The Republican Party has spent the last two days in a frenzy of indignation over the disclosure that an FBI agent who worked on the Clinton and Trump investigations (and has since been removed) sent texts to another agent, whom he was reportedly dating, criticizing Trump. The story was driven by the curious decision by Trump’s Department of Justice to leak partial excerpts of the texts. It produced sensational headlines like, “In texts, FBI agents on Russia probe called Trump an ‘idiot’; Messages could fuel GOP claims that bias tainted Clinton and Trump investigations,” (Politico) and “In Texts, F.B.I. Officials in Russia Inquiry Said Clinton ‘Just Has to Win’” (New York Times).
The main problem with this pseudo-scandal is that nobody has ever previously expected FBI agents not to privately express political viewpoints. Indeed, to prosecute liberal bias at agencies that lean rightward and kept the Republican nominee’s very serious investigation private while publicizing the trivial investigation into the Democratic nominee is perverse in the extreme.
There turns out to be another flaw in the “scandal.” The main agent in question also wrote text messages criticizing Democrats, reports Del Quentin Wilber. His messages included calling Chelsea Clinton “self-entitled,” and mocking Eric Holder. He wrote, “I’m worried about what happens if HRC is elected.” Of course, we don’t know the context of that any more than we know it for the other texts. If the administration had leaked these texts instead or in addition, the narrative would have been completely different.
The scandal is that the Department of Justice selectively leaked private texts from its agents in order to placate the White House’s desire to discredit the special counsel. And the news media let itself get suckered.