No, Sen. Grassley, the FBI is not corrupted to its core

When a politician who has been in Congress for nearly half a century says that the FBI is “corrupted” to its “core,” well, that’s enough to send a chill up and down the national spine.

After all, if the FBI is totally corrupt, to whom do we turn to ensure integrity in our democratic institutions so that we don’t become Mexico, where justice is scaled to the amount of “mordida” paid out and criminal cartels run a shadow government? Or that we don’t become China, where justice means adherence to ruling party diktats and citizens are punished based on inadequate “social credit” scores tallied by a government that monitors every private move? 

An FBI corrupt to its core would be catastrophic for a nation that has pegged its very existence and moral credibility on an even-handed adherence to the rule of law. So any claim of systemic corruption in the FBI should be made with utmost sobriety and based on overwhelming, objective evidence since the ramifications, if true, cut to the heart of our survival as a democracy. And of course — this obviously goes without saying — such a claim never should be made to further the political interests of one party over the other. I mean, who in Congress would do that?

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter dated July 25 to Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray and made it public at the same time. In the letter, Grassley asserts he has “whistleblower” information that the FBI purposefully has not acted on “derogatory information” about Hunter Biden and that two FBI employees specifically worked to thwart an investigation. “If … true,” Grassley wrote (apparently not certain that the whistleblowers are truthful), then “the Justice Department and FBI are — and have been — institutionally corrupted to their very core … .” 

Holy pork-barrel corn subsidies! A member of Congress is calling the storied FBI institutionally corrupt to the core. Irony just got an updated definition. Since Grassley’s dramatic assertion grabbed headlines and ignited calls to disband the FBI, it is worthy of deconstruction and perspective to make sure the American people aren’t being unduly panicked. 

Grassley gets some things right and raises specific legitimate concerns appropriate to his role of oversight. He falls out of the logic tree, however, when he claims that those legitimate concerns, which are fairly isolated, are proof somehow of a thoroughly corrupted FBI.  

Here’s what he gets right — and I base the following on my expertise regarding the Attorney General Guidelines that set forth what is needed to open an FBI investigation:

The information residing on Hunter Biden’s laptop, at least that which has become publicly known, is sufficient, under the guidelines, to justify an FBI criminal and/or counterintelligence investigation of Hunter’s unregistered actions on behalf of a foreign entity and to determine whether his father was paid — while he was vice president — for helping to further Hunter’s business dealings overseas. Grassley is within his oversight rights to inquire whether the FBI has acted on these reasonable indicators.  

Grassley also is within his rights to follow up on information provided to him that raises concerns that a potential investigation of Hunter Biden is being impeded because of political biases of certain decision-makers within the FBI. Grassley singles out two FBI employees in his letter and alludes to possible unnamed others who concern him. Such an inquiry is fair game and appropriate. 

Here’s what he gets wrong;

First, Grassley frames his argument within the context of “derogatory information” about Hunter Biden that he believes the FBI either isn’t acting on or is characterizing as “disinformation.” This is sloppy wording and betrays a lack of understanding of our legal system.  

Hunter Biden’s laptop is chock-full of derogatory information reflecting a troubled life that people of goodwill hope he gets help with. The FBI investigates violations of federal law, not undefined derogatory information. If Grassley is concerned with or in possession of information indicating a violation of federal law, he should articulate that clearly. His letter doesn’t do that.

Second, Grassley states that he is in possession of “a significant number of protected communications from highly credible whistleblowers.” However, he doesn’t mention how many whistleblowers he’s heard from, what places them in a position to be “credible,” or whether they would agree to provide their information under oath. Without context, claiming whistleblower input carries no more weight than, say, an anonymous source.

Finally, Grassley zeroes in on the actions of — count them — two FBI employees as further proof of inappropriate FBI reaction to the Hunter Biden saga. So, from a starting point of concern about FBI disregard for undefined “derogatory information” and “disinformation,” input from unvetted whistleblowers, and the antics of a mid-level FBI agent and intelligence analyst, Grassley concludes that the FBI is and has been institutionally and “systemically” corrupted at its core.  

That’s a belly-flop off a high dive. 

No, the FBI is not corrupt at its core. Thousands of cases are made each day by thousands of FBI agents and analysts across the country that accrue to the benefit and safety of the American people without regard to political considerations.  

The FBI deserves and welcomes oversight and, yes, the biased actions of a very few in the FBI have been alarming over the recent past — something I and others have persistently criticized. Prudent oversight calls out the misdeeds of bad actors and holds the FBI accountable for a clean scrub. Purely political oversight, on the other hand, engages in over-the-top hyperbole and scare tactics that unnecessarily and recklessly shake the faith of the citizenry to motivate votes that foster party power. 

Publicly revealed facts suggest that Hunter Biden and his family deserve investigation — but that should be done in service to the principles of justice, not politics. Grassley’s inflammatory and false accusation of institutional corruption degrades his legitimate concerns by coming across as an attempt to shame or bully the FBI into an investigation just in time for the midterm elections.  

When political goals are valued higher than ideals of justice by either party, that’s the real core corruption.

Kevin R. Brock is a former assistant director of intelligence for the FBI and principal deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). He independently consults with private companies and public-safety agencies on strategic mission technologies.