Top FBI official kept inappropriately close relationship with journalists, accepted gifts

Michael Steinbach was the top national security official at the FBI while he accepted tickets to the White House Correspondents' dinner, and had close relationships with a large handful of journalists.

According to a report by the Washington Free Beacon, the FBI top national security official had many inappropriate meetings with journalists and accepted tickets to the White House Correspondents' Dinner, actions that FBI officials classified as "dangerous."

The FBI official, Michael Steinbach, met with a large handful of reporters regularly between the years of 2014 and 2017 (when he retired to become head of fraud prevention at Citi), and kept in contact with a larger circle. His mingling with journalists occurred while he worked on significant counterterrorism cases, as well as Crossfire Hurricane, the now infamous investigation into collusion between former President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia, the Beacon points out.

According to an FBI inspector general's report obtained by the Beacon, Steinbach had "at least 27 in-person meetings with seven media members outside of FBI headquarters" between April 2014 and February 2017. 

The report also revealed that Steinbach attended the Radio-Television Correspondents' Dinner as the guest of a journalist, and actively solicited tickets to the White House Correspondents' Dinner, which he eventually received. 

The FBI does not allow its employees to accept gifts from "prohibited sources," which includes journalists, without prior authorization, typically from the FBI's Office of Public Affairs (OPA). 

In the report, an OPA representative says that Steinbach's meetings and the events he attended with the press were not approved and would likely not have been approved. "You’re putting people into positions that are untenable. You know, nobody from OPA is there to chaperone. Nobody there to set the ground rules. You never know what can be said. You don’t know under what conditions it can be said. So it can lead to a lot of problems," the unidentified OPA officer said.