DOJ Investigations Signal Looming US Anti-Corruption Campaign

While the attorney general has been tight-lipped, it has become clear something big is in the works
January 9, 2018 Updated: January 11, 2018

News Analysis

For months now, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been working to investigate politicians and government officials for alleged corruption and other crimes.

While Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein have remained tight-lipped publicly, it appears they have been working overtime on a slew of high-profile cases.

Some of these investigations by the DOJ have come to light in recent weeks. They range from the Clinton Foundation to the so-called Uranium One deal, as well as allegations of interference by Obama officials with a Drug Enforcement Administration investigation into Hezbollah’s drug trade in the United States.

These cases, however, might be just the tip of the iceberg.

Some of these investigations by the DOJ have come to light in recent weeks.

Since October last year, more than 9,000 sealed indictments have been filed in districts across the United States. The number of indictments filed in 2017 is in stark contrast to previous years. According to a 2009 report from the Federal Judicial Center, in all of 2006, there were only 1,077 sealed indictments. Sealed indictments are typically used to prosecute individuals or criminal networks in cases where revealing names could lead individuals to flee or destroy evidence.

One such federal indictment was unsealed in a federal court in Brooklyn, New York, on Jan. 9. The 11-count indictment charges New York state Assemblywoman Pamela Harris, a Democrat, with defrauding government agencies of tens of thousands in public funds. According to the DOJ, Harris had attempted to cover up the alleged fraud by pressuring “witnesses to lie to the FBI and cover them up.”

Former President Bill Clinton stands on stage with his wife, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, during the closing Plenary session of the 7th Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York on Sept. 22, 2011. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Among the multiple investigations currently being conducted by the DOJ is an inquiry into the Clinton Foundation and whether Hillary Clinton provided donors with political or policy favors. Emails dating back to Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state show that Clinton’s former top aide, Huma Abedin, fielded requests for special favors from Clinton Foundation donors.

In one such request, Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury requested access through Doug Band, a former board member of the Clinton Global Initiative, to a high-level official in the State Department.

NBC News reported on Jan. 5 that the investigation into the Clinton Foundation had been open for months.

The Hill, which first reported on the inquiry, wrote that the DOJ is using the information it is gathering to determine whether it warrants a full investigation.

One reason for the investigation is to determine whether any of the tax-exempt donations to the Clinton Foundation, which totaled more than $2 billion since its inception in 1997, were converted for personal or political use, The Hill reported.

A radioactive warning sign hangs on fencing around the Anfield’s Shootaring Canyon Uranium Mill outside Ticaboo, Utah, on October 27, 2017. Anfield with is in partnership with the Russian firm Uranium One, and bought the mill from Uranium One in 2015. (George Frey/Getty Images)

The DOJ is also revisiting evidence obtained by the FBI in an investigation into the Uranium One deal, which is connected to the Clinton Foundation.

Under the deal, which was approved by the Obama administration in 2010, the Russian government gained a majority stake in Canadian mining company Uranium One, which at the time controlled 20 percent of uranium licensed for mining in the United States.

Because of the national security risk posed by the deal, it had to be approved by the Committee on Foreign Investments, which included the State Department under Hillary Clinton.

While the deal was under review, the Clinton Foundation received millions in payments linked to Uranium One.

Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations to the Clinton Foundation, totaling $2.35 million, The New York Times reported in a 2015 exposé.

At the same time that the security review was being conducted, Bill Clinton received a speaking fee of $500,000 from a Kremlin-linked investment bank.

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) receives a note from her aide Huma Abedin (L) as she testifies about the State Department’s budget during a hearing of the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee of the House appropriations committee on March 10, 2011. (Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images)

The DOJ has also reopened its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state. Despite determining that the unsecured server was used to store and transmit classified material, former FBI Director James Comey suggested in July 2016 that no charges should be filed. He did so after an FBI agent had altered the conclusion of the agency’s recommendation by removing language that suggested a crime had been committed.

The DOJ probe is looking into the amount of classified information that was sent over the server, as well as who was responsible for moving that information into an unclassified environment, the Daily Beast reported on Jan. 4.

Last month, Sessions also ordered a review of an investigation conducted by Drug Enforcement Administration officials that uncovered drug trafficking by the Hezbollah terror group into the United States, as well as money laundering.

