Amid interviews and IG reports, fact remains: Strzok and Page did real damage
President Donald Trump’s overly dramatic speech at his Oct. 11 rally in Minneapolis included a now infamous verbal attack on Peter Strzok and Lisa Page that has since thrust Lisa Page into the role of hero for anti-Trump partisans. Trump’s sharp tongue and overactive Twitter fingers betray him. They weaponize his political opponents and simultaneously distract from the most pertinent details.
The fact remains: Strzok and Page’s anti-Trump text messages during the Russian investigation damaged the reputation of an esteemed law enforcement institution. They violated remedial investigative behavioral standards by sharing their political bias on official FBI phones, and the FBI is still struggling to recover.
The rumored conclusion the Inspector General found no bias was acted upon by the FBI during the Russian investigation is great news for the FBI, but it does little to mitigate the damage inflicted by Strzok and Page.
Contrary to popular belief, it is absolutely possible to have a personal and passionate bias and still conduct an honest and objective investigation. FBI agents have biases and express their convictions. I personally investigated plenty of people who drew out of me private thoughts and statements like, “I’m going to get this guy if it’s the last thing I do,” but I never did anything inappropriate, unethical, or illegal to achieve that end. The evidence always drove the investigation.
The problem for Strzok and Page is their passions and biases were communicated on government equipment during a high profile investigation and subsequently made public, undermining the integrity of the investigation. That alone cast a huge shadow of doubt over the FBI that will linger well beyond the release of the Inspector General report. FBI investigations should be objective — always. FBI personnel should never give the appearance an investigation is anything but objective — ever. The stakes are too high. The impact on the country is too great.
Strzok and Page were employed by what was the world’s leading law enforcement agency. The integrity of their work and the work of their FBI peers was paramount to maintaining stability and confidence in the country and its law enforcement. It’s not news that the FBI’s reputation has taken a hit in recent years, but the extent of the impact from the imprudence of Strzok and Page is likely not fully understood by most people. Their obvious improprieties created a level of widespread distrust in the FBI not previously seen.
Recruiting assets and sources, finding willing participants for interviews, and even trial success can all be adversely impacted by the decline in the FBI’s reputation.
Former colleagues have told me they recently lost otherwise strong cases because lone jurors claimed after trial they refused to convict anyone investigated by the FBI. Criminals are literally walking the streets because the FBI has lost the confidence of the American people. And that decline is directly linked to the famously poor judgment made by two senior FBI employees who knew better. This is precisely why the FBI teaches its agents never to engage in activity on FBI phones or in a public forum that reveals personal bias. The risk to the Agency is too significant.
The work of all the great men and women in the FBI should not be jeopardized by the actions of one, or two, of its people.
As Americans we have a soft spot for stories of redemption. We are a country of second chances, and that is a good thing. The idea that anyone could find pleasure in someone’s downfall is abhorrent, even if they hold opposing political views. That is not to say Peter Strzok and Lisa Page did not do this to themselves. They did. They made themselves political talking points that will be used by politicians and pundits until the next election, and perhaps beyond.
The vitriol of the president’s own words have now empowered his opposition and encouraged them to selectively use the drama surrounding Lisa Page to raise her up as some sort of heroic figure in a manner reminiscent of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Most FBI agents will be completely forgotten when they leave the FBI, and they know it. Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, however, are a couple names the FBI will undoubtedly make sure no FBI employee ever forgets.
Jeff Cortese, a financial crimes manager in the private sector, is the former acting chief of the FBI’s Public Corruption Unit. Before his 11-year career with the bureau, he worked as a dignitary protection agent with the U.S. Capitol Police and served on the security detail for the Speaker of the House. Follow him on Twitter @jeffreycortese or find him at his website www.jeffcortese.com.
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