Can anyone with a modicum of common sense trust the Federal Bureau of investigation? The answer to that question is a resounding “no.” The claim that the FBI strives to be above politics is today and has always been absurd. When former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover admitted in an interview that his “agents” had tapped the phones of 1964 Republican candidate Barry Goldwater and even bugged his campaign plane, Mr. Hoover told his interviewer, who wondered how someone in his position could so cavalierly ignore the law and the constitutional rights of American citizens, that when the president asks you deliver.
That and much else that Mr. Hoover ordered his “agents” to do during his too long tenure as FBI Director was bad enough, but in the years since he departed the scene, the FBI has developed a penchant for breaking the law without even requiring a wink and a nod from above. The Bureau picks its targets for whatever reason and goes after them, concocting evidence or setting them up to technically break laws that have nothing to do with the “reasons” for the original targeting.
As an institution, the Bureau has always been more interested in its own image than in crime, espionage and terrorism, but its briefing on how James Thomas Hodgkinson came to shoot the third highest ranking member of Congress on July 14 in Alexandria boggles the mind as Bureau spokesmen more interested in political correctness than facts twisted what anyone with a passing interest in the episode already knew into a narrative that makes no sense.
Last Wednesday, Andrew Vale, director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, flanked by other FBI officials and representatives of the Capitol Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms announced the Bureau’s findings. In the official FBI release, rather than say that Mr. Hodgkinson had targeted the congressmen practicing at the Alexandria baseball field they had been using for years, the statement simply said that Mr. Hodgkinson “shot in the vicinity of the field” and could find no real political motive behind the man’s act. The suggestion was that the shooter, who had surveilled, the field, was “living” in a van parked adjacent to the field, and had researched the backgrounds of Rep. Steve Scalise and other members of Congress, was simply an unfortunate with “anger management issues” who snapped and began firing in “the vicinity” of the men who were shot but not targeted.
There is no question that Mr. Hodgkinson was a nut and virtually everyone agrees with the conclusion that what he did was not part of a larger terrorist operation, but that does not mean he wasn’t politically motivated. He hated Republicans, was a devout far left, progressive and the anger he had so much difficulty managing was political anger directed at Mr. Scalise, Republicans in general and, no surprise here, President Donald Trump. Mr. Vale’s briefing reminds one of the press conferences held after someone blows himself up, after yelling “Allahu akbar” at which the public is informed that while investigators, are, of course, looking into whether the man was either a Muslim or a terrorist, they have seen no real evidence to suggest either.
At one end of the spectrum there are folks who actually believe Democrats would like to kill Republicans. These are people who perhaps take the over the top rhetoric of actors, actresses, comedians and “resistance” leaders more seriously than they should, but at the other end are people like those who occupy top posts at the FBI who will go to any lengths to excuse a man who traveled from Illinois, practiced his marksmanship, studied his targets and open fired on them. He didn’t break. He prepared for and launched a pre-meditated attack on federal officeholders.
Agent Vale pointed out, perhaps in support of his cockamamie theory, that Mr. Hodgkinson had never actually threatened a member of Congress by telephone, mail or email. The FBI likes to investigate, threaten and even charge those who do that and little more and have apparently never bought into the idea that those seriously contemplating doing what Mr. Hodgkinson did rarely tip their hands in advance.
Firing Mr. Comey was a good first step, but only a first step if the FBI is to be transformed into the first-rate crime fighting organization it professes to be rather the laughingstock it has become.
• David A. Keene is editor at large at The Washington Times.