Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the Boston Globe reported yesterday, is “turning the tables on the FBI.” Her latest idea is actually quite clever and worth paying attention to.
The Massachusetts senator sent a letter to FBI Director James Comey Thursday demanding he release notes and other documents the bureau has on its investigations into individuals accused of contributing to the devastating 2008 financial crisis.
Her argument: The FBI broke its longstanding practice of keeping its investigation notes private when it released dozens of pages of documents related to its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server as secretary of state. The FBI did so, Warren notes, claiming it was in the “public interest” to be more transparent in that particular case.
In her letter, which is available online here
(pdf), Warren makes the compelling case that if Secretary Clinton’s email server “was of sufficient ‘interest’ to establish a new FBI standard of transparency, then surely the criminal prosecution of those responsible for the 2008 financial crisis should be subject to the same level of transparency.”
The senator clearly has a point. Traditionally, once the bureau wraps up an inquiry, federal law enforcement officials don’t share investigatory details about the case. In the matter of Clinton’s emails, the FBI concluded that the former Secretary of State shouldn’t face charges, but it also broke with traditional bureau practices and released internal materials related to its investigation.
For Warren, there’s no reason to hold financial institutions accused of wrongdoing to an easier, more permissive standard than Hillary Clinton. If the Democratic presidential candidate’s email server protocols were a matter of such pressing national significance that the FBI’s investigatory details were released, isn’t the 2008 crash of greater importance?
Of course, the Massachusetts Democrat’s letter is based on the assumption that at least some people at Wall Street banks were accused of potentially criminal wrongdoing. Is that true? According to the Globe’s report, “Warren’s latest salvo in this battle was sparked by the release earlier this year of new documents from the federal panel convened to investigate the causes of the crisis. Warren said her staff found that nine individuals were referred to the Department of Justice because the panel found evidence of possible serious violation of federal laws.”
With that in mind, she also wrote a separate letter
(pdf) yesterday to the Justice Department’s inspector general, asking for a probe into those nine referrals.
As best as I can tell, neither Justice nor the FBI has responded publicly to Warren’s letters, but it’s an angle worth keeping an eye on. Watch this space.