Former top FBI attorney James Baker admitted to House lawmakers in October last year that the investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump 2016 presidential campaign and Russia was riddled with abnormalities.
Confronted with a damning summary of abnormalities, bias, and omissions that transpired during the investigation, Baker told Congress that the investigation was indeed “highly unusual.”
“I had a jaundiced eye about everything, yes. I had skepticism about all this stuff. I was concerned about all of this,” Baker told lawmakers. “This whole situation was horrible, and it was novel and we were trying to figure out what to do, and it was highly unusual.”
Members of the House judiciary and oversight committees conducted the interviews in an unclassified setting, with agency counsel present to ensure that classified information didn’t enter into the unclassified setting. The transcripts of the interviews haven’t been publicly released, but were obtained for this article.
Baker served as the FBI’s general counsel when the bureau investigated the Trump campaign, and also Hillary Clinton’s use of an unauthorized private email server. During two days of testimony on Oct. 3 and Oct. 18, he told lawmakers that he believed even toward the end of the Clinton investigation that she should have been charged over her “alarming, appalling” mishandling of classified information.
He argued with others, including then-FBI Director James Comey, about the issue all the way toward the end of the investigation, but was ultimately persuaded that Clinton should be exonerated.
“My original belief … after having conducted the investigation and toward the end of it, then sitting down and reading a binder of her materials, I thought that it was alarming, appalling, whatever words I said, and argued with others about why they thought she shouldn’t be charged,” Baker told lawmakers.
As of October 2018, almost two years after the Clinton probe concluded, Baker still believed that the conduct of the former secretary of state and her associates was “appalling,” with regard to the handling of classified information.
As general counsel, Baker advised senior FBI leaders on the legal aspects of key investigations and served as the liaison with the Department of Justice (DOJ). In testimony, he detailed a series of unusual steps he took in the Trump-Russia investigation, including serving as the conduit between Perkins Coie—the firm working for the Clinton 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC)—and the FBI.
Baker left his position as general counsel in early January 2018, and resigned from the FBI in early May 2018.
Baker testified that it was Michael Sussmann, a partner at Perkins Coie, who shared with him information that detailed alleged communications between servers in Trump Tower and servers located in Russia at Alfa Bank—an allegation that eventually was debunked. Sussmann was also the lawyer who spearheaded the handling of the alleged hack of the DNC servers. Baker admitted that it was highly unusual to interact with an outside counsel.