James A. Gagliano (@JamesAGagliano) worked in the FBI for 25 years. He is a law enforcement analyst for CNN and an adjunct assistant professor in homeland security and criminal justice at St. John’s University. Yesterday he posted an article at The Washington Examiner about the charges against General Michael Flynn.
Mr. Gagliano begins the article by explaining the he was skeptical about an intelligence community effort to remove President Trump:
As a self-proclaimed adherent to Hanlon’s Razor, I once cynically viewed the frenzied focus on FBI actions during the 2016 Russian election-meddling investigation as partisan and overwrought. Hanlon’s Razor suggests that we never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity or incompetence. Having proudly served in the FBI for 25 years, I bristled at insulting accusations of an onerous deep state conspiracy. Some obvious mistakes made during the investigation of the Trump campaign were quite possibly the result of two ham-handedly overzealous FBI headquarters denizens, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, clumsily seeking to impress each other with ever-increasing levels of loathing for then-candidate Donald Trump.
FBI employees are entitled to their own political views. But senior-level decision-makers who express them on government devices, while overseeing a supremely consequential investigation into a political campaign, simply do not possess the requisite judgment and temperament for the job.
The article explains what changed his mind:
It is unheard of for someone not actually on the interview itself to materially alter an FD-302. As an FBI agent, no one in my chain of command ever directed me to alter consequential wording. And as a longtime FBI supervisor, I never ever directed an agent to recollect something different from what they discerned during an interview. Returning a 302 for errors in grammar, punctuation, or syntax is appropriate. This occurs before the document is ultimately uploaded to a particular file, conjoined with the original interview notes which are safely secured inside a 1-A envelope, and secured as part of evidence at trial.
With this in mind, this related text message exchange from Strzok to Page dated Feb. 10, 2017, nauseated me:
Powell charges that Page directed Strzok to alter his Flynn interview 302. As in most instances in life, words matter. The change in wording was instrumental in moving Flynn from a target to a subject. One recalls how critical wording was in the FBI’s decision not to argue that DOJ charge Hillary Clinton with a crime in the private email server investigation. Comey elected not to use “gross negligence” to characterize Clinton’s actions — which would have been the required language in the mishandling of classified information statute — and instead settled upon the more benign and non-indictable “extreme carelessness.”
Later, it was determined that none other than Strzok was the impetus behind the recrafting of Comey’s words.
The article concludes:
Here’s me, acknowledging my mistake. I was dead wrong. It now seems there was a concerted effort, though isolated, within the upper-echelons of the FBI to influence the outcome of the Flynn investigation. By “dirtying up” Flynn, Comey’s FBI headquarters team of callow sycophants shortcut the investigative process. Arm-twisting Flynn through the “tweaked” version of his interview afforded him criminal exposure. The cocksure Comey team felt supremely confident that would inspire him “flipping” and give them the desperately sought-after evidence of Trump-Russia collusion that the wholly unverified Steele dossier was never remotely capable of providing.
I am physically nauseous as I type these words. I have long maintained that innocent mistakes were made and that the investigators at the center of this maelstrom were entitled to the benefit of the doubt.
They have tarnished the badge and forever stained an agency that deserved so much better from them. I am ashamed. The irreparable damage Comey’s team has done to the FBI will take a generation to reverse.
I ashamedly join Hanlon’s Razor in getting this one wrong.
All Americans need to pay attention to what this man is saying.