Louie Gohmert grills FBI director Chris Wray on senior officials’ politics



gohmert
Rep. Louie
Gohmert

Screenshot/CSPAN

  • Republican Rep. Louis Gohmert asked FBI Director Chris
    Wray about the “political biases” of specific federal agents
    during an open hearing on Thursday.
  • The question stemmed from recent reports that an agent
    who worked on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team before he
    was removed in August sent texts last year that could be
    perceived as anti-Trump.
  • To some, however, Gohmert’s question seemed like a
    “political test” meant to gauge the bureau’s loyalty to the
    Trump administration.

A Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee left a
number of observers stunned on Thursday when he read off a list
of names of agents to the FBI director and asked him to disclose
their political biases.

“As you’re aware, Deputy Director [Andrew] McCabe was involved in
a number of cases that have been highly controversial due to his
political leanings,” Texas Rep. Louis Gohmert
said
, presumably referring to McCabe’s involvement in the
investigation
of Hillary Clinton’s email server.

McCabe’s wife ran for the Virginia state Senate in 2015 and
received nearly $500,000 from a political action
committee affiliated with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who has
ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton.

“Do you know of any other senior FBI executives that were aligned
with McCabe’s political views?” Gohmert said.

“I’m not aware of any senior FBI executives who are allowing
improper political considerations to effect their work with me
right now,” FBI Director Christopher Wray replied.

“Let me ask you about specific executives, some of whom have been
promoted by McCabe, within the last few years,” Gohmert said.
“Are you aware of any of the following people openly aligning
themselves with the political bias expressed by McCabe or openly
speaking against this administration?”

Gohmert went on to name five FBI officials, asking Wray one by
one whether they had expressed political bias “against the Trump
administration.”

Wray said he had not witnessed any outward bias from the four
whom he had interacted with directly.

‘Totally inappropriate’


Christopher Wray is seated prior to testifying before a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be the next FBI director on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 12, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Christopher
Wray

Thomson
Reuters


The notion that FBI agents could now be subject to political
tests from another branch of government unnerved several
observers and former employees.

Former FBI counterintelligence agent Asha Rangappa called
it “totally inappropriate.”

“We’ve never had ‘political tests’ for civil servants,” she
said on Thursday. “It’s worth noting that every agent undergoes
an intensive background check that screens for political biases
in order to ensure that the prospective agent can look past their
own political identity and pursue investigations
objectively.”

Among those pushing the idea that the bureau has become a
bastion for left-wing, pro-Clinton law enforcement officials
whose reputation was left in “tatters” by former FBI Director
James Comey is President Donald
Trump.

“So General Flynn lies to the FBI and his life is
destroyed, while Crooked Hillary Clinton, on that now famous FBI
holiday ‘interrogation’ with no swearing in and no recording,
lies many times…and nothing happens to her?” Trump tweeted on
Saturday night, referring to Flynn’s guilty plea last
week.

“Rigged system, or just a double standard?” he said.

Trump’s argument gained steam when news surfaced that an agent on special counsel Robert
Mueller’s team investigating
Russia’s election interference
had sent text messages last year that could be perceived as
anti-Trump.  That same agent, Peter Strzok, also reportedly
watered down the language Comey used when he announced that the
FBI would not recommend charges against Clinton over her use of a
private email server.

Strzok was removed from Mueller’s team in August, but it was not
clear why he had been reassigned to the bureau’s HR department
until earlier this week.

“Agents, like any other person, have political opinions,”
Rangappa said. “The difference is that we now have technology
that memorializes people’s thoughts through texts, tweets, and
emails.”

Scott Olson, a recently retired FBI agent who spent 20
years at the bureau, noted in a recent interview that “all
political opinions are well represented in the ranks of FBI
employees. And the debates over coffee and lunch are the same as
anywhere else.” 

Rangappa said Republicans’ attempts to discredit the Mueller
probe by emphasizing the political leanings of Mueller’s team
could backfire for them if a Democrat is investigated in the
future and points to the bureau’s reputation as a politically
conservative organization as a reason the probe should not be
taken seriously. 

“The FBI investigators who are working on any given day will
probably be mostly politically conservative,” Rangappa said,
drawing from own interactions with agents during the George W.
Bush years. “So the Republicans need to think carefully about the
precedent they’re setting.”

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