If you’re a law enforcement official who has more allegiance to ideology than to the law or to the country, where does that get you?
For former FBI analyst Mark Tolson, the answer is jail — however briefly.
Tolson is best-known — if he’s known at all — as the man who broke into a pro-Trump operative’s email account in October 2018, took screen-shots of some of the messages, then sent images to a reporter and offered the reporter the password, according to Politico. The unnamed member of the media turned down the opportunity.
Tolson, 60, said he did it because that activist was claiming, absent any evidence, that then-special counsel Robert Mueller had committed sexual assault.
“I did what I did to try to protect Director Mueller, who can protect himself,” Tolson said at his sentencing at an Alexandria, Virginia, court on Dec. 20, according to The Washington Post. “I’m terribly sorry.”
For breaking into the email account, a misdemeanor, Tolson was sentenced Dec. 20 to seven days behind bars and pay $500 in fines, according to the Washington Examiner.
The sentence includes 50 hours of community service and a year of probation. The jail time could be served after the holidays, the judge ruled.
The details are these: Tolson broke into the email account of Jack Burkman, a neighbor of his in Alexandria, back in October of 2018. Burkman had announced he was about to call a news conference at which he would announce the details on his very dubious allegations regarding Mueller. Tolson’s wife, Sarah Gilbert Fox, had done some work for Burkman and had the password to his email account.
“It was because of the press conference, your honor,” the former FBI analyst said in court, according to Politico.
Now, if you’re not familiar with Burkman, don’t be under any illusions here:
Burkman is a lobbyist who worked with Jacob Wohl, a 22-year-old far-right troll who’s basically tried to bribe various people into making false allegations against various liberals, among his other many, many, many other faux pas. The Washington Examiner noted that Wohl was doing the exact same thing on the Mueller case.
None of these incidents have ever ended in serious repercussions against Wohl because they’re all so genuinely silly, although he’s recently been charged with a felony for selling unregistered securities in California, according to The New York Times.
Burkman is referred to by The Post as a “conspiracy theorist,” which is slightly inaccurate. It’s like saying someone is an “alleged UFO witness” when their friend was the one who carved out the crop circles. At some point, they kind of have to know something’s up.
So Burkman’s not a particularly great guy. But you know what you do in that situation? You let the police handle it. You let Mueller handle it. You handle it most other ways aside from breaking into someone’s email and taking screenshots of his messages.
“This is actually a very serious offense,” U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema told Tolson during sentencing, according to the Washington Examiner.
“You’re lucky. Your wife is lucky. The government could have prosecuted her as well.”
“You can’t just rummage through other people’s accounts,” she added. “You had to have known better.”
Then again, perhaps not.
If there’s something that we’ve seen over the past few years from certain careerists at the FBI, it’s that there exists a willingness to pursue a narrative at the expense of dotting “i’s” and crossing “t’s.” Sure, it’s difficult to compare what we saw in the inspector general’s report or things of that nature with an idiot analyst who broke into some slander-monger’s email account. They’re two different species of things, but they’re not too distantly related.
When you work in law enforcement, your dedication to the law has to be greater than your dedication to any one individual or any cause other than the enforcement of the law. There are certain confirmation biases that can be overlooked, but not when they’re widespread enough that, say, you break into someone’s email account or think an unverified dossier is perfectly reasonable stuff to base a FISA warrant around.
Lest you wonder why we call it “the swamp,” this is it. You have career ideologues for whom party comes before principle. The only reason Mark Tolson is disgraced and fired is because he’s clearly an idiot of substantial proportions.
If this isn’t enough to convince FBI careerists, consider this. The news conference that Tolson broke into Burkman’s email account over was a laughable affair. Before it even happened, journalists were contacted by a woman who claimed she was being offered bribes to make allegations against Mueller, according to NBC News.
When the news conference happened, the alleged “victim” was a no-show. One reporter actually asked Burkman and Wohl, “Are you both prepared for federal prison?”
Instead of that being the final outcome here, this is what Burkman got to post on Twitter in the wake of Tolson’s sentencing:
What a disgrace our judicial system is. Mark Tolson gets 7 days. Can you imagine the jail time he would have gotten if I were a liberal?
The good news is that we will be suing him in federal court for extensive damages.
— Jack Burkman (@Jack_Burkman) December 20, 2019
“What a disgrace our judicial system is. Mark Tolson gets 7 days. Can you imagine the jail time he would have gotten if I were a liberal?” Burkman tweeted.
“The good news is that we will be suing him in federal court for extensive damages.”
This is Jack Burkman, running a sort of victory lap of outrage while noting you’ll still be serving more time in prison than he did. Is this really the guy you want to lose a battle of wits with, people? Let Mark Tolson be an object lesson to you, because he just did.
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