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Clean Out the FBI and Secret Service
Biden needs to act before Trump's mobs come calling again
It was bad enough that leaders of the FBI and Secret Service basically ignored the burning river of warnings that thousands of pro-Trump insurgents were planning a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol.
Now it turns out a “sizeable” percentage of the FBI workforce was sympathetic to the rioters, according to a document that surfaced to relatively little notice amid last Thursday’s stunning hearing of the Jan. 6 committee. The document was a letter written to Paul Abbate, now the FBI’s number two official, by a person who seems to have been a ranking former agent or official
He (or she) wrote to Abbate on Jan. 13 to express alarm that a week after the mob assault on the Capitol, a significant number of FBI employees were sympathetic to the rioters.
"There's no good way to say it, so I'll just be direct: from my first hand and second hand information from conversations since January 6th there is, at best, a sizable percentage of the employee population that felt sympathetic to the group that stormed the capital, and said it was no different than the BLM protests of last summer,” the correspondent said. “Several also lamented that the only reason this violent activity is getting more attention is because of ‘political correctness.’”
The letter writer’s name was redacted. But he/she passed along a handful of anecdotes from ranking contacts in the FBI that suggested he/she might well have been a recently retired headquarters or regional official.
One story came from an assistant agent in charge of a “red state” FBI office, who said “over 70% of his CT squad + roughly 75% of the agent population in his office, disagreed with the violence ‘but could understand where the frustration was coming from’ which led to the ‘protesters getting carried away.’”
Another FBI manager, in a “purple state” office, said that “several co-workers” blamed the violence on the Covid pandemic, which had kept the rioters, many who’d lost jobs, cooped up at home for months.
Another agent, from a “blue state” FBI office, needed to be instructed on the difference between a racial justice protest that got out of hand and a mob determined to sabotage a peaceful transfer of presidential authority.
“I literally had to explain…the difference between opportunists burning and looting during protests that stemmed [from a] legitimate grievance to police brutality vs. an insurgent mob whose purpose was to prevent the execution of democratic processes at the behest of a sitting president,” the letter went. A “senior analyst from my first unit who retired less than two years ago has a Facebook page full of #stopthesteal comment,” the tipster continued. He/she alleged that such examples were not “one off-events'' but “representative of a larger group within the organization.”
The Jan. 13 letter, released by the FBI in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, and first reported by NBCNews, is certainly authentic, and Abbate’s friendly “thank you” in response to it suggests his source was well regarded.
Whether the author’s concerns were accurate or exaggerated is a separate question. What we do know is that it jibes with similar reports on support for Trump and/or an authoritarian government among police and the military, especially in special operations units, in recent years. It also lines up with an exclusive SpyTalk report last March revealing that Intelink, the internal classified U.S. intelligence messaging system, became a “dumpster fire” of hate speech during the Trump administration.
Understandably, the focus of the Jan. 6 panel was—and remains—on Trump’s conspiracy to abort the orderly transfer of power in 2020-2021 and ride the lie back into the White House in 2024. The inexplicable, outrageous security lapses of the FBI and Secret Service beg the question of whether their leaders, cowered by Trump, just decided to sit out the storm. Or were even abetting it.
FBI Director Chris Wray had been whipsawed for months by surging intelligence reports on the coming violence, on the one hand, and Trump’s public threats to fire him, on the other. So he stayed mum.
According to a Washington Post deep dive last October, “the agency’s senior leaders worried that any public statements by the director [about the looming violence] might be ‘asking for a desperate president to come after him,’ as one person familiar with the discussions said….” So the FBI poo-pooed the threats to worried Democrats.
Likewise, the Secret Service took no action on alarming intelligence that some pro-Trump activists were planning to “literally kill people,” as one tipster told them. Another tipster warned them that Vice President Pence was “a dead man walking if he doesn’t do the right thing.” Death threats were aimed at Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney (who had voted for Trump’s impeachment). Secret Service agents worried police could be outgunned by pro-Trump people wandering the National Mall and city with weapons.
UPDATE: The ultimate loyalty of the Secret Service’s Trump-friendly leadership has long been a simmering concern. Records obtained by CREW, the independent government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, show that the agency “received notice of a shooting threat against then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer as the Capitol was under attack on January 6, but did not pass it along to Capitol Police for more than an hour after receiving it,” the group reported Oct. 25. Trump was still refusing to call off his mob at the time.
“CREW previously found that the Secret Service held onto a threat against Nancy Pelosi until after the insurrection had begun despite receiving it days earlier,” it said. “While the Capitol was under attack, Pelosi also had reservations about whether she and Mike Pence could trust the agency.” Pence refused to get into a Secret Service getaway car sent to the Capitol by the White House detail.
Two days before the Capitol assault, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, grew so alarmed by online chatter threats of violence surrounding the Jan. 6 ceremony that he called the FBI. Nothing to worry about, they told him. Six months after the riot, Wray was still claiming the bureau was blindsided by the level of violence. “We did not have, I think, a specific credible intelligence that pointed to thousands of people breaching the Capitol” he told Congress under oath.
That is a lie. The system was blinking red.
“Despite what they knew, neither the FBI nor the DHS prepared a disseminable threat assessment for the January Electoral Collage vote ratification or for the rally on the Ellipse,” former senior FBI official Frank Figliuzzi commented last week. Even more ominously, he wonders, “Did the leaders of our nation’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies fumble the ball that day? Or was their failure to prevent violence more akin to intentional grounding?”
It’s all well and good that the Jan. 6 panel and the Justice Department concentrate on bringing the former president to judgment for plotting to overthrow the government. But it’s equally important to remember that the ascent of dictators only requires a few good men to turn their heads.
It’s too late for this Congress to get to the bottom of the deeply troubling question of where loyalties lie in the FBI and Secret Service. But it’s not too late for the White House. President Biden can and should send some key heads rolling before the mob comes calling again. His life may depend on it.
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