Since Trump took office, of course.
Was there ever a time when Americans had unquestioning faith in federal law-enforcement agencies? Maybe in the days before Vietnam and Watergate, most citizens did believe that those in charge of the nation’s fate could be trusted. Before World War II, the FBI’s formidable public-relations machine actually produced a popular radio and television program lauding its efforts “in peace and war.” After the war, when the CIA became the country’s first full-time foreign-intelligence agency, few Americans understood much about what it was doing, and what little they did know was colored by the government’s propaganda efforts.
But ever since the upheaval of the late 1960s and early 1970s seemed to make cynicism about government our new national pastime, the notion that the intelligence community is above politics has been as outdated as the adulation once accorded to J. Edgar Hoover. It’s in that context that we should understand the recent debate about whether it’s appropriate to scrutinize the CIA and FBI’s role in the origins of the Russia probe. Though Democrats are now treating criticism of federal law enforcement as beyond the pale, their newfound faith is every bit as partisan as Republicans’ newfound skepticism. A sober look at the history of the past few decades reveals that, to paraphrase Clausewitz, in Washington, intelligence has always been a matter of politics by other means.
Attorney General William Barr’s decision to launch an investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation has caused some predicable anger among Democrats and other Trump-administration critics. This discomfort stems from what they regard as an attempt to flip the narrative from Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia to a dubious decision by the FBI to begin spying on the political opponents of Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration.
Given the failure of the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller to prove the collusion allegations, Barr’s attempt to determine whether the unprecedented probe of a presidential campaign was an abuse of power seems reasonable. But Barr’s decision is a huge problem for Democrats who are hoping to pursue the impeachment of Trump by picking up the case that Mueller failed to make after two years of effort.
So we saw CNN crime-and-justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz this week telling host Don Lemon that it is “troubling” that the Department of Justice is questioning the work of CIA agents. “You don’t do this,” Prokupecz said. “The CIA kind of operates in their own world.” Indeed the CIA does, but that never stopped Democrats or the press from going all out to probe its activities as long as said activities were perceived to further their opponents’ political agenda.
Prokupecz and the House Democrats who are rushing to the barricades to defend the actions of former CIA director John Brennan at the beginning of the Mueller probe are acting as if the agency’s reputation has never before been called into question. Some of them may be too young to have experienced the political ferment of the 1970s and’80s, in which congressional committees led by Democrats such as Frank Church and Otis Pike conducted far-reaching investigations that embarrassed the intelligence establishment. But surely they have some memory of the debates about intelligence after the 9/11 attacks and the heated run-up to George W. Bush’s Iraq War. The only difference between those episodes and this one is that the political parties have switched sides.
In the past, it was Republicans defending the FBI and the CIA against Democrats’ charges that these agencies were out of control. But since the summer of 2016, when the intelligence establishment seemed to join forces to raise alarms about Russian meddling in the presidential election and, more important, to raise concerns about untrue allegations of Trump-campaign collusion in that meddling, Democrats have acted as if Langley and Quantico are beyond reproach.
Once Trump started criticizing the intelligence agencies’ consensus about Russians’ election interference, and then after it became known that the FBI and CIA had begun probing his campaign in the summer of 2016, Democrats became unstinting in their defense of the agencies. By contrast, Republicans who had been stalwart CIA and FBI defenders suddenly became bitter critics, demanding transparency and sometimes floating the same sort of conspiracy theories about the intelligence community’s activities that used to be the province of the Left.
Sensible people of either party will always seek to mix deference to the intelligence community’s mission, which often requires a fair degree of secrecy, with an understanding that all government officials and agencies must be kept on a tight leash lest they abuse the awesome power vested in them.
To those who have followed past controversies involving the FBI and CIA, it should seem entirely plausible that some federal law-enforcement agents could let their distaste for Trump get the better of them. That Democrats no longer care and Republicans suddenly do testifies to the fact that in Washington, most things always boil down to politics.
Twelve conservative leaders, including former Attorney General Ed Meese, CHQ Editor George Rasley, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, former Ohio Representative Bob McEwen and Tea Party Patriots Action Honorary Chairman Jenny Beth Martin are in favor of Congress passing the MERIT Act during the lame duck session.
The group, led by Americans for Limited Government, issued the following statement urging the GOP not to Drain the swampwaste their final weeks in the majority:
“The December spending bill is the last chance for the 115th Congress to do something to limit the size and scope of government. After disappointing decisions to significantly increase government spending levels over the past two years, it is imperative that Congress pass language which expedites the prompt and appropriate firing of federal employees who are either incompetent or don’t perform their assigned duties. Continue reading
By Elizabeth Harrington • Washington Free Beacon
The special counsel investigation into the 2016 election has cost taxpayers over $25 million and counting.
