There is no secret society within the FBI. At least, that’s what most media sources and pundits are concluding after ABC News made public a text between FBI officials, which conservative lawmakers were lauding as proof of an anti-Trump cabal within the law enforcement agency. Despite the fact that even Senator Ron Johnson, a main driving force of the secret society narrative, appeared to ease off on the story once the texts became public, Attorney General Jeff Sessions went on the offensive on Friday and pledged to eradicate political bias from the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
“It means absolutely eliminating political bias or favoritism — in either direction — from our investigations and prosecutions,” said Attorney General Sessions. “That sort of thinking is the antithesis of what the department stands for, and I won’t tolerate it.”
Since the texts came from officials who were involved in the Mueller probe, many conservatives were quick to cry out that Trump will not be getting a fair shake in the Russia investigation and that any charges levied by the special counsel would be tainted by an improper investigation. To its credit, the FBI was effective in its attempt to eliminate real or perceived bias from its department once the texts were revealed to the special counsel’s office. The FBI officials responsible for the texts, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, have both ceased their work in the Mueller probe.
Following the texts, Agent Stzork was reassigned to the Human Resources department and Page was no longer there, as she had completed her work with Mueller’s team by the time the emails surfaced. These remedial measures are definitely not enough for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who seems determined to comb over the past in order to make sure all bias is eliminated.
“It means identifying mistakes of the past, and correcting them for the future,” Sessions said. “When we find problems, we’re addressing them head on, not sweeping them under the rug.”
There is one problem with Sessions’ crusade: the difference between private political opinions and bias in a professional investigation. FBI agents, while civil servants, are entitled to their own opinions regarding politics, Congress, and the sitting president of the United States. These opinions, however, cannot come into the workplace and must not affect any decision making the agents do in an official capacity. Peter Stzork and Lisa Page exchanged text messages privately, but Stzork was still reassigned in order to protect the integrity of the investigation. Some disagree with this decision, stating that agents should be allowed to voice their opinions and be trusted to carry out their professional duties.
“The FBI agents don’t have to be clothed with absolute perfection in order to do their jobs,” said Judge Andrew Napolitano.
Still, while FBI agents retain their rights to free political speech and expression, they are advised to refrain from such actions when working on such a politically charged investigation. Indeed, just because an agent working on the probe is part of the 60 percent of Americans who do not think Donald Trump is fit to be president, doesn’t mean that the entire investigation is tainted or that they are not able to perform their duties. However, in these polarizing times, it seems as if FBI agents must curtail their speech heavily if they want to protect the legitimacy of the institution.
There might be other FBI agents on the probe who harbor negative opinions about Donald Trump. Some may have talked about these opinions. Will the attorney general go after them as well?