Retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent Jeff Danik, who spent more than 28 years with the bureau, as a supervisor in the counter-terrorism division and special overseas advisor, says he's now fighting to ensure that the American people get the truth about what allegedly happened inside the FBI during the investigation into former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Danik, who recently retired and says he has taken on pro-bono work to help FBI whistle blowers, told Circa he is frustrated by what he sees as failure in the bureau's leadership. He says he is concerned that the FBI is keeping necessary information from the American people regarding the bureau's investigations into Clinton's email server and how it was handled by officials in the bureau. He submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in October 2016, on current Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
Circa has written numerous stories regarding the three federal inquiries into McCabe. They are concerning alleged Hatch Act Violations, sexual discrimination allegations and a congressional investigation launched by Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley. The Iowa Republican requested in a letter that the Department of Justice's Office of Inspector General investigate whether McCabe may not have properly disclosed campaign payments to his wife by Clinton supporters on his ethics report and should have recused himself from her email case.
On November 8 and 9, 2016 the FBI acknowledged they received FOIA letters from Danik and denied his request. Danik appealed to the Justice Department and in June of 2017 the DOJ wrote that the FBI should search for and turn over any pertinent documents. Danik said the FBI is still stonewalling him, so he's now filing a joint FOIA lawsuit against the FBI with Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group that has successfully obtained documents government officials have tried to keep from the public.
Question and Answer with Jeff Danik:
Jeff Danik: I was in the FBI for 28 years. I was a supervisor for a good number of those years. I was assigned overseas in counter-terrorism roles. I was assigned to FBI headquarters in terrorism roles. I had a lot of experience with criminal work here in the states mainly in the Miami division of the FBI.
Sara Carter: And currently?
Jeff Danik: Currently, I advise companies on due diligence and I provide litigation support services in criminal cases.
Sara Carter: Are a lot of your clients retired or current FBI agents?
Jeff Danik: Yes, the ones that don't pay me.
Sara Carter: Let's start from the beginning. You put in a FOIA [Freedom of Information Act Request] request with regard to Andrew McCabe. Can you talk a little bit about that? And the reason for putting in that request for those internal communications?
Jeff Danik: Sure. The story broke in the newspaper that Hillary Clinton used a private email account ... I believe that was the first part of the story that broke. A lot of us wondered why there wasn't an immediate case opened up into that because it's just a very strange occurrence. I decided to go and ask for email and text on the executives that I figured would have been in the loop on opening that case and speaking about what to do initially on it if anything.
Sara Carter: What was the response you got from the FBI when you submitted your FOIA request?
Jeff Danik: Just the standard FOIA response that you get out of the FBI. A stop sign, forget it, pound sand. They say in a letter that is boilerplate but that's what I got back from them on this.
I don't know if they don't want those records out because it pulls back the curtain and lets you see the framework of these investigations or maybe they are afraid of what it actually says and who it reflects on.
Sara Carter: Why do you think they've been so closed off from giving any of this information, either with you or others you've asked for the same type of internal communications?
Jeff Danik: I think the records are very telling in the FBI. I was in the FBI a long time. If I was allowed to conduct the investigation into who knew what when regarding the Hillary Clinton email server, I could put that timeline together very quickly. There's a huge electronic footprint now Sara in the FBI between text and email and instant messaging. The way that the documents are prepared in the official system. This is a large footprint that is left on an investigation and it can be quickly retrieved. You can tell very quickly the efficiency, the speed at which investigation was taken or not undertaken. I don't know if they don't want those records out because it pulls back the curtain and lets you see the framework of these investigations or maybe they are afraid of what it actually says and who it reflects on. I guess it's possibly somewhat that some of the records they do believe are shielded under the law, but they haven't made a very good point of that [in this] FOIA case.
Sara Carter: There's been a lot of concern among former agents who have specifically stated that they believe a lot of information has not been made public that would expose probably certain obstruction within the FBI into the investigations into the Hillary email Clinton server scandal and other issues with regard to Andrew McCabe's behavior and others inside the FBI. Have you been hearing these same complaints that I've been hearing and what can you say about them?
What I can say unequivocally is that nobody in the FBI ... I would think no single employee would stick up, back stop or condone what James Comey did.
Jeff Danik: I like to be very cautious about speaking for others. Do my friends and do people I associate with talk about those? Yes they definitely do. What I can say unequivocally is that nobody in the FBI ... I would think to a single employee would stick up, back stop or condone what James Comey did. He walked out of the FBI with a document and leaked it to the press. Every single agent knows that's wrong. Every single employee knows that's wrong. So, when you talk about what's the tenor of the psyche inside the investigative core in the FBI and the support staff, on that particular point, you can speak for everybody. I would like to see one person come forward and say "Yeah he did the right thing by doing that."
Sara Carter: Robyn Gritz, one retired former special agent at the FBI said to me in an interview that it was like a cancer inside the FBI and senior level. Can you talk a little bit about that? Is her description of what maybe some of the agents feel is happening within top management a reflection of something new that's in the FBI? Or is it something that's maybe reflective of bureaucracy for the length of time that you spent within the bureau?
