My New York Times headline this morning: “Trump Embraces Shadowy Plots, Eroding Trust..Theories from Fringes…Agencies Undermined By Claims of ‘Spygate” and ‘Deep State’
This is no better than, and no less than, actively perpetuating a Big Lie.
I won’t get into the murk of the Deep State for now. However, denying “Spygate” and claiming it is a “fringe” conspiracy theory is flagrantly dishonest, and a low even by the Times’ recent standards. The entire “Obama’s administration didn’t spy on the Trump campaign, like so many examples of political spin and denial, rests on Clintonesque rhetorical deceit” “It depends on what the meaning of spy is.” Really, New York Times? Really, CNN? Really, my furious, Trump-hating, echo-chamber bolstered Facebook friends? Really? That’s your argument?
Two definitely non-fringe, non-conspiracy theorist, non-Trump flacks clarified this issue for anyone who doesn’t want to be brainwashed by the Times and its chums, who are now especially desperate because they are covering for Obama, whose administration—scandal free, you know!—looks sleezier and more incompetent in the rear view mirror by the day.
Here is Michael Barone, a Republican pundit but no Trump fan:
“F.B.I. Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump Claims,” read the headline on a lengthy New York Times story May 18. “The Justice Department used a suspected informant to probe whether Trump campaign aides were making improper contacts with Russia in 2016,” read a story in the May 21 edition of the Wall Street Journal.
So much for those who dismissed charges of Obama administration infiltration of Donald Trump’s campaign as paranoid fantasy. Defenders of the Obama intelligence and law enforcement apparat have had to fall back on the argument that this infiltration was for Trump’s — and the nation’s — own good.
It’s an argument that evidently didn’t occur to Richard Nixon’s defenders when it became clear that Nixon operatives had burglarized and wiretapped the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in June 1972.
Until 2016, just about everyone agreed that it was a bad thing for government intelligence or law enforcement agencies to spy — er, use informants — on a political campaign, especially one of the opposition party. Liberals were especially suspicious of the FBI and the CIA. Nowadays they say that anyone questioning their good faith is unpatriotic.
The crime at the root of Watergate was an attempt at surveillance of the DNC after George McGovern seemed about to win the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, just as the government misconduct in Russiagate was an attempt at surveillance of the Republican Party’s national campaign after Trump clinched its nomination.
…Both the Watergate wiretap and the Obama appointees’ investigator/spy infiltration were initially inspired amid fears that the upstart opposition might win. The Watergate burglary was planned when Nixon’s re-election was far from assured. A May 1972 Harris Poll showed him with only 48 percent against McGovern. It was only after the Haiphong harbor bombing and Moscow summit in early June made clear that US involvement in Vietnam was ending that Nixon’s numbers surged — just before the June 17 burglary.
In March 2016, it was conventional wisdom that Trump couldn’t be elected president. But his surprising and persistent strength in the Republican primaries left some doubtful, including the FBI lovebirds who instant messaged their desire for an “insurance policy” against that dreaded eventuality.
Their unease may have owed something to their knowledge of how the Obama Justice Department and FBI had fixed the Hillary Clinton emails case. Clinton wasn’t indicted but was left with a disastrously low 32 percent of voters confident of her honesty and trustworthiness.
There are two obvious differences between Watergate and the Obama administration’s infiltration. The Watergate burglars were arrested in flagrante delicto, and their wiretaps never functioned. And neither the FBI nor the CIA fully cooperated with the post-election cover-up.
That’s quite a contrast with the Obama law enforcement and intelligence appointees’ promotion of Christopher Steele’s Clinton campaign-financed dodgy dossier and feeding the mainstream media’s insatiable hunger for Russia collusion stories.
Has an outgoing administration ever worked to delegitimize and dislodge its successor like this? We hear many complaints, some justified, about Donald Trump’s departure from standard political norms. But the greater and more dangerous departure from norms may be that of the Obama officials seeking to overturn the results of the 2016 election.
Come on…this is all made up! It didn’t happen! It’s a conspiracy theory from the fringes! The New York Times says so!
Here was prominent White House advisor David Plouffe’s tweet in June of 2016:
Nah, that’s a fake tweet, right? Nothing sinister like this was really being discussed in Obama’s scandal-free White House! It all a paranoid conspiracy theory!
Now here is Andrew McCarthy—a conservative, but apparently there are no liberal journalists with any integrity where Trump is involved–in his article, “The Obama Administration’s Hypocritical Pretext for Spying on the Trump Campaign.” McCarthy is hardly Alex Jones. He is a rigorous analyst who was previously assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. He led the 1995 terrorism prosecution against Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and eleven others ultimately convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He knows how to construct a damning case, and wrote in part:
As I argued in my weekend column, it is hard to imagine a more idle question than whether the Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign. Of course it did. If you want to argue the point, imagine what the professors, pundits, and pols would have said had the Bush administration run an informant against three Obama 2008 campaign officials, including the campaign co-chairman; any hair-splitting about whether that technically constituted “spying” would be met by ostracism from polite society.
