If the name John Huber doesn’t ring a bell, you are not alone. Given the high-profile task U.S. Attorney John Huber was assigned by former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in November 2017, you would think the name Huber would be well-known by now. And that is exactly what current U.S. Attorney General William Barr finds troubling about Mr. Huber.
Mr. Huber and his staff were asked to investigate claims of FBI misconduct relative to the Clinton Foundation and its involvement in the sale of Uranium One to Russian interests, the abuse of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court applications to obtain warrants to spy on Carter Page concerning his purported role in potential Trump-Russia collusion, and allegations of deep-seated bias by the FBI and Department of Justice against Donald Trump during his presidential campaign and after he was elected.
Why did it take so long for Huber to turn the results of his three-year investigation over to U.S. Attorney John Durham and, more disturbing, why are Huber’s findings so meager and so equivocal? Bill Barr is furious and intends to find out why directly from John Huber.
Barr calls his executive assistant on the intercom and asks her to contact U.S. Attorney John Huber and have him report to the AG’s office immediately.
When Huber arrives at Barr’s office the following day, Barr appears none too pleased to see him. The following satirical conversation ensues:
Barr: Let’s dispense with pleasantries and get down to business. When I ask someone to report to my office immediately, I expect that person to stop what he or she is doing and come to my office immediately. What took you 24 hours to get here?
Huber: Sorry, I wasn’t told that you wanted to meet with me so urgently nor was I told what you wanted to speak with me about. So I figured that reporting to you the next day would be soon enough.
Barr: Well, you figured wrong. Mr. Huber, it appears you like to take your sweet time about a lot of things. Three years ago, you were assigned by my predecessor to examine a number of issues regarding possible FBI abuses relative to its investigation into the Clinton Foundation, questionable FISA court applications to obtain warrants to spy on an American citizen, attempts by FBI and DOJ officials to interfere in our national election, and other matters. As far as I can see, you had more than ample time to do so, especially when there already exists mountains of evidence of wrongdoing by the FBI and DOJ in the public domain. I read your report and find it woefully lacking, considering all the time and money you and your staff have spent on the investigation. Why is that?
Huber: Sir, the facts of what transpired in the cases you mentioned is not what caused the delay. We are certain that we have more than sufficient evidence to issue indictments against the Clinton Foundation and its operatives on criminal racketeering charges. If we were so inclined, we also have adequate evidence to file criminal charges against FBI and DOJ officials for obstruction of justice, the mishandling of classified information, attempts to politically interfere with a national election, and other counts.
Barr: If that’s the case, why haven’t these individuals been indicted and brought to justice?
Huber: Sir, as you are well aware, there is a political dimension to our work here at the Department of Justice. Sometimes it is necessary to gloss over inconvenient facts. Based on your personal experience, you know that certain powerful politicians must be afforded a wide degree of latitude in the application of the law. In other words, hard evidence alone is insufficient when dealing with the politicians who run our government. The concept of equal justice under the law is malleable in this regard. Hence, you can appreciate the delicate elasticity I have applied to the Clinton Foundation / Uranium One matter. Any prosecutor who can fog a mirror could bring charges in this case based on the overwhelming evidence uncovered by my investigators, but that prosecutor would be politically tone-deaf if he did so.
As Barr listens to Huber’s explanation, his face reddens and he is visibly shaken.
Barr: And what about the illicit FISA warrants and the evidence of politically-motivated animus by the FBI and DOJ leaders toward candidate Trump and, later on, President Trump?
Huber: Yes, it’s true that certain FBI and DOJ officials conducted themselves in a very disappointing manner and appeared to show favoritism toward candidate Hillary Clinton and antipathy toward her opponent, Donald Trump. But, as far as we can determine, personal politics did not adversely impact the professional conduct of their investigations, which appear to have been carried out in an unbiased manner. Despite the troubling optics of the improprieties committed by a number of officials, we cannot determine with certitude that their political views impaired the objectivity of their investigations. Consequently, prosecutorial discretion dictates that we refrain from substituting our judgment for that of the FBI and DOJ officers who originally investigated the cases under review.
Barr: Your statements appear to support a pre-ordained outcome; namely, that it is extremely unlikely that any FBI or DOJ manager would ever be held accountable for any wrongdoing. Am I correct?
Huber: For all intents and purposes, you are correct. Unless some official or agent commits a particularly egregious criminal offense that goes beyond the pale, I believe in most cases he or she should be given the benefit of the doubt, assuming there is any doubt in the first place. None of the cases I have investigated rise to a level of criminality that would support any indictments. As you know, our primary mission is to uphold the integrity of the Department of Justice and the Bureau, which have been under withering attack over the past four years. I consider the protection of our law enforcement agencies to be my principle concern. Just because a few overzealous agents exercised poor judgment, it should not besmirch the reputation of the Department of Justice as a whole. Hence, I believe it is in our best interest to let time heal the wounds. In time, these overblown scandals will fade and the public will move on. This is how we have always handled problems like this. You should know. You were Attorney General during the first Bush Administration.
At this point, the veins in Barr’s neck are bulging. He rises from his seat. He walks around his desk and is standing nose-to-nose with Mr. Huber.
Barr: Mr. Huber, I have heard enough. You have failed to uphold the law, which we are supposed to apply equally to all citizens without fear or favor. This Department has indicted and incarcerated individuals with no political clout for far less. We are not half-assed politicians. We are public servants. You are an embarrassment to the Department of Justice. You’re fired. You will wait outside my office for security officers, who will escort you from the premises. Now, get the hell out of my office.
After Huber leaves his office, but before he summons security, Attorney General Barr has an epiphany. When he settles down, Barr recalls the conversation he had with John Durham a couple of months earlier. At that meeting, Durham told him that his investigation was complete except for a few minor issues, which were of no serious consequence, and that he was ready to hand down indictments against a number of former and current FBI and DOJ officials. Barr remembers discussing the political implications of filing such criminal charges so close to a presidential election. He decided at the time that it would be best to hold off on taking any prosecutorial action until after the election. Depending on the outcome, Barr wanted to keep his options open. He might have to take political considerations into account depending on the results. After all, justice is not politician-proof. It is naïve to think otherwise.
In light of his own reticence to approve Durham’s moving forward with criminal charges against high-ranking government officials, Barr realizes how ultra-hypocritical he had been when he castigated Huber moments ago for essentially handling a political hot potato in the same manner. Barr is also reminded that his well-known temper had once again gotten the best of him.
This sudden change of heart prompts Barr to call Huber back into his office, where he apologizes profusely for acting so hastily and so imprudently. He tells Huber that he is profoundly sorry for his brutish behavior. Barr says that he appreciates Huber’s service and complements him for acting so cautiously and wisely throughout his investigation.
An incredulous Huber accepts Barr’s heartfelt apology and wonders if he is having an out-of-body experience.
All’s well that ends well in this fictitious account, if you’re an insider at the Department of Justice.
Justice continues to take a backseat to politics at the upper levels of the FBI and DOJ when it comes to protecting their own and the politicians they favor. J. Edgar Hoover would be proud of his successors.