Jeff Danik: I'll say for sure at the top of the FBI, at the executive levels of the FBI, there are definitely some stone cold heroes up there. I want to make sure I say that. But the problem is, there's a huge number of those heroes at the street agent level of the FBI. The brick agents that are out doing the work daily. Huge numbers of heroes there, but as you get up to the top, those heroes have a hard time making it upper management. It's a very closed controlled group. A lot of us feel, I definitely feel that the promotion structure is rigged. That there's a lot of backdoor hiring of friends to get jobs higher up and then those executives ... And it's happening Sarah time and time again, where they're using their positions for their own personal benefit. Now we see that in the Hillary Clinton investigation. It seems to be spilling out outside of the bureau too.
Sara Carter: Do you believe, Jeff, that there's a politicization of the FBI on those levels that kind of go against the core of the FBI being very nonpartisan and not playing a role in politics?
Jeff Danik: It's allowed some of these anomalies that we see exist but by in large the executives are parlaying their positions for personal benefits after retirement to things like that. That they get better jobs and good jobs and that type of thing. That's the systemic issue most people see. The politicalization of it is minor. Even though there are people with very very strong opinions on both side of the political aisle in the FBI, it really isn't a problem. It's just those are much more isolated. In this case with the deputy director and his involvement with his wife running for Virginia state senate and getting all this money from the Clinton friendship with the governor, that is an anomaly but it's something that is a focus of my FOIA. What happened in that situation?
Sara Carter: Let's talk about that FOIA because that's what led you to this point. When you didn't get a response back from the FBI, what happened with the response you got back from the DOJ?
Jeff Danik: The first thing I did was appeal the FBI's rejection of my request for the records. As I recall, their initial rejection said that the records were personal and that I hadn't particularly described them. These are boilerplate kind of rejection excuses the FBI gives. Then, of course I wrote the FOIA, being able myself if I was sitting at the computer, which I've done myself inside the FBI. I wrote the FOIA so that if I had gotten my FOIA, I could easily search the word strings and the records myself and produce what I wanted. I knew it was particularly described enough. That's what I told in my appeal. I even put that in there that listen, these records are well enough described that I could do it myself. Give me five minutes with a computer and I'll show you. It went through the process with the department of justice. That's where you appeal your FOIA rejection from the FBI initially is. It's a waiting game with them. I will say that the DOJ office was fairly responsive. I even talked to them on the phone once and I got a favorable opinion out of them on these records, that at least that the FBI should re-institute the FOIA and search for responsive records.
Sara Carter: After you got that response back from the DOJ, what had the response been from the FBI?
Jeff Danik: Zero, nothing.
Sara Carter: You sought help afterwards, after [the FBI] failed to respond to you?
Jeff Danik: There's a lot of cops, there's a lot of agents out there that think people committed crimes, did things wrong, you don't talk about it. You have to internalize that because it's not fair to the person. Either you climb in the ring with your evidence and fight 'em out in court or you keep your mouth shut. It's the same way with these email documents and these text documents. If they exist and if they're incriminating or if they're exculpatory let's get 'em and let's find that out. The only way to do that is litigate. It seems like in today's society especially with the bureau, the only avenue you have is litigation. That's what Judicial Watch does best.
Sara Carter: What do you expect will be the result of this FOIA lawsuit with Judicial Watch? This combined FOIA lawsuit. Do you expect to get the documents?
Jeff Danik: I think they'll take two actions. First action they'll take is to say it's an ongoing investigation now and we've thought up that excuse now to thwart you with. Secondarily, to the extent they do have to dump email and text on me as the DOJ has ordered them, what they'll do is lay them out publicly for everybody to get at once so they don't think I have exclusivity to it. But what they don't realize is I don't care about exclusivity. I'd give them to anybody. I don't even care if I get them as long as Judicial Watch gets them.
Sara Carter: Explain why this is so important to the American people? Why should they care? Why do they need to know what's going on here?
Jeff Danik: Well it's two fold - they need to know what happened in that investigation because it is a extremely divisive issue with the electorate, the public, and the citizens. Secondarily, it reflects directly on confidence in the FBI. I really believe deep in my heart ... I wouldn't have given up my FBI career for anything, for nothing. That's how important it was to do these investigations on behalf of the taxpayers with ethics and good moral focus on the truth and justice as opposed to getting off the tracks. It only takes a little bit to get off the tracks to derail the whole train and that's really the overriding focus. That if these investigations, that these important matters were done in such a prejudice manner, we need to get that out into the light of day and correct those issues in today's FBI.
Sara Carter: There's been enormous frustration Jeff, with a lot of people both in the FBI now, current agents in the bureau and retired agents who feel that they want to get the truth out, they want to talk, they want to be a Whistle-blower, but they feel like no one has their back. Can you talk a little bit about that? Is there a solution to ensuring that FBI agents who feel that they have story to tell or feel that they have important information to disclose can feel safe in doing so?
Jeff Danik: The director of the FBI can put that program into place. It takes a strong leader to make sure that's put in place, and it takes discipline to put it in place and make sure it's responsive and has those outcomes. That's where it really starts. What do we do? Police are famous for sitting around and complaining basically. What we try to do is, the small group I'm associate with, we try to really dig down, do a professional job of requesting records, do a professional inquiry, go to people like you or others who have the journalistic expertise and try to put together a transparent package so that managers and leaders, government officials, taxpayers, politicians can better oversee the FBI and its important mission.
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