New details have emerged about a bitter battle for access to files inside the FBI during the Obama-era. Former FBI general counsel Jim Baker testified in March in an unsuccessful wrongful termination lawsuit filed against him and the bureau that DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz threatened to open an obstruction of justice investigation against a senior FBI lawyer. This was due to disagreements between the Obama DOJ and the FBI over access to files.
The disagreement was related to the DOJ claiming in 2015 that it could withhold key information from the watchdog. However, Congress soon passed a law giving the inspector general greater powers to obtain information from the FBI and the DOJ. “I strongly disagree with the OLC opinion,” Horowitz had said at the time. After a bipartisan push from Congress, President Barack Obama signed the Inspector General Empowerment Act of 2016, which gave more power to the inspector general.
Horowitz, who conducted investigations into the FBI’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and the Trump-Russia investigation, declined to comment on the claim he threatened to open an investigation into a senior lawyer during the feud.
Horowitz went on to conduct investigations into the FBI’s handling of two major inquiries, but concluded that there was a proper basis for opening the investigation and that it was free of political bias. However, the report identified problems that are “unacceptable and unrepresentative of who we are as an institution,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said after its release.
Baker also testified this month that his predecessor as the FBI’s top lawyer, Andrew Weissmann, was the source of “negativity” and a culture of mistrust at the FBI when he took over.
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