Column | Politics and leaking has a long history in the FBI

Libertarian Republican Rand Paul, certainly no sycophant to Donald Trump, put it plainly: Andrew McCabe, the Deputy Director of the FBI, was fired for leaking information to the press and then lying about it to the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility.

The Inspector General, a President Barack Obama appointee, recommended McCabe be fired for leaking information, and lying about the leaks on multiple occasions.

While the Trumpsters and leftists argue over the content and context of McCabe’s leaks, keep in mind McCabe’s wife ran for Senate as a Democrat heavily funded by Clinton supporters. Then, he takes a leadership role in investigating Hillary’s email investigation.

If you lie to a federal agent, it’s a felony and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll go to jail, even if it’s about the sandwich you ate for lunch on June 17, 2005. This is how General Michael Flynn wound up being charged with a felony.

He sandwiched himself.

He told the FBI agents that he “did not ask the Russian Ambassador to delay the vote on, or defeat, a pending United Nations Security Council resolution” - one of a couple of lies.

As Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes write at LawfareBlog.com, an FBI agent who was “ambiguous” about how many times he used an FBI vehicle to pick up his child at daycare was fired for demonstrating a “lack of candor.”

The FBI clearly articulates demonstrating a “lack of candor” is cause for dismissal. Firing McCabe for leaking, lying and “lack of candor” certainly has many precedents.

McCabe might also lose his pension, for which no one needs to weep. He can make up for it with a cushy million-dollar job on K Street.

What’s a bit cute and sweet and naive is the concept being tossed around by Rand Paul and others that we need to get politics out of the FBI leadership.

FBI leadership - not so much the men and women who do the really hard work in the field - has a history of political intrigue as documented by a number of writers and researchers.

A short read at Smithsonian relates “the Teapot Dome scandal, which rocked the Harding Administration, revealed that bureau agents had been assigned to gather dirt on opposition politicians.”

Nearly a year ago, Penn State history professor Douglas Charles wrote more detail about that and other scandals in an article titled, “The FBI: With great power comes great scandal:”

Senator Burton K. Wheeler and others discovered the Harding Administration was allowing financially strapped oil companies to syphon oil from federal reserves in Teapot Dome, Wyoming in exchange for kickbacks and began investigating.

Professor Charles writes, “FBI Director (William) Burns, at the request of Attorney General Harry Daugherty, tried to end the Senate probe. Burns was the owner of a private detective agency, and a man apt to believe investigative ends justified the means. He was not afraid to target powerful men. So, he dispatched agents to dig up dirt on Sen. Wheeler. Not finding any, he and Daugherty concocted baseless corruption charges against Wheeler that only backfired.”

Again, you have an FBI director using his position for partisan politics.

Then, there’s Nixon.

“Nixon sycophant L. Patrick Gray stepped in to replace Hoover as acting director, and was nominated by Nixon to serve as permanent director. He soon withdrew his nomination, however, and resigned as acting director in April 1973, after admitting to destroying Watergate-related files.”

The number two man at the FBI, Mark Felt, was the source for the Washington Post leaks that brought down President Nixon.

Reporter Bob Woodward has spoken about Felt as a man truly afraid Nixon would compromise the FBI and turn it into a creature of his own.

There is also the assessment that Felt was angry at being passed up for the job as director, driving him to unload every bit of scandalous knowledge he could to destroy the man who failed to promote him: Richard Nixon.

Both could have driven him to illegally leak his way into history.

The goal of reducing politics in the FBI is noble. To say it never existed or could be eradicated is naive at best.