There are many unanswered questions about FBI culture

There are many unanswered questions about FBI culture
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On Thursday, the Justice Department inspector general released its findings on FBI conduct throughout the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCarter Page files defamation lawsuit against DNC Dems fear party is headed to gutter from Avenatti’s sledgehammer approach Election Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight MORE email investigation.

“We found no evidence that the conclusions by department prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations, rather, we concluded that they were based on the prosecutor’s assessment of the facts, the law and past department practice,” the report said. While the report concluded that there was no political bias during the investigative process, there were two key findings that deserve more scrutiny.

The first is that James ComeyJames Brien ComeyFBI investigated whether McCabe leaked info about Flynn and Trump to media House Judiciary chairman threatens to subpoena Rosenstein Three reasons Mueller may not charge Trump with obstruction MORE was insubordinate. His July 2016 public comments clearing Clinton of any wrongdoing but slamming her for carelessness, and his October 2016 announcement that the FBI had reopened the investigation were both problematic and in direct contradiction of agency protocol.

The FBI does not comment on ongoing investigations, and that should have extended to the case regarding Clinton’s emails. The FBI does not and should not make televised public statements regarding the opening and closing of criminal investigations, as well as prosecutorial referrals. In addition, the FBI leadership and agents must be scrupulous in operating without the appearance of political bias.

In both of his 2016 statements as FBI director, Comey went against Justice Department norms and caused serious disruption to one of the most contentious presidential elections in recent history. Additionally, the inspector general report found that Comey himself was using a private email account to conduct government business. This is an obvious violation of government protocol and an undeniably hypocritical action given he was investigating Clinton for the same behavior.

Comey responded to the report with a column in the New York Times saying, “I do not agree with all of the inspector general’s conclusions, but I respect the work of his office and salute its professionalism.” The Justice Department inspector general told the American public that it found the former FBI director’s argument “unpersuasive.”

The second finding, a previously unpublished text exchange between now infamous FBI agents Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, was far more damning and leaves lingering questions to the credibility of the investigation. Although the report was clear in its findings that political bias was not a factor in FBI’s investigative conclusions, this new revelation continues to hinder the integrity of America’s law enforcement institutions.

“[Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpKey takeaways from the Arizona Senate debate Major Hollywood talent firm considering rejecting Saudi investment money: report Mattis says he thought 'nothing at all' about Trump saying he may leave administration MORE’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Page texted Strzok in August 2016. “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it,” he responded. It is hard to ignore the seemingly biased text indicating Strzok’s desire, in his official capacity as an FBI agent, to stop the Republican nominee from becoming president of the United States.

While Strzok told investigators that his message was an attempt to assure Page that Trump would not win the election, there are surely better ways he could have communicated that. Moreover, when asked why they were using work phones to conduct private conversations, Page responded with an answered that revealed a striking level of unprofessionalism.

“The predominant reason that we communicated on our work phones was because we were trying to keep our affair a secret from our spouses,” she told investigators. These revelations about the conduct between Page and Strzok require far more scrutiny than the mainstream media has given thus far. The Justice Department inspector general said the office was “deeply troubled” by the content of these messages and said they “potentially indicated or created the appearance that investigative decisions were impacted by bias or improper considerations.”

Many questions remain about the culture that could have allowed Comey, Page and Strzok to conduct themselves in this manner. Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch is rightly criticized for her role in oversight. Lynch should have immediately ordered Comey to stand down when she learned of his intentions to hold a press conference on the conclusion of the email investigation. Even more concerning was her June 2016 meeting on a Phoenix airport tarmac with former President Clinton, casting additional uncertainty toward the Clinton email investigation.

Now, more than ever, we need our institutions to be reputable and insulated from political agendas, given continuing investigations of the Trump campaign and Russian collusion. Any action that gives the public even the slightest appearance of impropriety is not tolerable. Moving forward, it is essential that Americans have confidence in all government institutions, particularly in such politically polarized times.

Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. A longtime political consultant, he is also a Fox News contributor and the author of 11 books, including “Putin’s Master Plan: To Destroy Europe, Divide NATO, and Restore Russian Power and Global Influence.”