Posted on April 17, 2018

Obama’s Justice Dept. Feuded with FBI, Agents Quit as Politics Played Larger Role

Jeff Mordock, Washington Times, April 16, 2018

Acrimony between the FBI and the Justice Department was so bad in the waning days of the Obama administration that some agents quit the bureau in frustration, a former G-man says.

Fractures which began during the tenure of former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. deepened in the later years, and particularly in the run-up to the 2016 president election.

The depths of the antagonism were exposed in an inspector general’s report last week looking into former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was fired from the FBI earlier this year for misleading multiple investigations. {snip}

Investigators detail one instance in August when Mr. McCabe got a call from a senior Justice Department official who complained about the FBI’s “overt” actions probing the Clinton Foundation in the middle of the campaign.

Mr. McCabe said he got the sense the Obama-era Justice Department was telling him “to shut down” the probe. Later he called the exchange as “very dramatic” and said he’d never had a confrontation like that with the Justice Department.

The report describes the relationship between the two agencies as “being under great stress,” and said Mr. McCabe was caught in “an increasingly acrimonious fight for control between the Justice Department and FBI pursuing the Clinton foundation case.”

Former agents said the acrimony started before the election.

One said the relationship fractured under Mr. Holder as agents in field offices across the country did not trust Justice Department lawyers, whom they saw as Washington bureaucrats trying use investigations for political advantage.


“I know from talking to some agents in the FBI at that time that there conflicts between the Holder DOJ and its priorities and how the FBI wanted to work cases,” said Danny Defenbaugh, a 33-year FBI agent who retired in 2002.

“The FBI had always taken pride in following the evidence to where it would lead and never allowing politics into their investigation decisions,” Mr. Defenbaugh continued. “But then the DOJ at times would say, ‘we don’t want you to do this.’”

One source of disagreement was Mr. Holder’s pressure on the FBI to investigate local police agencies for civil rights violations.

The department opened more than 20 civil rights investigations into local police departments between 2009 and 2014, more than doubling the number of reviews from the previous five years.


“Eric Holder waged an anti-police campaign that he believed in,” said J. Christian Adams, who served as an attorney in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division from 2005 through 2010. “He was so successful in merging his ideology with the Justice Department some people there didn’t even realize he was doing it.”

The battle intensified in 2014 as the Justice Department and the FBI field office that would later investigate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to war over the death of Eric Garner in New York City. Mr. Garner died in July of that year after a New York City Police Officer confronted him for selling untaxed cigarettes. The officer was seen on video using a chokehold, prohibited by the New York Police Department, to subdue him.

FBI agents took over the case and opposed charging the officer, a recommendation supported by New York federal prosecutors. Attorneys at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division claimed there was clear evidence to the charge the officer.

Then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch removed the FBI agents investigating the case, replacing them with agents from outside New York. The move was described as “highly unusual.” Ultimately, a federal grand jury decided not to indict the officer, Daniel Pantaleo.


“Holder and Lynch totally politicized the Justice Department,” said Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department attorney who now works with The Heritage Foundation. “There was no compunction about interfering with a criminal investigation.”