- The Department of Justice inspector general sanctioned at least 14 FBI employees since 2014
- The majority of sexual impropriety occurred under former FBI Director James Comey
- IG: Comey’s FBI hampered the investigation by delaying responses, disclosure of information
- Sexual misconduct at the FBI went further than Lisa Page and Peter Strzok
The Department of Justice’s inspector general sanctioned at least 14 FBI agents and officials for a range of improper sexual acts since 2014, and most of the misconduct occurred during former FBI Director James Comey’s term, The Daily Caller News Foundation has determined.
The public got a glimpse into the bureau’s sexual mischief when it was disclosed high-profile FBI officials Lisa Page and Peter Strzok were cheating on their spouses. Special counsel Robert Mueller dumped Page from his investigation on Russian collusion and later removed Strzok after he learned of their relationship.
But it turns out sexual misconduct within the bureau went much further than cheating spouses.
According to the Justice Department inspector general’s enforcement summaries, which TheDCNF reviewed, FBI agents and officials engaged in a variety of improper sexual relationships and harassment throughout the bureau. Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz published at least 14 instances of improper sexual conduct. The latest incident was reported only last week.
The acts entail inappropriate romantic relationships with a subordinate, outright sexual harassment, favoritism or promotion based on demands for sex, and retaliation against women who rebuffed male employee’s advances.
The enforcement summaries show the IG filed not a single sexual misconduct charge against bureau employees from January 2009 until November 2013. But after that date sexual misconduct charges accelerated, virtually all of them under Comey’s term. The former director joined the FBI in September 2014 and left on May 2017 when President Trump fired him.
Importantly, Horowitz reported Comey attempted to thwart the investigation, as he sought to examine the bureau’s recent history of sexual harassment and misconduct charges.
As Horowitz explained in his March 2015 final report on how law enforcement agencies handle sexual-misconduct complaints, his office’s ability “to conduct this review was significantly impacted and delayed by the repeated difficulties we had in obtaining relevant information from both the FBI and DEA as we were initiating this review in mid-2013.”
Horowitz said the FBI and DEA initially refused to provide his office “with unredacted information that was responsive to our requests.”
After months of protracted discussions with the FBI, the bureau “found that the information was still incomplete.”
Congress denounced Comey’s refusal to open the FBI’s record and eventually led to the passage of the Inspector General Empowerment Act of 2016, which requires all federal departments and agencies to share all records with the IG. It became law on Dec. 16, 2016.
Horowitz told The Washington Post in December 2017 some perpetrators within federal, law enforcement agencies received light punishment for their sexual misconduct. The summary of incidents, listed below, confirms Horowitz’s findings.
Comey and Obama-era Attorney General Lorretta Lynch together fought Horowitz’s determination to fully investigate the bureau’s handling of of sexual misconduct charges.
Lynch supported Comey’s defiance of the IG via a July 20, 2015, memo from DOJ Office of Legal Counsel principal-deputy AG Karl Thompson. Thompson charged law enforcement agencies could redact information in its files and withhold information from the Inspector General. It was one of her first acts as Obama’s new Attorney General, who was sworn in to office on April 27, 2015.
When she issued the memo, Lynch was undermining a 1978 inspector general law that instructed every federal department and agency to permit inspectors general to have access to “all records.”
Horowitz denounced Lynch’s memo in his final, 2015 report on the handling of sexual harassment allegations by various law enforcement agencies. The IG found “significant systemic issues” afflicting how federal law enforcement agencies handled sexual harassment cases, including the FBI.
“The OIG’s ability to conduct this review was significantly impacted and delayed by the repeated difficulties we had in obtaining relevant information” from the FBI, Horowitz complained in his report.
Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary expressed his anger over Lynch’s memorandum at an August 5, 2015 hearing.
“The FBI is not above the law,” Grassley declared in his opening statement at the hearing. “FBI employees cannot legally be spending their time withholding and reviewing documents before providing them to the IG,” the Iowa Senator stated. “However, this is exactly what the FBI has been doing.”
Horowitz, who is expected to release an explosive report on the FBI’s possible improper use of the Trump dossier to authorize government surveillance of Trump associates, condemned both Comey and Lynch at the August 2015 hearing for trying to upend the inspector general law.
The IG said Lynch’s memo “represents a serious threat to the independence of not only the DOJ-OIG, but to all Inspectors General.”
While the FBI doesn’t prohibit having an affair, it can reflect badly on the integrity and honesty of law enforcement agents.
The bureau understands that illicit affairs “may reflect on the integrity of the employee or the first part of the FBI motto: ‘fidelity,’” said Ron Hosko, a former FBI assistant director in an interview with TheDCNF.
Horowitz said in his March 2015 report that sexual misconduct in a law enforcement agency like the FBI affects its reputation and “undermines its credibility.”
Extra-marital affairs, while not illegal, also can expose an agent to blackmail by foreign powers.
This was particularly true for Strzok who was the FBI’s chief of counterintelligence before he joined Mueller’s special counsel office. As part of his work he routinely came in contact with cases involving national security and hostile powers.
