If you recall, back in June, I posted this story FBI Agents Violated Federal Ethics Laws While Cavorting With Reporters.

Indeed, Andrew McCabe was fired for leaking unauthorized investigative information to reporters and then lying about it. But if you want to understand how and why these unauthorized contacts took place, the next paragraph provides the answer:

In addition, we identified instances where FBI employees improperly received benefits from reporters, including tickets to sporting events, golfing outings, drinks and meals, and admittance to nonpublic social events. We will separately report on those investigations as they are concluded, consistent with the Inspector General Act, other applicable federal statutes, and OIG policy.

The federal standard for employees taking gifts is pretty easy to understand. You can’t do it unless there is a pre-existing personal relationship between you and the person giving the gift and they don’t “have business before the government.” This is not a policy, this is federal law and carries potential criminal penalties.

Now the Department of Justice IG has produced a report on one internal investigation of a senior FBI agent taking sporting event tickets from reporters:

The OIG investigation substantiated, and the senior FBI official acknowledged, that the official accepted two tickets to a professional sports event from the TV correspondent without paying the correspondent for the tickets. The senior FBI official initially maintained to the OIG in an interview under oath that the official had paid for the tickets, but five days later admitted to the OIG that the official did not. The OIG found that the senior FBI official lacked candor with the OIG in several respects about the tickets. In addition, the OIG found that the senior FBI official had previously accepted one ticket from the same correspondent to another professional sports event, and one ticket from a different news reporter to another sports event. Although the senior FBI official stated that the official had paid the correspondent and reporter for these tickets, the OIG found no evidence in the senior FBI official’s communications with the correspondent or the reporter using FBI devices or systems to confirm that the official paid for the tickets, and the senior FBI official provided the OIG with no evidence to show that the official had paid for the tickets.

The senior FBI official’s conduct violated federal regulations prohibiting federal employees from accepting gifts from prohibited sources, such as members of the media, where, for example, the source seeks official action by the employee’s agency; the source does business or seeks to do business with the employee’s agency; and the source has interests that may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of the employee’s official duties.

Criminal prosecution was declined. The senior FBI official retired from the FBI during the OIG’s investigation.

There are three critical data points here. Why do we think more than one reporter plied this particular official with tickets to sporting events? A solid guess would be that this was a source who leaked information and/or who confirmed information leaked to the reporters by others. Secondly, this behavior blossomed under the reign of Mister Ethical Leadership, himself, James Comey. If this kind of stuff is going on at senior ranks you know the behavior is ingrained in lower ranking staff. As I say in the previous post on the subject, this is not a little thing, this is not a policy thing, this is a blatant violation of federal law. And finally, what happens?

Because this guy had the correct rank and connections, the Department of Justice declined to prosecute. Why? Because it is a tight, incestuous little community where the guy being investigated may have had enough dirt on the guy making the prosecution decision to destroy his career if he came down too hard. So this clown isn’t prosecuted, he isn’t fired, he isn’t reduced in grade. He’s allowed to retire.

All this action did was send a lesson to the FBI that ethics violations are not a big deal. The only way they could make the situation worse would be to fire or prosecute lower ranking agents thereby locking in the perception (or reality) that rules don’t apply to the upper echelons of the FBI.