An investigative summary from a Justice Department watchdog group has determined an unnamed former FBI deputy assistant director engaged in “sensitive” information leaks to the media and violated federal law in unsealing court documents. Stopping short of accusing the official of accepting a bribe, the summary also said the individual accepted a gift from someone in the media.
Fox News reports:
The investigation’s findings will be referred to the FBI for potential further action, the IG said.
The official became the second high-level FBI employee to be formally rebuked by the IG over media contacts seen as improper. Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe was fired from the bureau in March 2018 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions after an inspector general report revealed that he “lacked candor” when discussing his communications about federal probes with members of the media.
The IG first indicated in its June 2018 report on DOJ and FBI misconduct that “although FBI policy strictly limits the employees who are authorized to speak to the media, we found that this policy appeared to be widely ignored during the period we reviewed.”
The IG, flagging what it called an apparent “cultural” problem at the bureau, said at the time it would announce the conclusion of multiple separate “investigations” into the matter at a later date. The Wednesday report appeared to be the opening salvo in those reports. A distinct, comprehensive IG report covering a variety of additional matters, including potential FBI surveillance abuses, is expected in a matter of weeks.
The watchdog report comes amid other efforts from the inspector general and attorneys John Durham and John Huber—who are conducting independent investigations—into department and bureau officials.
Fox News reports the deputy assistant director (DAD) had “engaged in misconduct when the DAD accepted a ticket, valued at approximately $225, to attend a media-sponsored dinner, as a gift from a member of the media, in violation of federal regulations and FBI policy.”
The individual reportedly also “disclosed to the media the existence of information that had been filed under seal in federal court, in violation of 18 USC § 401, Contempt of Court, provided without authorization FBI law enforcement sensitive information to reporters on multiple occasions; and had dozens of official contacts with the media without authorization, in violation of FBI policy.”
The Justice Department official also engaged with the media outside of a professional level, reportedly violating FBI and Justice Department ethic rules.
“In addition to the significant number of communications between FBI employees and journalists, we identified social interactions between FBI employees and journalists that were, at a minimum, inconsistent with FBI policy and department ethics rules,” the IG wrote last year, Fox News reports. “For example, we identified instances where FBI employees received tickets to sporting events from journalists, went on golfing outings with media representatives, were treated to drinks and meals after work by reporters, and were the guests of journalists at nonpublic social events.”
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The IG added: “the harm caused by leaks, fear of potential leaks, and a culture of unauthorized media contacts.”
“We do not believe the problem is with the FBI’s policy, which we found to be clear and unambiguous,” the inspector general clarified. “Rather, we concluded that these leaks highlight the need to change what appears to be a cultural attitude.”
Although the watchdog group did not identify the individual in question, last week, President Trump authorized Attorney General William Barr to declassify and release information relevant to the origins of the Russia probe. This request may also include information concerning potential bad actors within the DOJ or FBI.