bureaucracybusters

A LESSON FOR THE FBI

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 8, 2018 at 12:19 am

Since taking office as President, Donald Trump has openly waged war on his own Justice Department—and especially its chief investigative agency, the FBI.

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FBI headquarters

As a result, he has:

  • Fired James Comey, the FBI director pursuing an investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 Presidential race to ensure Trump’s election.
  • Threatened to fire Independent Counsel Robert Mueller, who continued that investigation after Trump fired Comey.
  • Repeatedly attacked—verbally and on Twitter—his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from overseeing the Russia investigation.
  • (Sessions did so after the press revealed that, during the 2016 race, he twice met secretly with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.)
  • Repeatedly attacked the integrity of the FBI, raising the possibility of his firing more of its senior leadership for pursuing the Russia investigation.
  • Pressured House Republicans to release a highly partisan memo falsely accusing the FBI of pursuing a vendetta against him.

But the FBI need not meekly accept such assaults.

A February 2 episode of the popular CBS police drama, “Blue Bloods,” offers a vivid lesson on bureaucratic self-defense against tyrants.

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A shootout erupts in a crowded pub between a gunman and NYPD officers. Results: One dead gunman and one wounded bystander.

Problem: The bystander is an aide to New York Governor Martin Mendez.

Mendez visits One Police Plaze, NYPD headquarters, for a private chat with Commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck). From the outset, he’s aggressive, rude and threatening.

MENDEZ:  I know you guys like to whitewash officer-involved shootings.

REAGAN: I do not.

MENDEZ: That’s not going to happen here. I want the cop who shot my guy fired and charged.

REAGAN: If the grand jury indicts, my officer could be terminated.

MENDEZ:  We all want to protect our people, but mine come first.

Governor Mendez leaves Commissioner Reagan’s office.  Later, he returns:

MENDEZ:  We’ve got a serious problem.

REAGAN:  Why? The grand jury declined to indict my officer.

MENDEZ: Your cop fired into a crowded room.

REAGAN: She returned fire, took out the shooter and likely saved lives.

MENDEZ: What are you going to do?

REAGAN: Our Internal Affairs investigation supports the grand jury’s finding, so the case is closed.

MENDEZ: Either you fire this cop, or I’ll order the Attorney General to investigate every questionable police shooting in the past 10 years and hold public hearings out loud and lights up.

REAGAN: Everybody loves a circus.

MENDEZ: Except the guy who’s got to shovel up afterwards.

At the end of the episode, a third—and final—meeting occurs in a restaurant between Reagan and Mendez.

MENDEZ: Have you dumped the cop who shot my guy?

REAGAN: No.

MENDEZ: Bad news.

REAGAN: Depends on what you compare it to. It turns out that your aide wasn’t drinking alone the night he was shot.

MENDEZ: So what? He’s single.

REAGAN: He was with a married woman.

MENDEZ: That’s on her, not on him.

REAGAN: Except she is married to his boss, your Chief of Staff.

MENDEZ: Sheesh!

REAGAN: Turns out this has been going on for over a year.

MENDEZ:  So what are we doing?

REAGAN:  If this gets out, the circus comes to Albany [where the governor has his office].

MENDEZ: Who else knows?

REAGAN:  Right now it’s safe in the notebook of my lead detective. Whether or not it finds its way into an arrest report that’s subject to a Freedom of Information Act request—that’s a judgment call.

MENDEZ: Your judgment?

REAGAN: Yes.

MENDEZ: And if my investigation goes away?

REAGAN: Neither of us is shoveling up after the circus.

MENDEZ: I have your word on that?

REAGAN: Yes.

MENDEZ: You have a good evening, Commissioner.

J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary FBI director, used Realpolitik to ensure his reign for 48 years.

As William C. Sullivan, the onetime director of the FBI’s Domestic Intelligence Division, revealed after Hoover’s death in 1972:

“The moment [Hoover] would get something on a senator, he’d send one of the errand boys up and advise the senator that ‘we’re in the course of an investigation, and we by chance happened to come up with this data on your daughter.

“‘But we wanted you to know this. We realize you’d want to know it.’ Well, Jesus, what does that tell the senator? From that time on, the senator’s right in his pocket.”

Donald Trump has long pursued a strategy of intimidation. But when people have refused to be cowed by his threats, he’s backed off.

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, more than a dozen women accused Trump of sexual misconduct, ranging from inappropriate comments to assault.

Trump responded: “The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”

Yet he hasn’t filed a single slander suit.

Similarly, when New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued Trump for running a fraudulent university, Trump initially said he would fight the charge.

Instead, he settled the case by paying $25 million to compensate the 3,700 students Trump University had defrauded.

“You never have to frame anyone,” says Governor Willie Stark in Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1946 novel, All the King’s Men. “Because the truth is always sufficient.”

It’s time the FBI learned—and applied—that same lesson.

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