Grassley Intensifies Probe Into Anti-Trump Bias at FBI

Senator seeking documents related to activities of FBI Agent Peter Strzok

Sen. Chuck Grassley / Getty Images
December 6, 2017

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is stepping up his investigation into liberal bias among FBI agents and Justice Department officials.

The Iowa Republican is pressing the FBI for documents related to the activities of FBI agent Peter Strzok following reports that he demonstrated bias against President Trump while playing key roles in investigations into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private email server and in the special counsel probe into the Trump campaign's possible ties to Russia.

"The communications between members of the Clinton email investigation team raise questions about the integrity of that investigation and about the objectivity of Mr. Strzok's work for the special counsel and in the FBI's investigation of [former national security adviser Michael] Flynn," Grassley wrote in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray.

"Strzok's behavior and involvement in these two politically sensitive cases raises new concerns of inappropriate political influence in the work of the FBI," Grassley added.

Grassley's office on Wednesday said the FBI has failed to comply with previous, broader Judiciary Committee requests that called for records relating to the communications of Stzrok and others.

The House Intelligence Committee has complained about similar FBI stonewalling regarding documents about Stzrok and related information about former FBI Director James Comey's controversial statement last year announcing that the agency had decided not to bring criminal charges against Clinton in the email investigation.

Over the weekend, Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, directed his staff to write up legislation that would hold the FBI in contempt of Congress. Nunes cited media reports that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had removed Strzok from his investigative team after discovering that he and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, his alleged mistress, had exchanged politically charged texts disparaging President Trump and supporting Hillary Clinton.

Grassley, in his letter to Wray, said "it appears" that Mueller "may have learned this information from the Office of [Justice Department's] Inspector General's ongoing review of the handling of controversial pre-election activities of the Justice Department and FBI related to the campaign."

Strzok, a top FBI official who had led the agency's counterintelligence division, was reassigned to work in the FBI's human resources department after his removal from Mueller's special counsel team.

The texts between Strzok and Page occurred while both were working on the Clinton investigation. Grassley, citing news reports, said Strzok "appears to have been responsible for removing language suggesting legal jeopardy for Clinton" in Comey's conclusion of that investigation.

Strzok also was one of the two agents who would go on to interview Flynn during the Russia probe.

Grassley said in October he wrote a letter to Strzok requesting "voluntary cooperation and a private transcribed interview with the committee," but received no reply.

Grassley requested in his letter to Wray to view the text messages in question, as well as any additional communications containing favorable or unfavorable statements about Trump or Hillary Clinton and any communications involving Strzok regarding decisions about closing the Clinton investigation or opening the investigation into potential collusion between Trump associates and the Russian government.

Grassley gave the FBI until Dec. 11 to hand over the documents related to Strzok.

Grassley has been investigating early drafts of Comey's controversial July 2016 remarks about Clinton's private email server. In early November, he pointed to an email string showing that an earlier draft of Comey's remarks had acknowledged that there was evidence that Clinton had violated a federal statute prohibiting "gross negligence," but that phrase was deleted in subsequent drafts of Comey's remarks before delivering them.

Another top investigator on Mueller's team is facing new charges of bias against Trump after Judicial Watch on Tuesday released emails showing that the Justice Department attorney had extolled then acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to enforce Trump's travel ban.

Andrew Weissmann sent an email to Yates in January, when he was still the chief of the Justice Department’s Criminal Fraud Section, applauding her for refusing to enforce the temporary travel ban on people entering the United States from several predominantly Muslim countries.

"I am so proud. And in awe," Weissmann emailed Yates. "Thank you so much. All my deepest respects."

Earlier that day, Trump had fired Yates for refusing to defend the travel ban.

The Judicial Watch emails also show strong bias by several other Justice Department employees against Trump's travel ban.

Liz Aloi, who was serving as chief of the Justice Department's special financial investigations unit, said Yates was "inspirational and heroic." She remains the chief of the unit, according to her LinkedIn page.

Jeffrey Clair, a Justice Department civil division appellate attorney, thanked Yates and wrote: "I've been in civil/appellate for 30 years and have never seen an administration with such contempt for democratic values and the rule of law."

"The president's order is an unconstitutional embarrassment and I applaud you for taking a principled stand against defending it," he added.

It is unclear if Clair is still working at the Justice Department. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to say whether Clair or Aloi are still working for the agency.

"We'll decline to comment on personnel questions," the spokeswoman told the Washington Free Beacon late Tuesday.

At least three U.S. attorneys appointed by President Obama also lauded Yates for defying Trump on the travel ban. Trump dismissed all Obama-appointed U.S. attorneys in March.