Top FBI officials ordered an agent to scrub his Facebook page to delete anti-Trump vitriol before they would promote him to head the bureau’s Miami field office, which covers former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, a whistleblower told Congress.
In a disclosure to the House Judiciary Committee, the whistleblower said Jeffrey Veltri was promoted earlier this year to become the special agent in charge of the Miami office.
The whistleblower called Mr. Veltri “adamantly and vocally anti-Trump” and said FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, Deputy Director Paul Abbate and Executive Assistant Director Jennifer Moore were involved in directing Mr. Veltri to cleanse his social media.
“The home of President Donald Trump is located in the area of responsibility of the Miami Field Office. It was well known that Veltri was adamantly and vocally Anti-Trump,” said the disclosure, which The Washington Times has obtained. “Wray, Abbate and Moore wanted to ensure that Veltri appeared non-political, Veltri was ordered to remove all of his Facebook and Social media posts that were Anti-Trump.”
The whistleblower said the bureau leaders weren’t concerned about Mr. Veltri’s “bias against Trump” but whether “information related to Veltri’s political bias can be removed from the public domain.”
The whistleblower said Mr. Veltri, who served as acting deputy assistant director of the bureau’s security division until March, also oversaw efforts to suspend agents’ security clearances if they seemed to be a “right-wing radical.”
The whistleblower’s allegations are serious and deserve further investigation, said Chris Swecker, a lawyer and law enforcement professional who served as assistant director of the FBI’s criminal investigative division during the George W. Bush administration.
“Let’s say half of that is true. If they wiped his social media clean, that’s something that needs to be looked at by the DOJ and the [Office of] Inspectors General,” he told The Times. “It’s highly improper to wipe things clean that shows some kind of bias. I know they want it off, but then there could have been an inquiry about it, and it could have held up the promotion.”
The FBI rejected the whistleblower’s allegations and said Mr. Veltri was promoted through a process by the book.
“Special Agent in Charge Veltri was selected through a competitive process to lead the Miami field office and is charged with carrying out the FBI mission in a fair and unbiased manner,” the bureau said in a statement to The Times. “The reported allegations about political bias impacting decisions, the targeting of former military employees, and SAC Veltri’s social media accounts and posts are demonstrably false.”
Mr. Veltri came under congressional scrutiny after whistleblowers from the FBI’s security division filed disclosures alleging that some people in the bureau were trying to drum out agents they deemed “radical” or “disloyal” to the U.S. Suspect behavior included refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccination and participating in religious activities.
Mr. Veltri and security division assistant section chief Dena Perkins were accused in another whistleblower disclosure of trying to sideline agents — including military veterans — by stripping them of security clearances, The Times reported previously.
The FBI, in its response to The Times for this report, denied those allegations as well.
“Repeated reporting on these outrageous allegations does not change the facts,” the bureau said. “The FBI has not and will not retaliate against individuals who make protected whistleblower disclosures. We do not target or take adverse action against employees for exercising their First Amendment rights or for their political views. The FBI has many employees who are military veterans and we thank them for their service.”
The FBI indicated that it wanted to say more about the removal of security clearances from agents, but the Privacy Act prohibits the bureau from sharing information about specific internal matters. The FBI said the onus was on the whistleblowers and the agents involved to waive Privacy Act protections.
“These waivers may provide the opportunity for the public to gain an understanding of the specific security concerns presented in those matters. The FBI looks forward to sharing additional details regarding these security clearance cases if and when we receive the required Privacy Act waivers,” the FBI said.
The whistleblower’s name was not included in the disclosure delivered by email to Congress on Nov. 9, but lawmakers have been advised of the whistleblower’s identity.
Mr. Veltri joined the bureau in 2002 as a special agent and worked his way up through the ranks in different field offices.
By 2016, he had been promoted to chief of the civil rights unit in the criminal investigative division at FBI headquarters.
There, he oversaw the management of all hate crime, color-of-law, human trafficking, and Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act investigations in the country.
In 2021, he was appointed section chief of the security integrity and investigations section of the security division at FBI headquarters. He served as the division’s acting deputy assistant director for more than a year.
He oversaw internal security investigations, physical security, the polygraph and chief security officer programs, and the FBI Police program.
FBI leaders have faced severe criticism for their handling of Mr. Trump. An inspector general found that the bureau’s investigation into claims of “collusion” with Russia, which dogged the former president for much of his term in office, was opened without sufficient reason and was plagued by errors, including falsifying information to justify pursuing the case.
More recently, the bureau faced questions over its handling of the investigation into classified documents Mr. Trump took with him when he left office and then stored at Mar-a-Lago.
The FBI conducted a controversial search that recovered the documents.
Steven D’Antuono, the former assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office and a former senior FBI official involved in planning the operation, told Congress this year that he had strong reservations about the way it was handled.
In particular, he said leaders in Washington decided to sideline the Miami agents and use personnel from the FBI’s Washington field office instead.
The Justice Department ordered the FBI to go in heavy, Mr. D’Antuono said, showing up with a team of armed agents when Mr. Trump and his attorney were absent.
Mr. D’Antuono said they should have worked with Mr. Trump’s attorney to retrieve the documents through consent. He said he thought there was “a good likelihood” that the Trump team would have cooperated.
Former FBI agent Kurt Siuzdak, who now works as a lawyer and is representing the whistleblower, said the FBI has a duty to be fair.
“For whatever reason, unfortunately, the No. 1 criminal subject right now for the FBI seems to be Donald Trump. So you would think they would go out of their way to make sure that everyone involved in the investigation is completely unbiased because they’ve already suffered the issues with bias several years ago regarding Trump,” he said. “It would be a travesty if they’ve actually done the same thing again. The FBI was always designed to be completely apolitical.”
Source: Kerry Picket, https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2023/nov/20/whistleblower-fbi-official-ordered-to-scrub-anti-t/