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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

 
The expedient purge

by digby



Attorney Bradley Moss points out that the purge of the top levels of he FBI and DOJ is coming to completion:

There was no doubt a viable—although arguably attenuated—policy justification supporting Strzok’s firing. Having represented government employees at the FBI and across the intelligence community in similar disciplinary proceedings for 11 years, however, I can tell you that the manner in which this particular saga came to a conclusion was in no way consistent with standard FBI practice.

No matter what some in the media might tell you, it is not impossible to fire government officials if there is a valid basis for doing so. When it comes to the FBI, that task is far easier because—with very limited exceptions that likely do not apply to Strzok—FBI officials are effectively “at-will” employees. The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, which governs the disciplinary due process system for the entire U.S. government, specifically excludes the bureau—as well as several other agencies within the intelligence community—from its statutory scope. In effect, FBI officials receive whatever internal due process the agency decides to provide to them out of a matter of discretion.

What was so unusual in the context of Strzok’s firing, however, was the direct intervention of Deputy Director David Bowdich into the process. Just like in any other FBI disciplinary proceeding, Strzok was initially afforded the right to appeal the proposed termination of his employment to Candace M. Will, the head of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility. I have appeared before Will several times on behalf of FBI clients and I can state from personal experience that she is well-credentialed and compassionate, but ultimately very strict. She is a firm believer in the notion that the FBI has to hold itself to the highest ethical and moral standards and that is often reflected in her determinations. In 11 years of practice, I cannot think of a single time I have ever managed to persuade Will to reverse a proposed termination of an FBI official’s employment.

Nonetheless, according to a statement from Strzok’s attorney, Will chose not to uphold the proposed termination of Strzok’s employment. Instead, she concluded that it was appropriate to instead demote Strzok and suspend him for 60 days. She apparently also concluded that Strzok would be afforded what is known as a “last chance agreement,” which is effectively a written understanding between the agency and the employee that even the slightest instance of misconduct going forward can and will likely result in immediate termination. That Will reached this conclusion is very surprising and, in my professional opinion, speaks to just how thin the case for firing Strzok likely was.

That Deputy Director Bowdich chose to overrule Will is what takes this matter so far outside the ordinary practice of the FBI disciplinary process. I have never seen senior FBI leadership unilaterally and directly intervene in such a manner, whether in my client’s favor or otherwise. If Strzok had not been satisfied with Will’s determination, appealing to Deputy Director Bowdich would not even have been a formal option. His final stage of administrative appeal would have been before the Disciplinary Review Board, which is comprised of three senior FBI officials but to my knowledge does not typically (if ever) include the deputy director.

To be clear: No legal restriction likely prevented Deputy Director Bowdich from directly intervening. After all, Strzok was effectively an “at-will” employee. What is concerning here is the continuous and repeated appearance of political considerations seeping into the traditionally apolitical disciplinary process at the FBI. President Trump made no bones about his distaste for Agent Strzok, just as he similarly publicly criticized Director Comey and Director McCabe prior to their terminations. All three men played or were still playing a role in the investigation into the president’s campaign before they were fired.

With the firing of Peter Strzok, the president’s purge of senior FBI leadership who helped launch that investigation is now complete. For those wondering whether Trump would allow the bureau to do its job without political interference from the White House, I think we have our answer.

Strzok was fired for political reasons. So was McCabe. They are trying to appease King Trump in order to keep him from firing Rosenstein and/or Sessions. I think that's obvious. By throwing out some chum every couple of months they think they can keep him momentarily happy. Indeed, it appears that the new sacrifice will be Bruce Ohr, whose wife Trump currently obsessing about on his twitter feed.

They are buying time by throwing their own people overboard. One can only hope it's for a good cause.

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