Suspected FBI Leaker Could Evade Consequences

Official accepted gifts from journalists but resigned before inspector general's investigation was completed

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July 20, 2021

A senior FBI official found guilty of misconduct for accepting unauthorized gifts from journalists, including tickets to pricy black-tie dinners, in 2016 could evade consequences because the official resigned before the investigation was completed, the Department of Justice inspector general said Tuesday.

The misconduct finding is part of a years-long Justice Department inspector general investigation into FBI media leaks during the 2016 election. In 2018, the inspector general's office said it was probing "numerous FBI employees, at all levels of the organization and with no official reason to be in contact with the media, who were nevertheless in frequent contact with reporters."

The FBI official at the center of the latest investigation—who resigned during the probe and whose name is being withheld by the inspector general—"violated federal regulations and FBI policy" for reportedly accepting "tickets from members of the media to two black tie dinner events, one valued at $225 and the other valued at $300," without prior approval, according to a statement.

The official declined to cooperate with the investigation after resigning, and the inspector’s general office said it doesn’t have subpoena authority over former employees. The misconduct finding has been turned over to the FBI for informational purposes, said the office of the inspector general.

Supporters of former president Trump and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton both blamed FBI leakers for negative press coverage during and after the 2016 election. Trump regularly criticized the FBI leakers for failing to identify and punish leakers within its ranks and from other agencies, and his administration referred a record-breaking 334 leaks for criminal investigation, according to the Intercept.

In 2018, the DOJ's inspector general said it uncovered "social interactions between FBI employees and journalists that were, at a minimum, inconsistent with FBI policy and Department ethics rules."