Get all the facts out on the FBI, Justice Department

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post yesterday ran editorials calling for prior restraint on a memo written by the duly elected chairman of the House Intelligence Committee after he and his staff reviewed classified documents related to the so-called Russia investigation.  These editorials are a stain on American journalism, much like the Japanese internment camps were a stain on the record of the Supreme Court. They should — and, I think, will over time — regret them.

I have no idea what is in this memo, but it’s a memo. It’s speech. It’s from the very staff and people our Constitution assigns to oversee the Justice Department and the FBI. And the elected officials who wrote it think I should see it. The people who don’t want me to see it are the elected officials and leaders of the Democratic Party, the institutions and individuals whose actions are being reviewed, and several of the same newspapers that went to court to publish the “Pentagon Papers.”

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For about a year, anyone who wanted to could read the secret “dossier” prepared by GPS Fusion and paid for by the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate Heller embraces Trump in risky attempt to survive in November Live coverage: Cruz, O'Rourke clash in Texas debate MORE campaign and the Democratic Party. I urge people to read it. It’s obvious nonsense. It’s not “unverified.” It’s been discredited. Its major allegations, aside from being preposterous, have no basis in fact. The idea that something, anything, could be found in it that is true — such as that Trump adviser Carter Page went to Moscow — does not rehabilitate it.

 

And, despite crystal-clear federal election rulings that campaigns must identify the ultimate recipient of the funds for opposition research, the fact that Democrats paid for the dossier was stonewalled for a year — and we found out about the source of funds only after the very same House Intelligence Committee went to court and pried it out.

A fired FBI director, James ComeyJames Brien ComeyTrump vows to get rid of 'stench' at DOJ, FBI House Judiciary on NY Times article: I intend to subpoena 'McCabe Memos' Hillicon Valley: NYT says Rosenstein wanted to wear wire on Trump | Twitter bug shared some private messages | Vendor put remote-access software on voting machines | Paypal cuts ties with Infowars | Google warned senators about foreign hacks MORE, leaked memos he wrote on his own with no oversight, supervision or review, and the New York Times gladly printed reports of them. The Washington Post even editorialized that the people should “see the memos.” We heard no argument from either newspaper then that publishing these Comey memos would damage the presidency or be misleading.

So mainstream journalism today tells us we should see the dossier, even if it’s filled with junk, and read the Comey memos, even if they have no verification — and, yet, be prevented from reading the report of the House Intelligence Committee based on documents that it took the committee six months to pry out of the FBI and Justice Department.

I believe in the First Amendment, and I thought that mainstream media did too. I did not see it as a doctrine of convenience that applied only to documents that buttress one side but then not applied if it might conceivably help the other side.

Let’s remember what has been found and disclosed about what was going on at the FBI. Andrew McCabe made crucial decisions related to these investigations and, yet, his wife received more than $500,000 in contributions for a state senate race from Terry McAuliffe, a Clinton confidante. McCabe stepped down from the FBI this week.

FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page traded 50,000 texts detailing unprecedented bias for and against the subjects of investigations and discussed an “insurance policy” should Trump get elected. They were removed from the investigation and are under investigation by the inspector general of the Justice Department.

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James Baker, who it is believed leaked the dossier to Mother Jones during the campaign, and who was general counsel of the FBI, has been “reassigned.” James Rybicki, Comey’s chief of staff, who was also under criticism, left the government. And Associate Attorney General Bruce Ohr was separated from the government, apparently because he had undisclosed contacts with Fusion GPS and, it turns out, his wife was even working for that company.

So it’s a fact that six senior leaders of the FBI or Justice Department have been either reassigned or fired based on facts that have come out largely from the work of this committee and of the inspector general of the Justice Department. Yet, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesRussia probe accelerates political prospects for House Intel Dems Nunes: Russia probe documents should be released before election Gowdy: House Intel panel should release all transcripts from Russia probe MORE (R-Calif.) is being branded almost as a lunatic. The hypocrisy here is not confined to newspaper editorial pages. We have seen a veritable news blockade on information coming out of these investigations on the front pages.

In the last Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll, we read people a list of recent facts that have come out and almost all of them were unknown to the public, even when prompted. A majority did know that Comey had drafted the memo on the Clinton investigation long before the investigation was over. But most people did not know who paid for the dossier, and most had not heard about the text messages and their reference to an “insurance policy” in case Trump was elected. After hearing this information, 75 percent said it was significant and 63 percent said the FBI needs to be investigated.

Whether the Nunes memo is a smoking gun or a pop gun, it deserves to see the light of day — and the editorial writers should think about how they came to support prior restraint over sunshine and open debate. Perhaps more importantly, the news pages need to stop covering a story that has brought down six senior officials as just partisan sniping and recognize that the actions of the FBI and the Justice Department in relation to both these investigations need to come out of the darkness and be fully revealed to the American public.  

Mark Penn served as pollster and adviser to Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, including during President Clinton’s impeachment, and today is chairman of the Harris Poll.