While Mueller removed Strzok from his teams and and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew Mueller forced off Page, the bureau has not taken any public legal action toward the now-famous couple.
Here are the 14 cases of sexual misconduct within the bureau:
- Tuesday the IG found that a special agent in charge (SAC) of an FBI field office, had an “inappropriate romantic relationship” with a subordinate who also was married. The SAC was married and had a young child at home, according to a source knowledgeable of the case.
- On June 3, 2016, a SAC retired after it was disclosed he accepted free rent and lived at the residence of a subordinate FBI special agent in violation of the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, which prohibits an employee from accepting a gift from a subordinate who receives less pay and is a violation of the FBI Code of Conduct policy.
- In August 2015, the IG reported that an FBI assistant SAC (ASAC) was temporarily demoted because he made “inappropriate comments of a sexual nature towards employees and made inappropriate physical contact with employees.” The IG interviewed several witnesses “who told the OIG that they were either inappropriately touched or that they had inappropriate comments made to them by the ASAC. Other witnesses said they observed the ASAC engage in such conduct with the employees.” The ASAC denied the allegations, and stated “he did not recall” the specific incidents. “The OIG found the witnesses’ accounts to be consistent, credible, and corroborative of each other” and that he “lacked candor” in his interview.
- In December 2014, an ASAC was disciplined for sexually harassing an FBI employee. He admitted to engaging in several acts of sexual harassment, including sending the employee an electronic communication containing sexual innuendo and making a sexually-oriented comment at a luncheon.
- In December 2014, an ASAC was disciplined for making unwanted sexual advances to a special agent and later removing the special agent from his assignment for refusing those advances. He also allegedly selected a replacement for the special agent based on a personal relationship with the replacement. Although the IG investigation found “no evidence” the ASAC made supervisory decisions based solely on a personal relationship, the IG “found that the ASAC’s involvement in decisions benefitting the individual created an appearance of favoritism.”
- In June 2014, the IG reported that an FBI program analyst was dismissed. While detailed to another federal agency, he arranged for sexual encounters using his work computer. The analyst also “admitted to arranging sexual encounters by using his personal e-mail account accessed through the other agency’s network on his work computer.”
- In June 2014, an FBI Information Technology specialist and program manager resigned after making multiple unwanted sexual advances towards an FBI contract employee while intoxicated. When the contractor reported the incident to an FBI supervisor, the IT specialist allegedly “threatened to kick the contractor and retaliate against her at work.”
- In January 2014, the FBI issued disciplinary action against an ASAC who had sexual relationships with and sexually harassed subordinates. He created “a hostile work environment” and disregarded his supervisor’s instruction to inform him if a relationship developed with his subordinate. The FBI determined the ASAC “sexually harassed other female subordinates, had inappropriate sexual contact with two other subordinates while on duty and retaliated against a female special agent after she refused to engage in a romantic relationship with him.”
- In January 2014, the FBI demoted a SAC who “engaged in a protracted sexual relationship with a foreign national that he deliberately concealed from the FBI.” He also “disclosed sensitive information to the foreign national,” and allowed the foreign national to use FBI-issued iPads and an FBI-issued Blackberry phones on numerous occasions. He also exchanged sexually explicit communications on the Blackberry with the foreign national.
- In January 2014, an FBI ASAC made “unwanted sexual advances” to an FBI special agent (SA). The ASAC removed the female agent for refusing those advances. “The ASAC was further alleged to have selected a replacement for the SA based on a personal relationship with the replacement.”
- In November 2013, an FBI Deputy Assistant Director (DAD) resigned after it was determined he was involved in a personal relationship with a direct subordinate that resulted in favoritism. The two exchanged messages on their FBI-issued Blackberry devices. The DAD “failed to disclose the relationship and recuse herself from all official decisions regarding the subordinate, as required by FBI policy, and that the relationship created perceived instances of benefit or favoritism towards the subordinate, in violation of FBI policy.”
- In May 2013, an ASAC voluntarily removed himself from his position and was reassigned to a GS-13 position for engaging in a relationship with a subordinate employee for a lengthy period that began before and continued after the his promotion to the ASAC position. The investigation also found that the ASAC “was insubordinate by willfully ignoring a former SAC’s instruction to terminate the relationship.”
- In February 2013, an FBI ASAC was disciplined when he engaged in a relationship with a subordinate FBI employee for a lengthy period. The investigation also found the ASAC was insubordinate by willfully ignoring a former SAC’s instruction to terminate the relationship.
- In January 2013, an ASAC engaged in romantic relationships with approximately 17 female FBI employees, nine of whom were direct subordinates, “creating a hostile work environment.” The investigation determined the ASAC “sexually harassed other female subordinates, had inappropriate sexual contact with two other subordinates while on duty, and retaliated against a female special agent after she refused to engage in a romantic relationship with him.
The FBI declined to respond to DCNF inquiries about sexual misconduct issues within the bureau.
This report, by Richard Pollock, was cross posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.