Thursday, January 23, 2020

What Dirty MF's DO DO With Today's Surveillance Technology


commentarymagazine |  Obama’s FBI and former intelligence-community leaders kept open an investigation into Trump after that investigation yielded exculpatory evidence. Following Trump’s election, Comey, Brennan, and a host of Obama national-security officials weaponized the allegations against Trump by becoming pundits themselves on cable news channels and suggesting by their very presence that they had inside information about the Trump-Russia conspiracy—information they did not have. With few exceptions, members of Congress and the press who should have scrutinized their false assertions acted as an echo chamber to amplify them.

Is it any wonder that no Republican voted to impeach Trump in the House on the Ukraine matter? This cannot just be explained away as political and moral cowardice. It’s a response to the failure of the party leading the impeachment to acknowledge the falsehood of its initial conspiracy theory about Russia.

But it also must be said that this debacle is not evidence of a deep-state coup, as so many on the right have alleged. There are two important reasons for this. First, there is no singular “deep state.” 

Horowitz also showed in his report that there were FBI agents at the New York field office who were rooting for Trump. Certainly the key deep-state figure here would be James Comey—and if he were, why would he have mortally damaged the campaign of Trump’s rival 10 days before the election by briefly reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private server? In any case, the “deep-state” theory suggests there is a governmental hive mind, an unelected bureaucracy that runs things while officials like Comey sit on top, clueless and imagining themselves powerful.

You can see how the “deep-state” theory might let the actual saboteurs off the hook. Comey, McCabe, Brennan, and others had a mix of motivations for making the decisions that they did. To say they were acting on behalf of an unelected bureaucracy is to absolve them.

The deep-state theory also leads those who espouse it to overreact. If the institutional rot is this profound, then why not eliminate the FBI and CIA altogether? But that’s a bit like calling for the abolition of a police department after a brutality scandal. The country needs spies and lawmen to protect us against real foreign threats. The problem with the Trump-Russia investigation is that at the moment the investigators were receiving exculpatory evidence, the false collusion theory became the hottest story in the world. And that happened because the most important evidence the FBI leadership believed was true was also briefed to media.

This should never happen again. And, in normal times, it would not have happened. Journalists would have maintained their initial skepticism about the dossier. FBI lawyers would have been more vigilant about including exculpatory information in the Page surveillance warrant. Congressional leaders would have been more restrained in publicly questioning the loyalty of Americans who worked for a rival political campaign. Former intelligence officials would not have deployed innuendo to imply that the legitimately elected president of the United States was a traitor.

But Trump was perceived to be such a threat to the republic that resistance was required. That resistance became a permission structure to break longstanding rules and norms. Just consider Clinesmith, the FBI attorney who altered an email from the CIA to make it appear that Carter Page was not assisting the agency when he really was. In a footnote, Horowitz quotes an instant message from Clinesmith to a colleague the day after Trump won the election in 2016. “I am so stressed about what I could have done differently,” he wrote. Two weeks later he tapped out a message that ended with “Viva le [sic] resistance.”

It’s rare that law-enforcement scandals involve officials who acknowledge bad motives to themselves. They are almost always the result of cops and lawyers who justify their infractions and misconduct as a necessary means to a more noble end. From Comey to Clinesmith, the investigators responsible for the Russia investigation really believed that Trump was a unique threat to the republic and that they were justified in taking the steps that they did. The problem is that their theory about Trump and Russia was wrong, and the shortcuts they took to prove the theory true blinded them from seeing their folly sooner.

That folly has deformed our politics. Now, in 2020, voters are faced with a choice between two parties led by conspiracy theorists and gaslighters. Instead of saving America from Trump, the Resistance may have reelected him.