The Jury Talks Back


Glenn Reynolds: Members of FBI Should Go to Jail for Considering an Obstruction Investigation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 10:14 am

OK then! Glenn Reynolds today:

WELL, WELL: Even before Mueller was appointed, FBI opened investigation to “rein in” Trump. Note that they were planning an obstruction probe even before Comey was fired. Leaked to CNN because it’s friendly media, meaning they thought it was about to come out somewhere less friendly. This is huge, and people should go to jail.

Put this together with the collusion between the press and federal prosecutors and the “Deep State” narrative looks pretty solid.

People should go to jail!!! That’s strong language — especially since no charges have been filed against the FBI personnel involved … and any charges would be laughable and would not survive a moment of scrutiny by a judge, much less 12 jurors examining the evidence under a standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. What prompted this outburst? Let’s look at the article Glenn is talking about, to see about this discussion of an obstruction probe before Comey’s firing:

The obstruction probe was an idea the FBI had previously considered, but it didn’t start until after Comey was fired. The justification went beyond Trump’s firing of Comey, according to the sources, and also included the President’s conversation with Comey in the Oval Office asking him to drop the investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

So: Donald Trump says to the FBI director that he hopes Comey will “let this go,” which Comey reasonably interprets as Trump requesting that Comey drop an investigation into his former national security adviser — who was a top Trump campaign aide, and who has now given “substantial” cooperation to Bob Mueller about the Russia investigation and other matters, including an undisclosed criminal probe.

In response, the FBI considers opening an obstruction probe, but does not actually open it until Comey is fired.

And we are told that, as a result of this, people should go to jail.

Who should go to jail? The guy who tried to get the head of the FBI to drop an investigation into his crony? Why, no. Not that guy!

No, we are told, the people who should actually go to jail are [check notes] the people who talked about opening an obstruction probe after evidence of possible obstruction arose.

Look: reasonable people can disagree about whether Trump’s actions amount to obstruction, or whether it was appropriate for the FBI even to consider opening an obstruction investigation after Trump’s comment to Comey.

But saying that people should “go to jail” for discussing a possible obstruction probe is not even remotely a reasonable position. Go to jail for what? Based on what evidence?

You know, I am old enough to remember when, during the election, I was told that the civil service reining in Donald Trump was a good thing:

So if the choice in 2016 is between one bad candidate and another (and it is) the question is, which one will do the least harm. And, judging by the civil service’s behavior, that’s got to be Trump. If Trump tries to target his enemies with the IRS, you can bet that he’ll get a lot of pushback — and the press, instead of explaining it away, will make a huge stink. If Trump engages in influence-peddling, or abuses secrecy laws, you can bet that, even if Trump’s appointees sit atop the DOJ or FBI, the civil service will ensure that things don’t get swept under the rug. And if Trump wants to go to war, he’ll get far more scrutiny than Hillary will get — or, in cases like her disastrous Libya invasion, has gotten.

So the message is clear. If you want good government, vote for Trump — he’s the only one who will make this whole checks-and-balances thing work.

That was Glenn Reynolds on September 8, 2016. What happened to the praise for the notion of the much-vaunted Deep State being a tool to rein in an out-of-control Trump? Many people cited this column as a talking point for Trump. Notably, many of those same people are now suggesting that members of the horrific Deep State should be locked in a cage for talking about doing exactly what Reynolds suggested in September 2016 that they should do: rein in Trump when he showed signs of going out of control.

I like Glenn Reynolds, and my point here is not to say he’s a bad guy or to accuse him of hypocrisy. My point is twofold: 1) to chide him for absurdly saying that members of the FBI should “go to jail” for discussing an obstruction investigation when evidence of possible obstruction was obvious, and 2) to remind him of his position in September 2016 — and to say that, if he meant that, he should stop calling for members of the FBI to be locked up, and start applauding them for doing the job that he once said he wanted them to do.

That goes for everyone currently complaining about the Deep State who told us in 2016 that it was a feature and not a bug.


  1. Another ding for a post I forgot to cross-post.

    Comment by Patterico — 12/8/2018 @ 10:34 am

  2. Bureaucratic inertia and the size of Federal bureaucracy still means that changes will necessarily be slow. Insofar as conditions have not produced an actual shooting civil war, this is a good thing. Slow improvements or slow declines will not trigger a civil war, and lets us more easily defer that possibility.

    The shifting of my positions since 2015, 2016 has a lot to do with a shift in how I interpret the history of the FBI.

    Back in the day, I felt I owed the FBI credit and a certain amount of trust in their discretion, because of the work they did shutting down white supremacist terrorism after the political costs of doing so became minimal. I had not closely enough examined my assumptions about the founding of the FBI.

    Hoover was by all accounts very influential in shaping the institutional culture of the FBI, and is a legitimate avenue for understanding the FBI of today.

    Hoover seems to have done some secret police work for Wilson. Wilson’s administration was fairly explicitly white supremacist, and was also a bit sketchy. Furthermore, in 1919 in Elaine, Arkansas, officials of the Wilson administration were involved in carrying out a white supremacist massacre of about a hundred people. These speak to Hoover’s comfort level with white supremacist domestic terrorism.

    FDR had Hoover reconfigure the FBI into an independent organization in 1935. One of FDR’s elections had a victory margin whose states were states where white supremacist domestic terrorism would have had the effect of swinging the vote in his favor. These speak to a possible motive.

    Felt and the current revelations about recent internal communications of the FBI are facts. Each of these sets of facts can be fit to three patterns.

    Felt Pattern:
    1. He was genuinely outraged by Nixon’s behavior. This seems to be disproved by alleged FBI complicity in covering up acts of rape by JFK and LBJ. If a Federal organization does something for one President, it should not be something they would refuse to do for another.
    2. He was personally motivated, in revenge for not being promoted to head the FBI, and for putting an outsider in that position. This was the theory I thought correct in 2015.
    3. The FBI was not originally a law enforcement organization, it was originally a corrupt organization carefully disguised as a honest law enforcement organization, whose corrupt purpose generally involved helping the Democrats and specifically involved making sure that acts of white supremacist terrorism did not become official fact during the period of the 1920s or 1930s to the 1950s or 1960s when the wheels came off.

    The FBI internal communications:
    1. Genuine poor choices driven by the obvious poor qualities of Trump. This is not, in fact, disproven by HRC, BHO, and WJC. HRC, BHO, and WJC were flawed in ways that were not as culturally offensive to the people in question, and hence not as obviously flawed.
    2. Of the previous 24 years of FBI career time, eight were during the Clinton administration, and eight during the Obama administration. Perhaps these senior officials could have been corrupted by efforts of both administrations to suborn various parts of the Federal government.
    3. The FBI was originally a corrupt organization, duh, duh, duh.

    I know a lot of people professionally that I would have a much more negative opinion of if I knew them only in other contexts. To my knowledge I know, only distantly, a grand total of one FBI agent, with whom I had a common instructor. I briefly talked to that FBI agent once, and could not tell you his name or face.

    From your job, I am sure you know FBI agents professionally. I would also speculate that your future success might depend partly on your ability to maintain a good professional relationship. I think Reynolds may have a lot more freedom to publicly irritate the FBI, and still continue his current employment.

    That I am evaluating Felt differently, because of discovering other facts that fit the common pattern, does not mean that my values have changed. (I am unsure whether Felt’s involvement in Watergate was personal grudge, or institutional corruption. I think sincere offense is very unlikely.) I will freely concede that I am, in general, crazy. I am not yet persuaded that the thinking I have outlined is crazy.

    Comment by BobtheRegisterredFool — 12/9/2018 @ 7:01 am

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