One was caught red-handed engaged in nepotism. Another, a lawyer no less, admitted to shoplifting at a Marine barracks store. A third leaked sealed court information to the news media. And a fourth engaged in fraud by turning a government garage into a personal repair shop.
Four cases, all solved in the past month, with suspects who cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and significant breaches of public trust.
But these weren’t your everyday perps.
All were U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) employees who are supposed to catch other criminals while working for the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and U.S. attorneys’ offices. Instead, they broke the law or violated the rules. And all managed to escape prosecution, despite their proven transgressions.
Recent Justice Department disciplinary files tell an undeniable story.
Under the leadership of Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz, DOJ’s internal watchdog is doing an outstanding job of policing bad conduct inside America’s premier law enforcement agency.
And DOJ is doing a poor job of punishing its own.
In cases closed in the past month, more than a half-dozen FBI, DEA, U.S. attorney and U.S. marshal officials were allowed to retire, do volunteer work, or keep their jobs as they escaped criminal charges that everyday Americans probably would not.
In most instances, the decisions were made by federal prosecutors who work with the very figures impacted by or committing the bad conduct. In local law enforcement, that go-easy phenomenon is known as the “thin blue line.”
Spokespersons for the Justice Department and FBI did not respond to a request for comment.
The troubling pattern of weak punishment emerges as DOJ heads into one of its most ambitious internal affairs probes in recent history. Attorney General William Barr, Horowitz and special U.S. Attorney John Durham are investigating whether the FBI and other intelligence agencies violated the law with the Trump-Russia investigation.
Even before the recent spate of closed inspector general investigations, questions surfaced about DOJ’s willingness to punish its own. That’s because fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was recommended for prosecution more than 15 months ago for lying about news leaks, and so far has faced no criminal charges.