Yes, the Strzok Text Messages Are a Problem
So one of the top FBI guys investigating the Russia stuff for Mueller hates Trump, as revealed in several text messages published yesterday. Sarah Lee posted about them last night. My first reaction upon reading them was that many of them sound a lot like my own private (and public) statements about Trump:
“I just saw my first Bernie Sanders bumper sticker. Made me want to key the car,” Page wrote in an August 2015 exchange.
“He’s an idiot like Trump. Figure they cancel each other out,” Strzok replied.
Whoa. He thinks both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are idiots? Who doesn’t — besides fanbois who are super-impressed that a guy can inherit a lot of money?
In a March 2016 message, Page exclaimed: “God trump is a loathsome human….omg he’s an idiot.”
“He’s awful,” replied Strzok.
Someone thinks Donald Trump is awful? Get out!
Of course, Strzok went further than I ever did or would, actively wishing for the election of Hillary Clinton by saying “God Hillary should win 100,000,000 – 0.” But many of his rants about Trump and his idiocy are shared by, well, millions of people in the country. Including people who voted for the guy.
Andrew C. McCarthy says no biggie:
Well, I’m not OK with Trump’s outbursts, but I’m not sure I’m OK with this either.
I’m of two minds about this. Before the Strzok texts came out, but after their existence was reported, McCarthy made the case that people in law enforcement can work political cases while holding political beliefs:
People who work in law enforcement tend to be engaged citizens, well-informed about current events. Many of them are passionate in their political convictions. In the New York metropolitan area, those convictions tend not to jibe with mine — although rank-and-file FBI agents tend to be more conservative than their high-ranking superiors, and than prosecutors educated in elite American schools. Political differences are fodder for good-natured ribbing in the hallway or over beers after work. But they get checked at the courthouse door, even in political-corruption cases. Law enforcement is a straightforward exercise: Figure out what the facts and law are, then apply the latter to the former.
I actually agree with this. I have no specific reason to believe that Peter Strzok is anything less than professional at his job. I don’t do political cases, but I think if people could see how the day-to-day operation of criminal investigation and prosecution works, they would have more confidence in the system than they get from Big Media’s often unfair portrayals.
But here, there is an issue that goes beyond whether the work is actually getting done right: the public’s perception. And while having general political opinions should not necessarily render a prosecutor or an investigator unfit for prosecutions of political cases — again, like McCarthy says, they tend to be engaged citizens — a very strong bias against a particular person, as we see here, has a negative effect on the perception of the integrity of the investigation.
At this point, I would like to quote a question from a correspndent whom I respect, who wrote me an email asking in the subject line: “Isn’t Bias Good in a Prosecutor?”
Not corruption, bias.
Doesn’t our system demand an aggressive prosecutor who has a jaundiced eye for suspected criminals? The defense is lionized for doing most anything to get a defendant off. Don’t The People need an energetic/passionate person to prosecute?
I believe Mueller was corrupted as an FBI Director, and maybe before. I am not defending him. There shouldn’t even be an IC without hard and fast limits as to scope. If an IC learns anything outside that scope, they should/would be free to refer to DOJ just as any U.S. Attorney can.
What troubles me is the meme that a prosecutor (or defense counsel, for that matter) is somehow wrong for having a bias. Isn’t that a core trait necessary to the job?
I’d answer this with an unqualified “no.” Yes, you want an energetic and passionate person to be a prosecutor. But their zeal must be for justice —
and it must be tempered zeal. Having a strong pre-existing bias against the target is not the kind of zeal that promotes justice or that gives the public confidence.
So I’m fine with Mueller taking Strzok off the investigation. He should not have been on it. Even though I agree with many of his views of Donald Trump.