I want to be clear: I am not offended by the word spy. If Halper’s mission was righteous, the Justice Department and FBI should be proud that he was a spy. And if, on behalf of Russia, Page conducted clandestine anti-American activities that constituted felony violations of American law, I would enthusiastically support labeling him a spy and prosecuting him to the full extent of the law. I’d want any official who knew about and supported such traitorous activities to be removed from office and prosecuted.
But there are two things to bear in mind.
The first is that while the law liberally permits criminal investigators and intelligence officers to use informants, there are situations in which spying is resisted. Among the most important are those involving our politics, particularly elections. We have an important norm in this country against political spying — a matter of tradition, of democratic institutions, of constitutional principles, and of modern history’s Watergate chapter. The incumbent administration must not use its awesome counterintelligence, counterespionage, and law-enforcement powers against its political opposition absent compelling evidence of egregious misconduct.
So far, apologists for the Trump-Russia investigation have posited only reasonable suspicions of Russia sympathies, harbored by a handful of Trump campaign figures and implied by some of Trump’s campaign rhetoric. Reasonable suspicions are not trifles, but neither are they in the same ballpark as egregious misconduct.
McCarthy then recounts the three decades long history, ” from perestroika through Putin, from George H. W. Bush’s “Chicken Kiev” speech through Barack Obama’s hot-mic promise of “more flexibility” on the Kremlin’s agenda of hamstringing America” of multiple the U.S. administrations regarding “the regime in Moscow through rose-colored glasses, as a democratically inclined, capitalism-friendly reformer and potential ally.”
He goes on..
In the 2012 campaign, when Mitt Romney portrayed Russia as our principal geopolitical foe, Obama and Democrats mocked him. In the 2016 campaign, Trump’s Russia rhetoric was an echo — in Trumpian bluntness — of the Democrats’ position. Alas, they had nominated the candidate most ill-suited to exploit the Putin appeasement flavor of the Trump bid.
Mrs. Clinton, we’ve observed, was neck-deep in the Obama administration’s Uranium One scandal. Recall the $145 million that poured into the Clinton Foundation; the half-million-dollar pay day a Kremlin-connected bank ponied up for a short Bill Clinton speech (about five times more than Russia paid for those 2016 ads on Facebook, and more than ten times what the Kremlin’s propaganda arm, RT, paid for a 2015 speech by eventual Trump campaign adviser Michael Flynn); the Clintons’ meetings in Russia with Putin and Medvedev while the U.S. government was mulling approval of Russia’s acquisition — through its energy giant, Rosatom — of one-fifth of America’s uranium stock (in addition to more copious uranium reserves in Kazakhstan); the Obama Justice Department’s refusal to bring a prosecutable felony case against Rosatom’s American affiliate (Tenam USA) while the Uranium One deal was under consideration; and the same Department’s quiet resolution of the case on a sweetheart plea years later, after Putin’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in Eastern Ukraine (despite Obama’s plea for flexibility) had left Obama’s “reset” policy in shambles….
We could go on. The point, however, is that after 30 years of embracing and empowering Moscow, it is not credible — particularly for an administration that was among the worst offenders — to say, “We had to use spies and FISA surveillance against the Trump campaign due to suspicion that Trump might embrace and empower Moscow.”
…If its concerns were based in good faith rather than political opportunism, it could have dispatched the FBI to interview Page (whom agents had interviewed several times since 2013, and apparently did interview in March 2016), and Manafort (who, along with his partner, Richard Gates, was speaking with the Justice Department in 2016 about their work for the Kremlin’s favored Ukrainian political party). It could have given responsible Trump campaign officials a defensive briefing to alert them about its concerns.
Instead, the Obama administration decided to use its counterintelligence powers to spy on the Trump campaign, using at least one covert informant, electronic monitoring of communications, and other intelligence-gathering tactics. It ignored the norm against deploying such tactics against political opponents, not based on evidence of a Trump-Russia criminal conspiracy, but on speculation about the Trump campaign’s Russia contacts and Russia sympathies. Speculation by a government, an administration, and a Democratic-party nominee with their own abysmal histories of Russia contacts and Russia sympathies.
Yet the New York Times suggests on its front page today that this is just a fringe conspiracy theory.
I am waiting for principled Trump opponents and Democrats to condemn the conduct McCarthy and Barone accurately describe, and to admit that this was, as Barone wrote, a dangerous breaching of democratic norms, and as McCarthy stated, conduct that would be universally condemned if attempted against a Democratic nominee.
I fear I will wait for a long, long time….