Conservatives including President Donald Trump have long warned about improper leaks to the media from government officials, particularly the Department of Justice. The left, of course, has scoffed at this idea — but it once again looks as if those fears have been vindicated.
On Wednesday, the government’s watchdog tasked with holding the DOJ accountable released a scathing report, confirming that a top FBI member passed sensitive details to journalists without approval. This didn’t only happen once, but repeatedly.
Even more damning, the report stated that it wasn’t a low-level agent who was doing the leaking. Instead, the perpetrator was identified as a “Deputy Assistant Director,” though said individual was not specifically named.
“The Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General initiated this investigation upon the receipt of information from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, alleging that a then FBI Deputy Assistant Director had numerous contacts with members of the media in violation of FBI policy,” the official report read.
Details from the OIG’s report show that this was no minor violation, but the flagrant disregard for safeguarding sensitive information. Worse, it was apparently done over and over.
“The OIG investigation concluded that the DAD engaged in misconduct when the DAD: (1) disclosed to the media the existence of information that had been filed under seal in federal court, in violation of 18 USC § 401, Contempt of Court; (2) provided without authorization FBI law enforcement sensitive information to reporters on multiple occasions; and (3) had dozens of official contacts with the media without authorization, in violation of FBI policy,” stated the report.
Remember, this was a top FBI official, not a random employee. But it gets worse: The individual also accepted at least one gift from a media source and seemed to enjoy rubbing shoulders with journalists.
“The OIG also found that the [Deputy Assistant Director] engaged in misconduct when the DAD accepted a ticket, valued at approximately $225, to attend a media-sponsored dinner, as a gift from a member of the media, in violation of federal regulations and FBI policy,” the inspector wrote.
A single line of the official report also indicates that the undisclosed leaker might have avoided facing the consequences of his actions. “Prosecution of the [Deputy Assistant Director] was declined,” it stated. However, the matter was referred back to the FBI for action, though it’s unclear what they will do about it.
This information about leaks seems to match statements recently made by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who hinted at a slew of investigations about abuses within the DOJ.
“[T]here have been a number of leaks coming out of the Justice Department and FBI during high-profile investigations,” Grassley told Attorney General William Barr during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this month.
In response, Barr acknowledged that “we have multiple criminal leak investigations underway.”
It’s also worth remembering that this has happened before. The most famous recent case is that of Andrew McCabe, the ex-deputy director of the FBI who was removed after leaking to the media and then lying about it.
“Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe was fired from the bureau in March 2018 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions after an inspector general report revealed that he ‘lacked candor’ when discussing his communications about federal probes with members of the media,” Fox News reported.
Trump promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C., but the muck is proving to be deeper than he could have guessed.
It’s time for government officials — especially at the Department of Justice — to face the music. It’s unacceptable that they used their positions to play politics with the media as their eager accomplices. The American people finally deserve answers.
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