Sen. Chuck Grassley’s office confirmed to The Federalist that the multiple FBI whistleblowers charging misconduct related to the Hunter Biden investigation only came forward in the last two months. While the existence of these new whistleblowers proves promising, other FBI agents with knowledge of misconduct or political bias must stop hiding behind the chain of command and start blowing their own whistles.
“Multiple FBI whistleblowers, including those in senior positions” informed the Iowa Republican senator that “Washington Field Office assistant special agent in charge Timothy Thibault and other FBI officials … ‘falsely portray[ed] as disinformation evidence acquired from multiple sources that provided the FBI derogatory information related to Hunter Biden’s financial and foreign business activities, even though some of that information had already been or could be verified.’”
The whistleblowers further charged that “in August of 2020, FBI supervisory intelligence analyst Brian Auten opened an assessment, which was used by a team of agents at FBI headquarters to improperly discredit and falsely claim that derogatory information about Biden’s activities was disinformation, causing investigative activity and sourcing to be shut down.” “The FBI headquarters team allegedly placed their assessment findings in a restricted access subfolder, effectively flagging sources and derogatory evidence related to Hunter Biden as disinformation while shielding the justification for such findings from scrutiny,” Grassley revealed.
The significance of these developments cannot be overstated, for several reasons. First, the whistleblowers accuse supervisory bureau officials — not merely low-level line agents — with manipulating evidence related to an investigation of the son of the president of the United States. The ongoing investigation also implicates the president and his brother in the pay-to-play scandal of influence-peddling.
That reality alone should shock the core of the bureau, but there is more. The whistleblowers’ charges, when read in light of FBI leaks to the Washington Post, suggest that “FBI Headquarters either improperly withheld information or presented inaccurate information to the U.S. attorney’s office in Pittsburgh and possibly also Delaware,” which were tasked with investigating Hunter Biden.
Further, by burying evidence about Hunter Biden, which at the time included the laptop he had abandoned at a Delaware repair shop, the FBI agents concealed a dangerous national security risk that both the intelligence community and Joe Biden needed to know, namely that Hunter believed Russians had stolen a second laptop that contained similarly compromising material.
The new information revealed by the FBI whistleblowers exposes yet a further scandal, which Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., highlighted in a letter he dispatched to Attorney General Merrick Garland, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz last week. In his letter, Johnson noted that while he was investigating Hunter Biden’s questionable business dealings, the FBI provided him and Grassley with a supposed briefing on August 6, 2020. That briefing “was not specific” and was “unconnected” to their investigation, Johnson noted, and he and Grassley had “always assumed [it] was a set up to intentionally discredit [their] ongoing work into Hunter Biden’s extensive foreign financial entanglements.”
In fact, as Johnson highlighted in his letter, leakers from the FBI fed the fact of the briefing to the Washington Post. The Post then framed the briefing as “an extensive effort by the [FBI] to alert members of Congress … that they faced a risk of being used to further Russia’s attempt to influence the election’s outcome.” That spin worked to falsely portray Grassley and Johnson’s investigation into Hunter Biden’s foreign financial dealings as corrupted by Russian disinformation.
Johnson’s letter to the DOJ, FBI, and OIG concisely captured the significance of these facts and the horror of the scandal: “If these recent whistleblower revelations are true, it would strongly suggest that the FBI’s August 6, 2020, briefing was indeed a targeted effort to intentionally undermine a Congressional investigation. The FBI being weaponized against two sitting chairmen of U.S. Senate committees with constitutional oversight responsibilities would be one of the greatest episodes of Executive Branch corruption in American history.”
The Whole FBI Owns This
The FBI scandal does not end there, however, and concerns not merely the alleged misconduct by a few in the upper echelon of the bureau. Rather, the fact that the whistleblowers, including “those in senior positions” of the FBI, are only now coming forward to expose the malfeasance they witnessed — even though the investigation into Hunter Biden has been ongoing since 2018 and the alleged spiking of the evidence occurred in 2020 — renders the scandal owned by the entire agency and every member of the organization.
