The question of resources allotted to the FBI also affects the parallel investigations of the same questions happening in the House and Senate. Earlier this spring, Representative Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, complained to me that he was having a hard time getting the bureau to cooperate. The House investigation “requires the FBI to be fully cooperative,” he said. “We don’t have that yet. It’s not their culture.” That was when the bureau was headed by someone who seemed willing and eager to investigate the Russia question. What happens if Comey is replaced with someone who isn’t, and isn’t willing to adequately fund an investigative staff already stretched thin? “It was tricky from the get-go,” said a senior Republican Senate staffer. The Senate Intelligence Committee “is doing the same thing as the FBI but don’t have all the resources at their disposal. It doesn’t have the resources to do the same amount of work as the FBI. This thing has always been a little bit awkward.”
But assuming that the bureau’s Russia investigation does get the necessary resources, there is still the question of what happens with whatever its agents turn up. “Who do you present your findings to?” asked Watts. “It’s the DOJ that decides whether to bring charges. But it seems to be very political under this new administration. You have to wonder how the FBI feels about presenting those findings to the DOJ when it’s run by [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions, who recused himself from the [Russia] investigation, but endorsed Comey’s firing.” That leaves Rosenstein. “The fate of the investigation—its independence and integrity—now lies with Rosenstein,” says Goldsmith. “He has a reputation for independence, but the orchestrated action on Tuesday will call that into question for many people.”
With Comey’s dismissal, said Goldsmith, “the investigation now lacks the one person in the executive branch that we know was acting as an independent agent in this mess.” As Zegart noted, “the integral role that the director plays is maintaining the integrity of the investigation and to make sure it’s shielded from political interference. We kind of take the FBI’s professionalism and independence for granted now, but half of FBI’s life was under J. Edgar Hoover. It was intensely politicized, and it got the FBI into a lot of trouble. For half of its bureaucratic existence, the FBI has not been independent.”
Democrats are calling for a more politically independent body to investigate the matter—be that a special prosecutor or a select congressional committee—but a special prosecutor, too, would run up against questions of resources. A special prosecutor, says Columbus, “would have a lot of running room but would still need to work with FBI and be reliant on their investigative work. Lawyers don’t go and dig up this stuff, they instruct people to dig up for them.” And those people are usually in the FBI.