A sign for the Department of Justice hangs in the press briefing room Thursday, April 18, 2019, in Washington, at the Justice Department. Attorney General William Barr was to speak about the release of a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report during a news conference. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Pointing out that high-profile officials with the Department of Justice (DOJ) are rarely punished for crimes might be akin to saying that water is wet, but Real Clear Investigations just published a report demonstrating how deep this corruption goes. Put simply, it shows a disturbing lack of accountability in the department that is supposed to hold people accountable for their actions.
According to the news site, “The Justice Department regularly declines to prosecute high-ranking current and former department officials, even when its Office of Inspector General provides the grounds for it.”
In the article, author Eric Felton examined 27 reports compiled in 2019 by the Inspector General’s office. These reports detailed instances in which senior DOJ officials were alleged to have engaged in wrongdoing but were not prosecuted. These cases included allegations of nepotism, theft, and even sexual assault.
“RealClearInvestigations reviewed the OIG’s summaries of its investigations and found that in at least a dozen of those cases the inspector general determined that the wrongdoing was serious enough to be criminal,” Felton wrote. Despite the serious nature of these allegations, the DOJ “declined to bring criminal charges.”
Some of the more high-profile instances of this trend involve former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. According to the Office of Inspector General (OIG), “By not safeguarding sensitive information obtained during the course of his FBI employment, Comey set a dangerous example.”
We all know what happened with that fiasco. Comey didn’t receive so much as a slap on the wrist. In McCabe’s case, the OIG found that he lacked candor on multiple occasions when being questioned under oath. But, as is its custom, the DOJ gave McCabe the Comey treatment.
However, this isn’t to say that none of these individuals are held accountable. While most avoid prosecution, some are forced to *gasp* resign after their crimes are discovered. The DOJ means business, doesn’t it? RealClearInvestigations pointed out that “many of the 27 cases of senior official wrongdoing reported by the Justice OIG last year were resolved by the resignation of the misbehaving employee.”
Sean Bigley, an attorney who practices government employment and security clearance law told RealClearInvestigations that senior officials who commit crimes “can frequently negotiate their exit in lieu of punishment.” He also explained that “These types of arrangements are, indeed, undertaken with an eye toward avoiding the time and hassle of litigation.”
Another problematic component of this equation is that even officials who have retired long before their misdeeds are revealed enjoy the same treatment. In one case, a former deputy assistant attorney general deceived a hospital to help his brother.
Upon learning that his relative was sharing a hospital room with another patient, he called the hospital claiming he was “the No. 4 person with the Department of Justice.” He then demanded that the staff move his brother to a private room.
But this particular example is even more disturbing because it reveals that DOJ officials will be let off the hook even when they admit to wrongdoing. According to the report, the individual who deceived the hospital admitted that he ha committed “an ethical violation,” and that his behavior constituted “the impersonation of a government official.”
Another case involved an assistant U.S. attorney who was arrested for drunk driving. The official attempted to avoid arrest by using his position to threaten the arresting officers. According to the OIG, “The AUSA resigned during the OIG investigation and pleaded guilty to the DUI offense.”
According to the report, it seems that there are not many crimes for which one can be prosecuted if they happen to be a high-ranking official at the DOJ. In September 2019, the inspector general reported a case in which a Bureau of Prisons assistant director “engaged in a sexual and personal financial relationship with e Bureau of Prisons Union executive.” This relationship involved sending sexually-charged photos on her government cell phone.
The OIG found that this relationship resulted “in a conflict of interest in violation of federal regulation and BOP policy.” The agency also said that this particular individual “lack candor…in violation of federal law.” Put simply, he withheld the truth during questioning.
The RealClearInvestigations report covers several other examples of senior DOJ officials committing crimes and engaging in unethical behavior without punishment. But it’s important to note that the Inspector General’s office does not examine each and every case of the DOJ declining to punish its members who commit crimes, so there are likely far more than the 27 cases it examined last year.
Interestingly enough, the department did not have the same approach when it came to individuals close to President Donald Trump. Former national security advisor General Mike Flynn was clearly railroaded by the DOJ and the department certainly did not give Roger Stone the Comey treatment.
As indicated previously, there is nothing surprising here. Everyone saw the DOJ give Andrew McCabe a mulligan despite engaging in conduct that would land others in a swamp of legal troubles. But the extent to which the department protects its elite is horrifying given its role in meting out justice.
The fact that an organization with this level of corruption would use the coronavirus scare to seek more power is even more disquieting. It’s uncertain whether or not Attorney General William Barr will address this problem; it is deeply rooted in the culture of the department. Either way, this is an issue that will persist unless drastic action is taken.
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