The failure of other FBI agents and “those in senior positions” to object to the shameful politicization of the bureau finds its root in the Russia collusion hoax, with agents ignoring the misconduct by the bureau’s leaders, such as Director James Comey, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok, and FBI Special Counsel Lisa Page. FBI Special Agent William Barnett, in a detailed interview with former U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen, revealed both the breadth of the bureau’s partisan impropriety and the reticence of apolitical agents to challenge their bosses.
Barnett, who served as the FBI’s case agent in the investigation of former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, spoke with then-U.S. Attorney Jensen after then-Attorney General William Barr tasked Jensen with reviewing the Flynn case. As The Federalist previously reported, Barnett “told Department of Justice (DOJ) investigators that the handling of the probes troubled him so much that he threatened to quit working on it in one case, and threatened to go to the Inspector General in another.”
A summary of Barnett’s interview noted that he believed “there was never any basis for the bizarre ‘collusion’ theory the agency and the special counsel relentlessly pursued, to the point that agents made jokes about how they could take any piece of information and claim it was evidence of collusion.” Barnett also believed the Special Counsel Office “pursued Flynn simply as a means to ‘get Trump’ and viewed FBI investigators as a ‘speed bump’ slowing down the work of the attorneys leading the inquisition.”
Jensen’s comprehensive summary of his interview with Barnett revealed many more extensive problems dating from 2016 and through Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. But it wasn’t until September 2020 when Barr initiated a review of the Flynn case by a U.S. attorney outside of D.C. that Barnett’s firsthand experience became known to those willing to address the corruption.
The now-former attorney general did just that when he moved to dismiss the criminal case against Flynn, concluding the FBI’s questioning of Flynn that served as the basis for the criminal charge “was untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation.” The federal judge presiding over the Flynn case refused to dismiss the case, though, and with the legal wrangling continuing past the 2020 election, prompted outgoing President Donald Trump to pardon Flynn.
Beyond the numerous FBI improprieties that occurred during the Crossfire Hurricane and Mueller investigations — including high-level leaks by agents — the interview of Barnett revealed a follow-the-marching-orders mentality that cannot continue if agents want to restore integrity to the bureau.
“While Barnett questioned the investigative theory, he did not think at the time the investigation was illegal, particularly due to the oversight by attorneys (i.e., CLINESMITH) and the direction being given by top FBI officials,” the summary of Barnett’s interview stated, with Barnett noting he “was willing to follow instructions being given by the Deputy Director as long as it was not a violation of law.”
Turn the Tide
The last two months seem to suggest a potential change in attitude, with FBI whistleblowers willing to work with outsiders committed to reform.
In addition to whistleblowers exposing the alleged misconduct related to the Biden family, they have also alerted Grassley to the FBI’s politicizing of election crimes and campaign finance investigations. And with whistleblowers also alerting Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan that “FBI leaders are instructing agents to reclassify cases to bolster the Biden administration’s narrative that ‘domestic violent extremism’ is a major threat,” there is hope that the dedicated men and women of the bureau want to restore integrity to the agency.
It may be difficult for FBI agents, trained to trust the hierarchy, to reboot their reticence, but recent events establish that the FBI leadership cannot right itself. What the FBI needs, then, to rehabilitate itself is a cavalcade of whistleblowers exposing the rot within the bureau. Every agent at every level must join the few brave whistleblowers who have come forward.
If, knowing what they do now about DOJ and FBI leadership’s inability to clean the political mess, agents remain mum, they will be complicit in the scandal, and Americans will no longer distinguish between the hardworking men and women of the FBI and the supposedly few bad apples — we will view the entire bureau as bad.
Margot Cleveland is The Federalist’s senior legal correspondent. She is also a contributor to National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, Aleteia, and Townhall.com, and has been published in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
Cleveland is a lawyer and a graduate of the Notre Dame Law School, where she earned the Hoynes Prize—the law school’s highest honor. She later served for nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk for a federal appellate judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Cleveland is a former full-time university faculty member and now teaches as an adjunct from time to time.
As a stay-at-home homeschooling mom of a young son with cystic fibrosis, Cleveland frequently writes on cultural issues related to parenting and special-needs children. Cleveland is on Twitter at @ProfMJCleveland. The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.
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