The rot at DOJ runs deep

Having watched the Department of Justice in action these last 20 or so years, I see the raid on Mar-a-Lago as unprecedented only in its conspicuousness.

After Al Gore’s bitter loss in 2000, Democrats across the board have dedicated themselves to bureaucratic sedition, enabled by an equally embittered and increasingly imbalanced media.

The FBI and the Department of Justice, which oversees the FBI, are riddled with leftist careerists, many of them in key positions. The symptoms of rot have been hard to avoid since at least 2004.

That was the year the exploits of former Clinton national security adviser Sandy Berger first surfaced. In the act of reviewing documents before his 9/11 Commission testimony, Berger did some things that would have put you or me in prison.

He swiped some highly classified documents, and then, during a break, stashed them under a trailer at a construction site. He retrieved them at the end of the day and admittedly used scissors to cut the documents into little pieces before throwing them away.

Only the bravura efforts of the then-inspector general of the National Archives, Paul Brachfeld, brought Berger’s misdeeds to light.

Beginning with the third of Berger’s four visits to the Archives in September 2003, when Berger was first caught in the act of stealing documents, Brachfeld tried to alert the Justice Department to the scope and seriousness of the theft.

On Jan. 14, 2004, the day Berger first testified before the 9/11 Commission, Brachfeld met with DOJ trial attorney Howard Sklamberg. Concerned that Berger had obstructed the Commission’s work, Brachfeld wanted assurance that its members knew of Berger’s crime and the potential ramifications of it.

On March 22, two days before Berger’s public testimony, senior attorneys John Dion and Bruce Swartz got back to Brachfeld. They informed him that the DOJ was not going to notify the 9/11 Commission of the Berger investigation before his appearance.

Despite his fear of crossing Dion – in his estimate a “powerful and influential Justice Department official” – Brachfeld pressed for assurance.

On March 26, Brachfeld called DOJ attorney Thomas Reilly, who was investigating Berger, and asked for a response. Getting no satisfaction, he called DOJ Inspector General Glenn Fine on April 6 and again expressed his concern that the 9/11 Commission remained unaware of Berger’s actions.

Throughout April and May of 2004, Brachfeld continued to pester DOJ to follow up with its commitment to notify the 9/11 Commission. Not until July 19, 2004, did word leak to the press of the Berger investigation. This was just three days before the 9/11 Commission released its final report, too late for any significant amendment.

At the time, of course, the Democrats blamed the Republicans for the leak. “I find it rather curious,” said a spokesman for then candidate John Kerry, “that the president has chosen the very week before the Democratic Convention to deny his deep involvement in a potentially criminal effort to smear an anonymous private citizen.”

The Democrat blogs called the alleged Republican scandal “Timingate,” as in “Desperate Bush Denies Link to Growing ‘Timingate’ Scandal,” an absurdity the media more or less echoed.

In the real world, however, the timing allowed the Democrats to keep the story away from the 9/11 Commission, lose it in the larger coverage of the Democratic convention, distance Kerry from Berger before the campaign got rolling, and finally blame Bush for denying his alleged involvement.

On Feb. 3, 2005, the weak-kneed White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez assumed control of the Justice Department from retiring Attorney General John Ashcroft. According to insiders, this was nearly as disruptive as a change in administration.

On April 1, 2005 – 18 months into an investigation that could just as well have been done in a week – the DOJ issued a press release outlining the Berger case.

The DOJ recommended a $10,000 fine and a three-year loss of security clearance for Berger, which would get him back in the ball game in time for a potential Clinton resurrection in 2008.

The FBI never did go back and review Berger’s first two visits when he had access to large volume of original documents. As the House report concluded, “The lack of interest in Berger’s first two visits is disturbing.”

The pair of DOJ attorneys also declined to submit Berger to a polygraph exam as required by his Plea Agreement.

If these two attorneys and their colleagues were “unacceptably incurious” across the board, one could write off their sloth to bureaucratic malaise.

The problem was not malaise but partisanship. Swartz, Sklamberg, Fine and Dion were all held over from the Clinton administration. Although neither Dion nor Reilly has an obvious record of federal contributions, Sklamberg, Fine and Swartz have only contributed to Democratic candidates in federal races.

Fine, who was appointed DOJ inspector general in the waning days of the Clinton administration, contributed to the DNC and the Clinton campaign in 1992.

One need only compare the coverage of the apocryphal crimes of Trump and his people to Berger’s real and highly consequential crime to see how far out of control the major media have spun in recent years.

Indeed, in the two weeks after the release of the House Committee report on Berger, not a single major newspaper covered it in sufficient depth to mention Paul Brachfeld by name. Washington, alas, is where scoundrels flourish and heroes go to die.

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