The FBI reportedly commented on Michael Steinbach, the retired FBI official who allegedly committed "numerous" bureau violations by having unauthorized contacts with journalists, while overseeing the investigation into Donald Trump's suspected ties to Russia.
According to Chuck Ross, an investigative reporter for the Washington Free Beacon, the FBI issued the following response, relative to the recent reporting from the New York Post:
"The FBI expects all our employees to adhere to the highest standards of honesty and integrity, and when one of our own fails to adhere to these standards, we take those allegations very seriously. As noted in the report, in 2016, the FBI referred this former employee's activities to the DOJ Office of the Inspector General for an investigation.
"To be clear, the former employee was in violation of our media policy then, just as he would be now, and his conduct was completely unacceptable."
Citing a heavily redacted DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report obtained by the Post, Steinbach "had numerous unauthorized contacts with the media" that began when he was the bureau’s assistant counterterrorism director and continued after he became the executive assistant director of its National Security Bureau in February 2016.
Before his retirement in February 2017, which preceded an ethics probe into his alleged misconduct, Steinbach had a role in the bureau's controversial Trump-Russia investigation, which apparently had the operational code name of "Crossfire Hurricane."
Steinbach's "hundreds of contacts" included "soliciting" an unidentified reporter for a $300 ticket to the 2016 White House Correspondents' Association gala, after earlier getting invited by a different reporter to the 2015 Radio and Television Correspondents' Association dinner.
Around that time, one particular exchange between Steinbach and an unidentified reporter went as follows, according to the Post:
"Lots of [redacted] reporters here. May have to branch out!" Steinbach wrote to the reporter in a text message on the night of the 2015 dinner.
"Absolutely not!!! But curious to know who you've met so far?" the reporter responded, before adding: "well they will never be as good as me! and don't you get the big head! ;)"
"But they are promising the WH Correspondents dinner," Steinbach responded.
The following year, Steinbach attended the White House Correspondents' Association dinner and a reception party as a guest of a reporter — and reportedly bragged about it in a text to an unnamed CNN reporter.
"I put you on the map and now you're cheating on me with [redacted]," the CNN reporter wrote in a text message to Steinbach.
"I kept waiting for my invite from you," Steinbach responded.
After the $300-per-ticket event, Steinbach apparently sent an email to a reporter with the subject "Great Night" that included a photo of an unidentified person standing with the journalist in front of the White House Correspondents' Association banner, according to the Post.
"Thanks for hanging out with us last night [redacted] and I had a great time. And also thank you for giving us a lift. That was nice. I know it has been [sic] very busy year but when it slows down and as the weather gets nicer, we would love to grab [sic] or drinks with you and [redacted] either in the city somewhere or at our house," one portion of the email read.
Digging deeper into the reported findings, Steinbach apparently had lunches with journalists in Washington from 2014-2017, at prominent restaurants such as Asia Nine, Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse, Elephant & Castle, and Oyamel Cocina Mexicana.
"The [OIG] notes that it was unable to determine who paid for the drinks or meals during these social engagements," the report states.
According to the Post, the OIG interviewed an "FBI senior official" as part of its investigation into Steinbach's conduct, specifically addressing policies for socially interacting with the media.
Investigators learned that Steinbach told them then-FBI Director James Comey "was trying to change the way the FBI dealt with the media," citing the Post report.
The OIG office says it "initiated this investigation upon the receipt of records from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Insider Threat Unit, alleging"... that Steinbach "had numerous contacts with members of the media between January and November 2016 in violation of FBI policy."
The DOJ watchdog also "found indications that Steinbach received items of value from members of the media [redacted]."
According to the Examiner, the OIG said its investigation "substantiated the allegation that Steinbach had numerous unauthorized contacts with the media from 2014 through 2016, in violation of" the public affairs manual and the FBI media relations policy guide.
Steinbach's current LinkedIn account says he's the head of fraud prevention at Citibank, citing the Post story.
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