Poor FBI Director Christopher Wray. So many times has he torpedoed the transparency of our nation’s most powerful law enforcement agency that nobody believes his latest denial. The Epoch Times just reported that surrogates for Wray have denied reports the director fought the release of “exculpatory” documents to Michael Flynn’s attorneys. “Exculpatory” means the documents show Flynn is innocent. It’s a term of art that seems to have completely different definitions depending on whether the defense or the prosecution argues the point.
You could read hundreds of articles detailing the fishiness surrounding the Flynn prosecution, but to recap just the most important points, here’s a refresher. Michael Flynn briefly worked as President Trump’s national security advisor. During the transition period after the election but before the new administration officially began, the president had Flynn reach out to several ambassadors around the world, including Russia’s. Flynn spoke to the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kysliak a number of times. One of the three-letter Agencies (FBI? CIA? or the NSA?) recorded the call and furnished it to the Crossfire Hurricane investigators. Flynn’s call was perfectly legal. Neither the call nor the subsequent investigation of the call had anything to do with alleged 2016 election interference.
In January of 2017 Deputy FBI chief Andrew McCabe called Flynn to let him know two FBI agents were coming to ask him a few questions. These agents, the infamous Peter Strzok and his partner Joe Pientka, were both senior and supervisory agents within the FBI. The agents proceeded to ask Flynn questions about the call for the sole purpose of catching him in an inconsistency between the wiretap transcript and his own memory. The agents succeeded but admitted that the inconsistency resulted from misremembering and was not the product of any deliberate intent to deceive on the part of Flynn.
McCabe, however, had a grudge against Flynn. After his subordinates edited Flynn’s statement without Flynn’s knowledge or approval, McCabe trumped up a “false statement” charge against Flynn. Flynn pleaded guilty to the charge in November of 2017.
We don’t know for sure what the “new” exculpatory evidence is. Personally, I’m skeptical that there’s more to learn about the FBI misconduct that is not already evident from the information in the public domain. But if Flynn’s attorney is right that the information is indeed exculpatory, there are reasons to believe Wray is more concerned about the public image of the FBI than he is about the FBI actually following the Constitution. Below is a brief but incomplete list of illustrative examples.
- Wray fights to protect McCabe
The FBI fired Andrew McCabe because he repeatedly lied to an internal Justice Department investigator looking into a critical October 2016 leak regarding an investigation into Hillary Clinton. McCabe was attempting to rebut an allegation that he was on team Clinton because his wife took money for a political campaign from a Clinton ally. In January 2018, Wray delayed the termination of McCabe by threatening to resign if McCabe were fired. Wray held fast forcing then-Attorney General Sessions to pull the trigger on the long-overdue firing. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) finalized its report detailing McCabe’s dishonesty in February 2018. Thus, when Wray threatened to resign to protect McCabe, he clearly knew about McCabe’s dishonesty but didn’t care.
- Wray fights to cover-up FISA abuse
Days after Wray threatened to quit over the termination of McCabe, in February 2018, CNN reported that Wray again threatened to resign if the House Intelligence Committee released the “Nunes Memo,” that exposed serious misconduct by the FBI. As noted by Debra Heine, “Since then, of course, the inspector general’s report on the FBI and DOJ’s Russia collusion investigations has not only corroborated the Nunes memo, it described further abuses, including the altering of a document to hide exculpatory information about former Trump adviser Carter Page.”
- Wray Blocks a damning FISA court decision
As I noted here, the FISA court issued a damning opinion of even more examples of the FBI spying on Americans in violation of the Constitution. Rather than come clean and make needed reforms under the transparency of public disclosure, Wray successfully delayed the release of the 2018 opinion for a year while he appealed the decision to a higher court.
- Wray misled the public on FBI spying on the Trump campaign
In one of the most dramatic moments of the Russia Collusion Hoax, Attorney General William Barr said in 2019 that he believed that there was illegal spying on the Trump campaign. An inspector general report in 2019 confirmed exactly that: The FBI lied to the court in order to obtain and continue a warrant to spy on Trump campaign figure Carter Page. This revelation came in addition to several allegations of FBI-related informants attempting to coax Trump campaign figures into confessing some sort of Russian collusion. Wray downplayed the misconduct stating, “That’s not the term I would use [spying],” and that he was not “personally” aware of any evidence pointing to illegal information gathering by law enforcement before the 2016 election. This was not true. As noted above, Wray had already read and attempted to suppress the Nunes memo from early 2018. Since the Nunes memo has been wholly vindicated, Wray’s statement is a complete falsehood.
- Wray fought to hide evidence of Steele’s unreliability
Clinton campaign subcontractor Christopher Steele was the essential source for the warrant used to spy on the Trump campaign through Carter Page. Steele was a fool who frequently bungled his facts. Among Steele’s crackpot theories was one that the Trump Tower had a secret back channel to Russia through a computer connection between Trump Tower and Alfa Bank. As noted by John Solomon, a response to a Freedom of Information Act request would later reveal that a senior official in the Department of State debunked the theory eight days before the FBI applied for a warrant to spy on the Trump campaign. Solomon noted that Wray’s team, “fought relentlessly to keep information secret from Congress and the public.”
Wray’s deceptions have compounded the FBI’s reputational damage caused by the misdeeds of those who came before him. Somebody should tell him that he’s simply confirming the worst fears of an unaccountable and lawless FBI that answers to nobody. The legitimacy of the FBI as a constitutional force for the rule of law is in question. It will be a long road back for the FBI and it begins with Wray’s departure. His continued presence assures the FBI’s continued decline.