President Barack Obama speaks during his farewell address in Chicago on Jan. 10, 2017. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Last month, Politico published a report based on interviews with dozens of law enforcement officials that the investigation was stalled and blocked by Obama administration officials. According to the report, the investigation’s conclusion was undermined so as to not upset Iran, a key sponsor of the terror group, while then-President Barack Obama sought an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

Election Investigations

Alongside the investigations by the DOJ, congressional investigators have been conducting their own investigations into potential misconduct by U.S. officials. These include the potential spreading of classified information, as well as a conspiracy that attempted to prevent President Donald Trump from becoming president.

After months of refusing to provide House investigators with requested documents on Fusion GPS—the company behind the infamous Trump–Russia dossier—as well as on current and former FBI officials, the DOJ agreed on Jan. 3 to provide all requested documents.

Chairman of the House intelligence committee Devin Nunes has been investigating the role that the Trump dossier played in the FBI’s decision to open an investigation into allegations of collusion between Trump and Russia in July 2016.

House intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes arrives for a hearing behind closed doors on Capitol Hill on July 25, 2017. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Nunes is also investigating whether this FBI investigation was then used to obtain court warrants, under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to spy on the Trump campaign and transition team.

The investigation includes some of Obama’s key former officials, such as former national security adviser Susan Rice and former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power. Both are recorded as having made dozens, if not hundreds, of so-called “unmasking requests” on the communications of Trump officials.

The Trump dossier, which was paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, appears to have been the main source of the allegations that Russia colluded with the Trump campaign.

Fusion GPS actively spread the dossier among politicians and the media to promote its unproven narrative of collusion.

Among the documents that the House committee had sought were bank records detailing payments made by Fusion GPS to journalists. A federal judge ruled on Jan. 4 that those bank records needed to be handed over to the House intelligence committee, over the objection of Fusion GPS.

The House committee is also investigating Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) role in regard to the Trump dossier. McCain had sent an associate to the UK to obtain a copy of the report from former MI6 intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who had been hired by Fusion GPS to write the dossier.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) speaks to reporters at the Capitol on July 13, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

McCain admitted in January last year that he provided Comey with a copy of the report.

Last month, Nunes issued a subpoena to David Kramer, the associate of McCain who had traveled to London to obtain a copy of the report.

One official currently being investigated by the House intelligence committee in connection with the Trump dossier is Bruce Ohr.

Ohr, a former associate deputy attorney general, was demoted by the DOJ after it was revealed he had secretly met with Fusion GPS officials.

Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, was later revealed to have worked for Fusion GPS during the election campaign against then-candidate Trump.

FBI agent Peter Strzok.

The commission is also seeking to interview FBI agent Peter Strzok and his FBI colleague Lisa Page. Strzok had served both in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server and the FBI’s investigation into allegations of Russia collusion. Strzok was removed from the team of special counsel Robert Mueller after his bias against Trump was revealed.

Strzok and Page were reportedly having an extramarital affair, and the text messages between them, which were obtained by the DOJ, showed a strong bias against Trump and support of Hillary Clinton.

In one such text, Strzok refers to Page about a meeting they had in the office of then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, during which they discussed an “insurance policy” in the event that Trump won the presidency.

McCabe has since announced that he would retire in early 2018.

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on May 11, 2017. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

As part of the agreement between Nunes and the DOJ, the House committee gained access to around 9,500 text messages sent between Strzok and Page.

In response to “significant inconsistencies” in statements that Steele, the author of the Trump dossier, had made to congressional investigators, two senators have referred him to the DOJ for criminal investigation.

The referral was made by Senate judiciary committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Inspector General Investigation

Simultaneously with the investigations in Congress, the Justice Department inspector general has been conducting his own investigation. Included in his investigation is how Comey handled the investigation on Clinton’s email server.

Comey took the unusual step in July 2016 of announcing the results of the FBI’s investigation into Clinton and publicly recommending that charges not be filed, despite that this normally falls under the purview of the DOJ. The FBI investigates crimes, while the relevant attorney general makes decisions about prosecution.

Former FBI Director James Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 8, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Comey later testified under oath on June 8, 2017, that then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch had asked him to describe the investigation as a “matter” instead of an “investigation.”

Comey also admitted to having leaked memos he wrote on meetings he had with Trump and giving them to a friend to leak them to The New York Times.

Grassley, who has reviewed the seven memos, said that four were marked classified. Since Comey shared four memos with his friend, Grassley has concluded at least one of the memos contained classified information. If his assumption is true, Comey could face criminal prosecution.

 

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