Robert Mueller’s office released its latest expenditures spanning from April 1, 2018, through Sept. 30, 2018, finding the special counsel racked up over $8.4 million in five months.
The statement of expenditures reveals Mueller and his team of lawyers cost over $4.5 million for salaries and rent, and an additional $3.9 million in resources from the Department of Justice.
Personnel compensation and benefits cost taxpayers $2,886,270, including $1 million for special counsel office employees, and $1.9 million for Department of Justice employees who have been detailed to the investigation. Continue reading
by Bradley A. Smith • National Review
Donald Trump’s wayward counsel, Michael Cohen, was sentenced today as part of a plea bargain with the government. As part of that settlement, Cohen has admitted to criminal violations of federal campaign-finance law and has implicated President Trump in those violations. The press is ablaze with headlines trumpeting the president’s possible involvement in two felony campaign-finance violations. The source of these violations are Mr. Cohen’s arranging — allegedly at Trump’s direction — hush-money payments to women alleging long-ago affairs with the 2016 presidential candidate.
The Federal Election Campaign Act holds that an “expenditure” is any “purchase, payment, loan, advance, deposit or gift of money, or anything of value, for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office.” According to Cohen and the U.S. Attorney, the hush-money payments were, it appears, made in the hopes of preventing information from becoming public before the election, and hence were “for the purpose of influencing” the election. This means that, at a minimum, they had to be reported to the Federal Election Commission; further, if they were authorized by Mr. Trump, they would become, in the law’s parlance, “coordinated expenditures,” subject to limits on the amounts that could be spent. Since the lawful contribution limit is much lower than the payments made, and the payments were not reported, this looks like an open and shut case, right? Continue reading
By Senator Ben Sasse (NE) • Wall Street Journal
Brett Kavanaugh has been accused of hating women, hating children, hating clean air, wanting dirty water. He’s been declared an existential threat to the nation. Alumni of Yale Law School, incensed that faculty members at his alma mater praised his selection, wrote a public letter to the school saying: “People will die if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed.”
It’s predictable now that every Supreme Court confirmation hearing will be a politicized circus. This is because Americans have accepted a bad new theory about how the three branches of government should work—and in particular about how the judiciary operates. Continue reading
by John-Michael Seibler • The Daily Signal
For four years, Carl and Janice Duffner of St. Peters, Missouri, have been fighting the city’s enforcement of a mandate to grow turf grass in their yard despite Janice Duffner’s grass pollen allergy.
Now facing potential cumulative penalties of more than 20 years in prison and $180,000 in fines, the Duffners’ case is pending before the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where they are arguing that the mandate to cover half of their lawn in allergens violates their state and federal constitutional rights.
Whatever comes of those claims, the city’s enforcement action may violate Duffner’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Congress barred state and local government entities from discriminating against individuals with certain disabilities through any services and activities, including the enforcement of an ordinance.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, the law “protects people with asthma and allergies even if reactions or attacks happen only when triggered. The Americans With Disabilities Act can help to create an environment where patients can avoid their triggers.” Fortunately for the Duffners, that extends to the place where people most want and expect to escape their “triggers”—in their own home. Continue reading
By Margot Cleveland • The Federalist
The media has focused almost exclusively on the conclusion of the Justice Department inspector general’s report on the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email probe, which found bias did not impact the probe, as well as the lack of any newly announced indictments or criminal referrals. The goal of course being to downplay the negative findings of the report.
At the same time, the press gave, at most, passing mention to the statement Attorney General Jeff Sessions simultaneously released. But his statement and the findings of the report make one thing clear: This isn’t over.
Here’s why. Throughout the 568-page report, the IG highlighted several areas meriting additional investigation. And Sessions said the report “reveals a number of significant errors by the senior leadership of the Department of Justice and the FBI during the previous administration,” and stressed “this is not the end of the process.” Continue reading
By Adam Kredo • Washington Free Beacon
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is calling on America to “make guns illegal” in light of deadly shootings that have taken place across the United States, according to comments made by the Iranian leader over the week.
Khamenei, who has instructed his government to spend billions of dollars on military hardware and ballistic missiles, lashed out at the United States over the weekend, calling on America to ban all guns in light of a series of domestic shootings.
“No one dares apply the clear solution to the promotion of guns and homicide in America. What’s the solution? It’s to make guns illegal,” Khamenei wrote on Twitter. Continue reading
By Tammy Bruce • Fox News
A new audit about a Pentagon agency losing hundreds of millions of dollars is reported by Politico as an “exclusive.” While that’s technically correct, a government agency losing or wasting or misplacing millions, billions and even trillions of dollars (this is not hyperbole, folks) is nothing new.
Politico’s report is a reminder of what bloated, unaccountable government gets you.
