Whilst the Office of Inspector General (OIG) was reviewing the conduct of James Comey in the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation during the 2016 election, the OIG ran across some additional e-mails that implicated another FBI official in conduct not related to the Clinton e-mails. One never knows where the truth will percolate or how it will emerge, but eager it does. The e-mails discovered serendipitously showed that the FBI’s former director of the Office of Public Affairs accepted two tickets to a professional sports game as a gift from a CNN correspondent who regularly covered the FBI and DOJ, in violation of federal regulations. In fact, there was a bit of a cultural problem at the FBI with agents participating in golfing outings with media representatives, being treated to drinks and meals after work by reporters, and attending “nonpublic social events” (parties in non-OIG language as the guests of journalists.
That kind of culture certainly explains why the OIG found significant media leaks from FBI employees to the media. They were all on the same team.
But back to the official, who has since been identified as Michael Kortan, the former director of the FBI Office of Public affairs who retired earlier this year. The OIG investigation found that Mr. Kortan accepted tickets from CNN and New York Times reporters. Here are some excerpts from the e-mail exchanges between Mr. Kortan and a CNN reporter:
CNN correspondent: “I have an extra ticket for tomorrow nights Nats game. Would you like to join?” adding, “Good seats.”
Kortan: “I’m in!”
CNN correspondent. “Great.”
Follow-up e-mails show that the two met for beers and then headed to the game. Cozy.
But there was more. Another e-mail exchange with the CNN correspondent (never identified in the report):
CNN correspondent: “Nats v Marlins Friday night. I have to be away. Can you use four tix?”
Kortan: “I’m good for 2 tix if that’s OK.”
Kortan took another FBI employee and had a full night with the $65 per ticket freebie.
Mr. Kortan initially told the OIG, under oath, that he had paid back the reporter. He had not because the OIG fond no messages documenting the repayment nor could Mr. Kortan produce any proof of repayment. Mr. Kortan was also not forthcoming when asked who used the other ticket. Eventually admitted that the ticket went to a young, female FBI employee. Mr. Kortan did go back to the OIG to say that he was mistaken about the repayment. The game was rained out and that he was told by the correspondent not to repay him. As long as he was cleaning that up, Ortan did confess to the tagging along of the female FBI employee. Mr. Kortan resigned prior to the conclusion of the investigation.
The DOJ declined to prosecute the case. Not sure what happen with Mr. Kortan. but General Michael Flynn awaits sentencing for allegedly “lying to the FBI.” Funny how agents seem aloof, not apologetic, when they are caught. Methinks that the FBI has a huge culture problem. Check the e-mails. Even FBI agents fancy them to be private.