Peter Strzok, who was reassigned from Robert Mueller's investigation to the FBI's human resources department after Mueller learned of communications Strzok sent last summer that "could appear critical" of President Trump, had a reputation as an accomplished FBI counterintelligence investigator. He was a lead in the investigation into whether Hillary Clinton mishandled classified information on her private email account, and then he was instrumental in the investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Strozk's demotion, which is what the transfer amounts to, came as soon as Mueller learned of allegations that Strzok and a colleague had reacted to news events, such as the presidential debates, with text messages that could be considered politically biased.
Assuming these allegations against Strzok are true, are they cause for concern?
Interpreted in the context of Mueller's action in response to them, I say they are cause for pride. As long as those we entrust to enact, apply and enforce the law perform in this way, we can be confident about justice in our democracy.
We should always be proud of a government that does the right thing. And the special counsel did the right thing. He acted without hesitation not to whitewash anything or anybody, but to preserve both the integrity of the FBI and the investigation it is conducting and he is leading.
Mueller's response is in the spirit of what John Adams wrote over 200 years ago in his Constitution for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: a just democracy must be "a government of laws and not of men." In transferring Strzok, Robert Mueller honored the law above all else.
The day after Strzok's transfer became public, did President Donald Trump accordingly tweet his pride in the just triumph of law? No. He sought to demonize and delegitimize the FBI by declaring that "its reputation is in Tatters-worst in History!"
It was an outrageous statement, and former Attorney General Eric Holder, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, and former FBI director James Comey were having none of it.
According to Holder: "The FBI's reputation is not in 'tatters.' It's composed of the same dedicated men and women who have always worked there and do a great, apolitical job. You'll find integrity and honesty at FBI headquarters and not at 1600 Penn Ave right now."
Yates said: "The only thing in tatters is the President's respect for the rule of law. The dedicated men and women of the FBI deserve better."
As for Comey, he quoted his own June 8 testimony to Congress: "I want the American people to know this truth: The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong. And the FBI is, and always will be, independent."
In my years as a law enforcement executive, I have worked closely with the FBI on many occasions, and I can attest to the absolute accuracy of what Holder, Yates and Comey say about it. We are blessed as a democratic nation to have today's FBI.
The agency has evolved mightily from its first years under J. Edgar Hoover, a leader who ultimately failed to uphold the supremacy of the law.
The FBI of today is an agency of supreme integrity. And while it was born far from perfect, its men and women have worked tirelessly to make the FBI the crown jewel of American criminal investigation and law enforcement. No comparable agency is more highly respected the world over.
Both as a citizen of the nation and its chief executive, Donald Trump should be proud of the FBI. After all, he campaigned as the "law and order candidate." But then, it is true, as President, he is on record advising police officers to be "rough" with the suspects they arrest. It was advice America's police chiefs were quick to reject. They understood, even if their President did not, that upholding law and order means upholding the Constitution, no matter how you may personally feel about the suspect in your custody.
President Trump voices support for the police, especially when, like former Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, they support his idea of law and order. When a US District Judge found Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt in defying a court order to end unconstitutional racial-profiling of Latinos in a campaign to arrest undocumented immigrants, President Trump nullified the law with a presidential pardon.
Was such a nullification the act of a true "law and order" President?
And when law and order gets uncomfortably close to home, when the inner circle of the White House, including members of the President's own family, come under investigation by the special counsel, Donald Trump applies a different tactic. He attempts to tweet to "tatters" the very American institutions dedicated to law and order.
Our leaders and lawmakers must question the behavior of any agency when there is good reason to do so. But we cannot allow to pass unchallenged reckless attempts to denounce, demonize, or delegitimize an agency of government on the basis of allegations against one agent.
The current work of the special counsel is about defending the sanctity and legitimacy of the free and fair elections that are the heart and soul of our democracy. The President and the legislators who have spoken so destructively surely must realize that the only reason they learned about the alleged misconduct of Strozk at all is because the officials responsible for enforcing the rule of law and order in the conduct of the investigation discovered a problem, reported it, and acted promptly to fix it. Such is the great glory of a government of laws, not an agency "in tatters."
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