A Changing Investigative Landscape
Congratulations to President-elect Donald Trump. Presidents come and go, but scandal and crime are timeless. Here are three epic investigations that will reach an endgame in the new world of Trump.
The Emailiad. Homeric in scope, the saga of HRC’s emails is one for the history books, with a major impact on the presidential race. Seemingly every important player in Clinton World appeared in the emails. They are the thread connecting many controversies—the Clinton Foundation and it satellites, Teneo Holdings, cybersecurity and penetration of servers, relations with foreign governments, payments to various Clintons and Clinton entities, suspicions of quid pro quos, big money players, Wikileaks mischief, the Russians.
The Republican Congress is likely not finished with email investigations, though the media will soon lose interest, dazzled by all the bright shiny objects of the new Trump Administration. The courts will continue to play an important role in the fight for transparency in the emails case. Lawsuits from Judicial Watch and others will continue to produce documents.
Thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of emails may yet emerge—recall that the FBI recovered about 15,000 pages of records related to Mrs. Clinton’s “deleted, personal” emails and turned them over to the State Department, which has yet to release them. (Read about Judicial Watch’s latest legal moves in the case here.) Recall, too, that Mrs. Clinton said there were about 30,000 of those deleted, personal emails. Plus thousands of possibly relevant emails from the Anthony Weiner computer. Plus a flow of illicitly obtained emails from Wikileaks.
How will the nascent Trump White House handle the email caper? Its actions will say a lot about whether the administration will continue the smash mouth tactics of the campaign or adopt a new approach.
Comey Agonistes. The emails case will continue to give FBI Director James Comey a rough ride as well. Comey, of course, famously blew up the presidential contest with a vaguely worded letter announcing the discovery of new emails related to Mrs. Clinton and then cleared her nine days later, on the eve of the election. Critics on both sides of the aisle are calling for his head. Hearings will ensue. Comey will be called to the inquisition and Congress will seek testimony from FBI field agents and supervisors.
Comey has been battered by news reports of turmoil within the FBI over investigations of the Clintons. Rumors flew earlier this year that an indictment of Mrs. Clinton was imminent. The story du jour is that elements within the FBI are closing in on the Clinton Foundation, or the Clinton finances, or generalized Clinton corruption—were it not for the perfidy of Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch. FBI field agents and supervisors—particularly in the powerful New York field office—are said to be up in arms, handing in their resignations. The independence of the FBI has collapsed.
Don’t believe it. FBI agents are by nature an aggressive bunch—chasing leads, questioning suspects, pushing for warrants and wire taps—and butting heads with cautious superiors. The tensions between agents who make the criminal case and prosecutors who make the legal call are as old as the FBI itself. Into the mix this election year went the natural conservatism of many in law enforcement, who trended Trump. In fact, the source for many of the breathless FBI stories of the past year appears to be one Rudolph Giuliani, Trump adviser and longtime counsel to the influential FBI Agents Association. But Giuliani seems to have not spoken to a single agent active on the Clinton case, only retired agents—a cohort rarely shy about forcefully advancing an argument, whether in possession of the facts or not.
In other words, much of the media chatter about the FBI was election year nonsense. But now, a real challenge looms. Will Trump & Co.—possibly with Giuliani as attorney general—move to put their own person at the helm of the FBI? The political costs of firing the head of the FBI are often said to be colossal, but Trump has repeatedly defied the conventional wisdom.
Cuomo Agonistes. In New York, a net is tightening around Governor Andrew Cuomo. This could get ugly. Senior political figures in both parties have been sent to jail by crusading U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Recently, Bharara indicted top allies of Cuomo in the “Buffalo Billion” case. It’s a classic story of influence peddling, bribery and corruption.
Bharara, an Obama appointee close to Senator Chuck Schumer, has made no secret of his displeasure with the Democrats running Albany and New York City. In April, in a warning aimed directly at Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Bharara told Common Cause that he would “keep looking hard at corruption,” not just in the legislative branch, but in the “executive branch too, both in city and in state government.”
U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president. Nothing would please New York’s political class more than getting rid of Bharara. Trump can send an important anti-corruption signal by asking him to stay.
Thanks for reading. Next week: Investigating Trump World
Micah Morrison is chief investigative reporter for Judicial Watch. Follow him on Twitter @micah_morrison. Tips: [email protected]
Investigative Bulletin published weekly by Judicial Watch. Reprints and media inquiries: [email protected]