugness and arrogance are staggering.
I’m not interested in hearing any more absurd excuses. If the Justice Department and FBI will not be transparent because they’re afraid it will be damaging to their respective institution’s reputations (they’re already in tatters and we don’t believe or trust you already), then Donald Trump, for the health and future of the constitutional republic, and to restore faith in the guardians of the rule of law, should enforce transparency through an executive order and have full declassification of everything. And if anyone resists those calls for transparency, he should be fired immediately.
Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images