On Dec 12th, I pointed out that there are only two ways to interpret the FBI’s egregious… Wait, egregious implies a degree of obviousness the FBI never intended – so odious? nefarious? actions documented in Inspector General Horowitz’ report:
[T]he FBI’s persistent prevarication may lead many to recall Ian Fleming: ”Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.”
IG Horowitz had to use a different standard: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity or incompetence.”
I noted some of the report’s detail which one might use to decide between those alternatives. Here is a simpler version from Attorney General William Barr speaking to NBC News’ Justice(?) Correspondent Pete Williams:
PETE WILLIAMS: I just wonder, though, about the — what the FBI would say, I think here, is, OK, so they opened an investigation. Nobody was ever charged. They were concerned about possible Russian meddling in the — in the election.
Why not open this investigation? What’s the harm? You’ve said intrusive means. So what — what is your concern about the fact that they did this?
ATTORNEY GENERAL BILL BARR: Well, I think the big picture is this, from day one — remember, they say, OK, we’re not going to — go to talk to the campaign. We’re going to put people in there, wire them up and have these conversations with people involved in the campaign, because that way we’ll get the truth.
From the very first day of this investigation, which was July 31, 2016, all the way to its end, September 2017, there was not one incriminatory bit of evidence to come in. It was all exculpatory. The people that they were taping denied any involvement with Russia. Denied the very specific facts that the FBI was — was relying on.
So what happens? The FBI ignores it, presses ahead, withholds that information from the court, withholds critical exculpatory information from the court while it gets an electronic surveillance warrant.
It also withholds from the court clear cut evidence that the dossier that they ultimately relied on to get the FISA warrant was a complete sham. They — they — they hid information about the lack of reliability, even when they went the first time for the warrant. But — but in January, after the election, the entire case collapsed when the principal source says, I never told — I never told Steele this stuff. And — and — and — and this was all speculation. And I have zero information to support this stuff.
At that point, when their entire case collapsed, what do they do? They kept on investigating the president and the — well into his administration, after the case collapsed.
But here, to me, is the damning thing. They not only didn’t tell the court that what they had been relying on was — was completely, you know, rubbish, they actually started putting in things to bolster this Steele report by saying, well, we talked to the sources and they appeared to be truthful. But they don’t inform the court that what they’re truthful about is that the dossier is — is false.
So that’s hard to explain. And I — the core statement, in my opinion, by the IG, is that these irregularities, these misstatements, these omissions were not satisfactorily explained. And I think that leaves open the possibility to infer bad faith. I think it’s premature now to reach a judgment on that, but I think that further work has to be done, and that’s what Durham is doing.
Incompetence and malice are not mutually exclusive. Did malice merely provide the FBI an extended opportunity for incompetence?
Does the distinction even matter when the consequence of incompetence and stupidity is congruent with malice? Is it better that those entrusted to uphold the law are incompetent, and deliberate about it?