James A. Baker (DOJ)
|James A. Baker|
|General Counsel for the FBI|
From: January 2014 - December 2017
James A. Baker is an American government official at the Department of Justice who served as General Counsel for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In December, 2017 he was reassigned to a different position within the FBI. Baker left the FBI in early April 2018, after Congressional leaders called for prosecution of Obama administration officials' criminal conduct during and after the 2016 election.
Baker joined the Justice Criminal Department in 1990 and went on to work as a United States Attorney. In 1996 he joined Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR). This government agency handles all DOJ requests for surveillance authorizations under the terms of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, advises the Attorney General and all major intelligence-gathering agencies on legal issues relating to national security and surveillance, and "coordinates" the views of the intelligence community regarding intelligence legislation. Baker has often testified before Congress on behalf of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administration intelligence policies, including defending the Patriot Act before the House Judiciary Committee. Regarding Baker's 2007 appearance on the PBS Frontline episode "Spying on the Home Front", the show's producer, in a Washington Post online chat, referred to Baker as "Mr. FISA himself".
Baker's government service was interrupted twice by stints in the private sector. Baker was assistant general counsel for national security at Verizon Business from 2008 to 2009. He was associate general counsel with Bridgewater Associates, LP from 2012 to 2014.
In 2004, according to The Washington Post, Baker was responsible for the discovery that "the government's failure to share information" regarding the NSA electronic surveillance program had "rendered useless a federal screening system" insisted upon by the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to prevent "tainted information"—in U.S. case law, fruit of the poisonous tree—from being used before the court. Baker was reported to have informed presiding federal judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the FISC, whose complaints to the Justice Department led to the temporary suspension of the NSA program.
In 2007, according to The Washington Post, Baker revealed that he had informed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales "about mistakes the FBI has made or problems or violations or compliance incidents" prior to Gonzales' April 2005 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that ""There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse" after 2001.
The former FBI chief legal counsel and close adviser to FBI Director James Comey. In addition to coordinating the “small group” activity to exonerate Hillary Clinton, Baker was also a recipient for some of the Comey Memos of leaks of privileged conversations with President Trump. Baker has knowledge of, and possibly a co-conspirator in, the “insurance policy” described by FBI Agent Peter Strzok and FBI Counsel Lisa Page. Additionally, Baker would be able to identify the level of knowledge and participation of Director Comey, and is therefore perhaps the biggest risk to Comey specifically.
On December 21, 2017, Baker was removed from any responsibility and left the Justice Department in April 2018 to work for the Brookings Institute and Benjamin Wittes' Lawfareblog. Wittes was the first to write about an "insurance policy" should Trump win.
In 2017, Sinclair-owned Circa News reported that Baker was under a Department of Justice criminal investigation for allegedly leaking classified national security information concerning the Trump administration to the media.
Comey leaksOn June 7, 2017 Vox reported:
FBI Director James B. Comey pulled aside three of the bureau’s top officials for private chats. In calm tones, he told each of them about a private Oval Office meeting with President Trump...Those three officials, according to two people with detailed, firsthand knowledge of the matter, were Jim Rybicki, Comey’s chief of staff and senior counselor; James Baker, the FBI’s general counsel; and Andrew McCabe, then the bureau’s deputy director, and now the acting director...NY Mag repeated the substance of classified information:
One senior law enforcement official familiar with the matter said that Comey specifically sought legal advice from Baker about when and how to tell the DOJ about Trump pressing Comey to shut down the Russia probe. The same official said that Comey and Baker had more than one discussion about the matter, and that Baker almost certainly made extensive notes about those deliberations. Both Comey and Baker sought the advice of Rybicki and McCabe as to whether to inform the Justice Department of Trump’s pressure of Comey to shut down the Russia probe, according to this same official. All four of them had reservations about doing so because they did not fully trust Attorney General Jeff Sessions — and because the events were unprecedented in their experience.
within two days of Comey’s fateful meeting with Trump in the Oval Office, he relayed his account of what Trump asked him to do (or undo) to three top FBI associates: Deputy Director (and now Acting Director) Andrew McCabe; Chief of Staff Jim Rybicki; and General Counsel James Baker.
- FBI — James A. Baker Appointed as FBI’s General Counsel. FBI.
- US DOJ website on OIPR (December 12, 2003). Archived from the original on January 15, 2006.
- STATEMENT JAMES A. BAKER COUNSEL FOR INTELLIGENCE POLICY OFFICE OF INTELLIGENCE POLICY AND REVIEW UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. Department of Justice (April 26, 2005). Archived from the original on May 10, 2005.
- STATEMENT JAMES A. BAKER COUNSEL FOR INTELLIGENCE POLICY OFFICE OF INTELLIGENCE POLICY AND REVIEW UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. Department of Justice (April 28, 2005). Archived from the original on May 10, 2005.
- "PBS Frontline: 'Spying on the Home Front'", The Washington Post, May 16, 2007. “Mr. FISA himself, Mr. James Baker, the DOJ point man on FISA.”
- James A. Baker. Harvard University.
- Leonnig, Carol D.. "Secret Court's Judges Were Warned About NSA Spy Data", The Washington Post, February 9, 2006.
- Solomon, John. "Gonzales Knew About Violations, Officials Say", The Washington Post, July 11, 2007.
- "EXCLUSIVE: A top FBI lawyer is allegedly under an investigation for leaking classified information to the media", Circa News, July 27, 2017. (en)