“Ernst & Young found that the Defense Logistics Agency failed to properly document more than $800 million in construction projects, just one of a series of examples where it lacks a paper trail for millions of dollars in property and equipment,” Politico reported. “Across the board, its financial management is so weak that its leaders and oversight bodies have no reliable way to track the huge sums it’s responsible for, the firm warned in its initial audit of the massive Pentagon purchasing agent.”
The report describes the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) as the “Walmart” of the military, an entity with 25,000 employees who provide “everything from poultry to pharmaceuticals, precious metals and aircraft parts.”
By James Robbins • USA Today
The American people are being forced to confront a fundamental political question that was first asked centuries ago by the Roman satirist Juvenal: Who shall guard the guardians? What to do when the tools meant to protect the people are used to harm them? The memo released Friday by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is the first step in answering that question.
The memo’s central indictment is that top Obama administration officials knowingly and willfully used unverified information paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign, some of which came from Russian intelligence, in a secret court document to justify a counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election. This corrupt process was later the basis for a campaign to sabotage the incoming Trump administration and to fuel a witch hunt against the president.
According to the memo, high-ranking FBI officials repeatedly sought, received and renewed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants to engage in surveillance of members of the Trump campaign during the election. These officials, including then-Director James Comey and recently removed Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, justified the warrant requests before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) in part with information generated by Christopher Steele, who was working on behalf of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the firm Fusion GPS. Steele’s main contact at the Justice Department was Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, whose wife was also employed by Fusion GPS as a Russia expert working on anti-Trump opposition research.
By John Daniel Davidson • The Federalist
The memo is out, and it’s bad. It shows, unequivocally, that the Federal Bureau of Investigation used political opposition research paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign to get a secret court warrant to spy on a Trump campaign member.
It also shows that the FBI omitted vital information in its warrant request to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. Namely, the FBI kept asking for warrant renewals (FISA wiretapping permission expires after 90 days) without telling the court the FBI itself had dismissed Christopher Steele, who generated the opposition research, for lying to the FBI and leaking his relationship with the agency to the press. Both are not only unethical but likely illegal.
It also shows that Steele was utterly biased, that he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” We know that because Steele admitted it to Bruce Ohr, then a senior DOJ official, whose wife was working for Fusion GPS, the firm the DNC and the Clinton campaign hired to produce the Steele dossier.
The memo reveals a lot of outrageous stuff. Everyone should read it (it’s only four pages, go read it). But the most important and shocking thing the memo shows is how utterly politicized the Justice Continue reading
By Judge Andrew Napolitano • Fox News
I have argued for a few weeks now that House Intelligence Committee members have committed misconduct in office by concealing evidence of spying abuses by the National Security Agency and the FBI. They did this by sitting on a four-page memo that summarizes the abuse of raw intelligence data while Congress was debating a massive expansion of FISA.
FISA is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which was written to enable the federal government to spy on foreign agents here and abroad. Using absurd and paranoid logic, the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which only hears the government’s lawyers, has morphed “foreign intelligence surveillance” into undifferentiated bulk surveillance of all Americans.
Undifferentiated bulk surveillance is the governmental acquisition of fiber-optic data stored and transmitted by nearly everyone in America. This includes all telephone conversations, text messages and emails, as well as all medical, legal and financial records.
Ignorant of the hot potato on which the House Intelligence Committee had been sitting, Congress recently passed and President Donald Trump signed a vast expansion of spying authorities — Continue reading
By Ben Marquis • Conservative Tribune
Some of our readers may recall the massive scandal in 2001 surrounding the bankruptcy of the Enron Corporation, an energy company based in Texas.
Investors lost an estimated $63 billion when investigators discovered that Enron officials and auditors at the Arthur Anderson accounting firm had knowingly and unethically used loopholes in the law and various accounting tricks to hide billions that had been lost in bad deals and debt from shareholders.
Several people ultimately went to jail, and the liberal media used the scandal to excoriate capitalism in general and energy companies in particular. Continue reading
By David Harsanyi • The Federalist
On March 22, Rep. Devin Nunes made his ham-fisted disclosure that the Obama administration had conducted incidental surveillance collection and unmasking of Trump administration officials. It was a revelation that ignited widespread criticism from nearly every corner of Washington.
“I have seen intelligence reports that clearly show that the president-elect and his team were, I guess, at least monitored,” the House intelligence chairman said at the time. “It looks to me like it was all legally collected, but it was essentially a lot of information on the president-elect and his transition team and what they were doing.” Nunes went on to claim that the information was spread across a number of agencies and had “little or no apparent intelligence value.”
Perhaps Nunes’ reasons were partisan. Perhaps his framing was exaggerated. We’ll see. But if CNN’s reporting is correct, everything Nunes claimed that day was basically true. Which is a lot more than we can say for others. Continue reading