Politics & Policy

The Epidemic of Electronic Deletions

Many Democratic government officials, not just Hillary, have gotten away with destroying evidence.

There are lots of ways to adjudicate the present political divide over the collusion hoax.

One method might be to see whether those targeted by Robert Mueller had ever begun accusing each other of “collusion” to save their own skins. That did not happen.

Even the perjurer Michael Cohen, who accused Trump of all sorts of improper business practices in an effort to negotiate a lighter sentence, never claimed that the president had colluded with the Russians — the Holy Grail search of the Mueller “all-stars.”

Yet John Brennan, James Clapper, James Comey, and Andrew McCabe are suddenly alleging that someone other than themselves is the guilty instigator in seeding the dossier into a presidential intelligence report, is the guilty party that deceived a FISA court, and is the guilty culprit who was leaking to the media. So apparently the new climate is now no longer “There was no crime committed” but rather “He did it, not me.”

Yet another calibration might be who exactly is deleting documents and who is not. So far Robert Mueller has not accused Donald Trump or his subordinates of deleting Trump’s emails. Indeed, Trump’s campaign and administration reportedly turned over 1.4 million documents to Special Counsel Mueller. Again, no one has claimed that they have been destroyed.

What a contrast with Trump’s various antagonists. Take Nellie Ohr, who worked on the Steele dossier, in part because she was well connected in Washington — her husband, Bruce Ohr, was the fourth-ranking official in the Obama Justice Department. In one email of a recent trove released to the public, thanks to a suit filed by Judicial Watch, Nellie Ohr announced to her husband and others that she was deleting emails from her husband’s government email account.

How many emails belonging to the government — given that Bruce Ohr apparently used the account on government time and with a government computer — did she delete? And why exactly did she wipe out government correspondence?

Maybe it is because both Nellie and Bruce were funneling unverified accusations of collusion directly to the DOJ and FBI in hopes of seeding the damaging rumors before the 2016 election, and thus enhancing their own tag-team efforts as both producers and disseminators of dirt.

Thanks also to Nellie, Bruce was able to deliver her memory stick of data directly to FBI grandees to ensure that his wife’s contributions to the unverified “research” about nonexistent Trump-Russian collusion was planted in the top echelons of the bureau. And Bruce Ohr also briefed high-ranking officials of both the DOJ and FBI on the dossier during late July and August 2016 — not too long before rumors mysteriously began appearing in the media based on “unnamed” FBI sources that candidate Trump was a veritable traitor who had for years colluded with the Russians and was “compromised” and subject to blackmail.

Note as well that Bruce Ohr admitted to staying in close communication with Christopher Steele — even after the FBI had officially severed its relationship with the supposed untrustworthy ex-spy. Why then believe that Bruce Ohr was worried about the veracity of the very dossier he helped spread and whose author he continued to cultivate, even after the FBI had had enough of the duplicitous Steele?

We know that both Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, FBI members of Robert Mueller’s “dream team,” were fired (“reassigned”) from the special counsel’s “army,” for their improper or perhaps embarrassing behavior. The two paramours had sent each other thousands of secret text messages, which were uncovered by the inspector general, who was apparently concerned that the communications revealed their bias against the target of their investigation, Donald Trump, as well as gratuitous slurs about his supporters.

In addition, the Strzok-Page trove brought to light possible illegal activity and hints of an ongoing “insurance policy” conspiracy to destroy candidate Trump either before the 2016 election or, if he were to be elected, during his transition, or to hide their own previous felonious conduct. When Mueller became aware of the corruption within his team, he quite cleverly staggered the firings of both and did not initially tell the media why the two were let go in the first place.

But now we are getting a somewhat fuller accounting that a staffer assigned to Mueller’s own team apparently erased a sizable quantity of additional text messages from Strzok’s government phone — in apparent fear that a subpoena or suit would lead to their release. So nearly a month after Strzok was taken off the Mueller probe, all his messages on his additional FBI-issued iPhone were simply deleted by an unnamed individual who worked for Mueller’s special-counsel team.

The anonymous bureaucrat reassured federal investigators that she determined that the phone “did not contain records that needed to be retained.” And she had noted as well that there were “no substantive texts, notes or reminders.”

So Robert Mueller’s staffer decided that messages from its own fired investigator, Strzok (already exposed from other text messages as an anti-Trump partisan and near-conspirator), were so irrelevant that she just deleted them. So there was no need for the inspector general to read the texts, and, after all, the government needed that cleansed cellphone to be reassigned to someone else?

Remember that about the same thing happened with the second half of that communications link. Just two weeks after Lisa Page “left” Mueller’s “dream team,” her government-issued cellphone likewise was mysteriously wiped clean, even though it was apparently never reissued to another FBI employee. Earlier, the inspector general had retrieved nearly 20,000 Strzok-Page additional texts that had been “lost” due to a purported mechanical error. The inspector general never referenced that additional trove in his initial report.

In sum, people either on Robert Mueller’s own team or sympathetic to his efforts chose to destroy evidence that might well in theory have given additional proof that two of his team’s investigators were not just Trump-haters but were actively seeking to destroy Trump’s candidacy. Again, if there was no wrongdoing, why in such a politically charged climate delete messages? Answer: We are asked to believe that while Mueller was spending $34 million in an effort to incriminate or indict Trump, certain Mueller team members were so cost-conscious about saving government funds that they had to delete data to recycle a single FBI iPhone.

There is not much need to review Hillary Clinton’s now well-known massive destruction of more than 33,000 subpoenaed emails found on her illegal private server, which she used while secretary of State. We now know that at least 100 emails of those that she did hand over contained classified information, along with other additional “confidential” and “secret” communications. In other words, if Clinton supposedly gave the FBI all her “government business” emails and yet overlooked that about 100 of them contained classified information, what are we to think was in those that she destroyed on the ground that their contents, in her own opinion, were strictly private? Why not let the FBI make that determination?

Knowingly trafficking in classified government information on an unsecure device is a felony. Yet Clinton produced evidence that she had done just that, as well as arbitrarily deciding that thousands of her supposedly private mails had nothing to do with government business but mostly pertained to her daughter’s wedding, food, and yoga. Therefore, she simply destroyed them and assumed the government could worry about it. Or rather, Team Clinton employed the cyber tool “bleach bit” to ensure that the messages would be permanently unrecoverable by government investigators.

Remember, key to Clinton’s eventual exoneration was James Comey’s decision to accept Peter Strzok’s suggested edit in the description of Clinton’s behavior: Her mishandling of classified communication should be described as merely “extremely careless,” he advised, rather than “grossly negligent” — since the latter term might well constitute a felony. How can one be merely “careless” in nuking more than 30,000 emails or in deliberately setting up a private server to hide all record of her communications while secretary of State?

In sum, what might we have known from these now deleted thousands of communications among federal officials?

We do not know. We can infer only that these officials did not wish us to know whatever it is that we might have known. And they were so confident in their ability to ignore the law or to be exempt from it that they acted — successfully — to ensure that we did not know.

In other words, the custodians of justice at the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the State Department, and their staff or family, destroyed evidence in a manner that would have likely sent any ordinary American to prison had he done the same thing.

The media role in all this is surreal. Each day that “journalists” cling to the Brennan, Clapper, Clinton, Comey, McCabe, and Steele narrative is a day they must ignore that their supposed heroes are no longer denying unlawful behavior but rather accusing one another of it. And they must also forget that many of their resistance icons were not producing relevant data but instead doing their best to destroy it.

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NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Case for Trump.

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