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Firing Peter Strzok sends needed message now

Firing Peter Strzok sends needed message now
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As lightning rods go, former FBI agent Peter Strzok was a doozy. The now famous text messages he thumbed out to ex-FBI lawyer Lisa Page whipsawed official Washington and caused ordinary Americans to wonder if the FBI was being used by one political party against the other. The storm only intensified after Strzok’s self-serving appearance before Congress last month and an Inspector General report, released in June, that cited his “bias” and (apparent) “willingness to take official action to impact (Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I don't trust everybody in the White House' JPMorgan CEO withdraws from Saudi conference Trump defends family separations at border MORE’s) electoral prospects.”

Suffice it to say, none of that is in the job description of an FBI agent.

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This week, the FBI finally fired agent Strzok. Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeClinton's security clearance withdrawn at her request Rod Rosenstein must recuse himself McCabe concerned about 'unfair treatment' after book release delayed by FBI MORE’s successor, Deputy Director David Bowdich, made the call, reportedly overruling a lesser penalty recommended by the bureau’s internal disciplinarian, which would have left the impression that the FBI really didn’t understand the magnitude of Strzok’s perfidy. Bowdich protected the FBI and, in turn, the country — a leadership ingredient that went missing under the previous director and his deputy.

 

Three weeks ago, the FBI turned 110 years old. That’s a lot of history, most of it storied, some of it less so. But it would be hard to find another period more devastating to the reputation of the FBI than these past two years when a small cabal at the top of the bureau’s leadership structure embarked on a series of actions and decisions that unnecessarily exposed the FBI to concerns about its most precious core values: trust and impartiality. These high officials failed to protect the FBI’s immutable compact with the American people.

James ComeyJames Brien ComeyThree reasons Mueller may not charge Trump with obstruction Clinton's security clearance withdrawn at her request Rod Rosenstein must recuse himself MORE, Andrew McCabe, and Peter Strzok conspired to personally run two investigations with off-the-chart political ramifications out of the director’s office, contrary to common FBI protocols — and run both of them in very odd ways. All three men have been fired for cause. Each man, in his own way, emitted indicators of bias. Whether they acted on that bias is beside the point; the indications of bias were sufficient to arouse suspicions of politically motivated decision-making. They failed to protect the American people’s trust in the FBI.

Former director James Comey recklessly inserted himself into a presidential campaign, causing chaotic disruptions that a Russian spy could only dream of. He made up responsibilities not in his job description and got fired for it. His appearances before Congress laid bare an outsized ego obvious to everyone but himself. His damage to the FBI was immense and, perversely, he made sure it continued after his firing.

He prolonged his betrayal of the American people’s trust in the FBI by upchucking a book in record time with the pious title “A Higher Loyalty,” in case we still missed the point that he possesses a more finely tuned conscience than the rest of us. He exploited his experience as FBI director, even inappropriately commenting on an investigation that is ongoing.

And he took money for it. If he’d titled his book “A Higher Royalty,” we’d be closer to the truth of his motivations. He yukked it up on “The View” and made sure his Facebook and Twitter voice was in fine tune. He then told America to vote Democrat. Thanks for all that, Jim. Why would anyone think the FBI was biased under your “leadership”? In three-and-a-half years, you breezed in and undermined what a century of FBI agents spent the better part of their adult lives trying to protect.

Andrew McCabe, Comey’s deputy, made critical errors in judgment that left him open to concerns of bias. His wife’s Democratic campaign for Virginia state Senate accepted an unusually large amount of cash directly from a PAC controlled by Clinton acolyte Terry McAuliffe shortly before the election; McCabe led the investigation into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton on if Bill should’ve resigned over Lewinsky scandal: ‘Absolutely not’ Electoral battle for Hispanics intensifies in Florida Trump adds campaign stops for Senate candidates in Montana, Arizona, Nevada MORE’s handling of emails and later initiated a counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign.  

McCabe stubbornly refused to acknowledge the obvious conflicts of interest and recuse himself until it was too late. He can continue to maintain, to anyone who will listen, that his wife’s politics had no bearing on his official actions, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that the conflict existed and he did not protect the FBI from perceptions of biased motivations. In the end, he lied under oath and was fired.  

Peter Strzok was brought in by McCabe and Comey to personally involve himself in both of the controversial investigations that the three of them would run out of their headquarters perch. At every key turn — affidavits, interviews, FISA applications, informant taskings — there was agent Strzok. His Gump-like ubiquity made his disturbing text messages all the more ominous.

They culminated in his now famous assurance that “We will stop” Donald Trump from becoming president. Who is “we”?  Look at the team he was on. Now all of them have been fired. The bureau can begin to heal from the wounds they each inflicted.

The FBI exists to ensure equal treatment for all under the law, not to decide who deserves to be president. The deputy director’s decision to fire Peter Strzok was correct — and needed. It bolstered the message that an impartial FBI is an ideal worth protecting on behalf of the American people and that no one in the FBI, at any level, should have the ability to disrupt its sacred trust.

Kevin R. Brock, former assistant director of intelligence for the FBI, was an FBI special agent for 24 years and principal deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). He is a founder and principal of NewStreet Global Solutions, which consults with private companies and public-safety agencies on strategic mission technologies.