IG Horowitz: Bias in FBI Text Messages Are 'Completely Antithetical to the Core Values' of DOJ

June 19, 2018

Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz on Tuesday said the bias that FBI agents exhibited in a number of text messages was "completely antithetical to the core values of the department."

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.) on Tuesday pressed Horowitz, a former assistant U.S. attorney, about several text messages sent between FBI employees showing a desire to harm Donald Trump. Gowdy said the way FBI agent Peter Strzok prejudged Trump's guilt in the Russia investigation and Hilary Clinton's innocence in the probe into her private email server made it difficult not to conclude bias played a role in how he conducted both.

Asked whether an agent of his was ever this biased, Horowitz said, "As I've laid out here, I thought this was completely antithetical to the core values of the department and extremely serious."

At a House Oversight Committee hearing, Gowdy echoed his Senate colleague Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) from a day earlier, telling Horowitz that it strained credulity to believe that investigators' bias against Trump did not help Clinton receive favorable treatment.

"If someone is prejudging the outcome of an investigation before it ends and someone is prejudging the outcome of an investigation before it even begins, what is more textbook bias than prejudging this investigation before it's over and this one before it begins?" Gowdy asked. "I am struggling to find a better example of outcome-determinative bias than that. So what am I missing?"

Horowitz explained that Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who exchanged messages insulting Trump during the Clinton investigation, did exhibit bias, but he said he could not conclude that prosecutors' decisions in the case were affected by that bias.

"In our view, we didn't find or see evidence that the prosecutors were impacted by that bias," said Horowitz, who refrained from making conclusions beyond what is in the IG report he released last week.

Gowdy then drilled down on the question of whether investigators did have an impact because they made sure not to seek evidence of intent, thus exonerating Clinton according to former FBI Director James Comey's mens rea standard.

"The explanation I've heard is that the failure to prosecute [Clinton] was predicated upon their belief that there was not sufficient evidence of intent on her behalf, and I don't know where in the hell you would go to find better evidence of intent than interviewing the person who actually was actually doing the intending," Gowdy said.

Gowdy concluded that Page telling FBI officials not to go in "loaded for bear" when they interviewed Clinton showed that bias influenced what questions she received.

"When you make up your mind that you're not going to charge someone and you make up your mind you need to not go in loaded for bear—and then you read the 302 [report summarizing the interview] and there's not see a single damn question on intent—it is really hard for those of us who used to do this for a living to not conclude they had made up their mind on intent, before they bothered to talk to the single best repository of intent evidence, which would be her," Gowdy said.

Gowdy marshalled a range of evidence from Horowitz's report to show Strzok harbored bias against Trump and in favor of Clinton. In addition to saying "we'll stop" Trump from being elected, Strzok said after the election that Robert Mueller's special counsel probe was an opportunity to "fix" the "unfinished business" from the Russia investigation.

"Bob Mueller was named special counsel on May 17th, 2017," Gowdy said. "One day later, Peter Strzok is back on his phone texting some more. 'For me and this case, I personally have a sense of unfinished business. I unleashed it with the Clinton email investigation, now I need to fix it and finish it.' Fix what?"

Mueller removed Strzok from the special counsel investigation after other messages came to light last year.