It’s all of a sudden OK, at least in the eyes of The New York Times and other guardians of progressive bias, for an administration to spy on a political campaign. You can thereby stop Russia from doing its thing of electoral interference, they emphasize.
Less on their lips is the chance of crookedness allegations and turning our republic upside down.
What I’m talking about specifically is the revelation that, in the 2016 presidential campaign, we had this American professor in England who was on the FBI payroll to the tune of more than $1 million over a period of time. Part of his job, it seems, was to query aides in the Donald Trump campaign.
He did not exactly announce his role. Rather, he would befriend them and cleverly try to find out whether, just maybe, they were colluding with the Russian government.
Was any of this legal or within the bounds of protocol? Some kinds of investigation possibly could be, after all. But this looks an awful lot like it wasn’t, and it was something that has never happened before as far as anyone knows.
If you’ve got an administration in the Democratic camp digging around in the campaign of someone in the Republican camp, or vice versa, you are pretty much imitating what totalitarian states do all the time and you are edging us in that direction. What we have here is something very scary. But wait. It gets scarier.
The remarkable Wall Street Journal columnist Kim Strassel started picking up and sharing tidbits about what had gone on, and then came stories from a variety of papers while Congress was trying desperately to find out more. The FBI said nothing doing. It told Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee to mind their own business, which they were doing, and so did some Democratic members, and the only thing wrong with that was everything.
We have a checks-and-balances system in this country. The idea is to keep any one agency or branch of government responsible, answerable and within the law for the sake of a living republic. One way this is achieved is in the oversight duties of Congress. The FBI had no right to say No, and its excuse was as flimsy as a feather in a hurricane. The agency said it could risk the life of the spy if his name were revealed. The thing is, his identity had been made perfectly clear in stories in the Times and elsewhere, and his name is now all over the internet.
President Trump then got involved, turning to an unsurprisingly klutzy tweet as his way of carrying out his duties and then being told his wishes for an investigation were tyrannical, or something like that. His critics are almost always worse than Trump is, which is no easy thing. Anyway, he ended up having a meeting with FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein and came to an agreement: Committee leaders would get to review classified material in a special meeting, and the Justice Department’s inspector general would look into everything, more or less a touch of what’s needed.
Look, we need the whole shebang to be made public. Of course, it could turn out that the spying was wholly legitimate, but the context is that there are so many people trying so vehemently to get rid of a duly elected president on grounds that are often highly suspicious.
Countering my nervous outlook is the Times, which, as one example, told us in a headline, “F.B.I. used informant to investigate Russia ties to campaign, not to spy, as Trump claims.” The way I see it, the Times is not editorializing in a straight news story, just putting forth an opinion.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service.
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