President Donald Trump’s political enemies have a very strange take on the concept of transparency in government. They were outraged when parts of the special counsel report were redacted – even though the redacted portions amounted to less than 3% of the entire body of the text. They demanded to see not only the redacted portions but the entire compilation of underlying documents gathered by Robert Mueller’s team during the course of the 22-month investigation.
There is a simple reason for these demands: Trump’s opponents believe that exposing this information will damage the president and provide justification for their continued accusations and endless investigations. None of this has anything to do with transparency. If transparency were their concern, they would support Attorney General William Barr’s decision to investigate the origins of the Russian collusion conspiracy theory and the FBI counterintelligence operation that followed.
Instead, Democrats are furious with the president for issuing a memorandum ordering several government departments to give the attorney general their full and speedy cooperation. More importantly, that same memorandum conferred upon the AG the full authority to declassify any documents and materials pertinent to the origins of the FBI’s investigation into alleged collusion between the president’s campaign and Russian officials.
Transparency Is Never a Problem for the Innocent
Transparency is something of an absolute: Why is it that the same people who cried out for the release of the full and unredacted Mueller report – along with all the materials gathered in the special counsel investigation – are so opposed to the release of the materials that document the origins of the investigation targeting the Trump campaign?
Are the American people entitled to see everything the FBI and Mueller used against the president but not entitled to see the exculpatory evidence or documents and communications that may cast doubt upon the credibility of the Russia investigation?
Furthermore, if the AG is to investigate the origins of the FBI’s operation thoroughly, is it not possible that he will discover facts that justified the operation and vindicates those officials who began it? If that is a real possibility, then none of the president’s detractors should have any objection to the task Barr has undertaken. On the contrary; the Justice Department’s final conclusions could dispel the president’s own claims that the FBI had embarked upon a “witch hunt.”
Yet, Democrats are all but apoplectic that Barr is looking into the FBI’s handling of the Russia affair. They are joined in their indignation by some of the characters who well may be at the very center of the conspiracy against Trump’s 2016 campaign; former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
Adam Schiff’s Revealing Tweet
Following the news of Trump’s memorandum, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) took to Twitter with a statement that is well worth unpacking, as it exposes the real fears of those who constructed and perpetuated the Russia collusion hoax:
“While Trump stonewalls the public from learning the truth about his obstruction of justice, Trump and Barr conspire to weaponize law enforcement and classified information against their political enemies. The coverup has entered a new and dangerous phase. This is un-American.”
It is entirely unclear how the president is stonewalling the public from “learning the truth” about his alleged obstruction of justice. The entire second volume of Mueller’s report, with very few redactions, described no less than ten instances where the president’s words or actions could be construed as intentional obstruction of justice. It is worth noting that none of these ten examples were sufficiently incriminating to lead Mueller to recommend an obstruction charge against Trump.
Weaponizing law enforcement and classified information appears to be exactly what the Obama administration did in 2016 and what the senior echelon of the FBI continued to do until the special counsel was appointed. Former FBI Director James Comey himself admitted to leaking classified information to the media – through a surrogate – in order to trigger the appointment of a special counsel. His actions at that time are perfectly described in Schiff’s inartful tweet.
Most tellingly, Schiff accuses Trump and Barr of conspiring “against their political enemies.” This speaks volumes about the very nature of the original Russia investigation. It is worth remembering that Barr’s probe of the events surrounding the birth of that investigation does not specifically target politicians. Barr’s objective is to determine whether there was adequate legal predication for the FBI’s surveillance of Trump campaign associates, for the Bureau’s use of undercover informants to monitor those associates, and for the obtaining of at least one – and possibly as many as four – FISA warrants to legitimize that surveillance.
Barr has never directly suggested that his investigation will focus on the political establishment but rather on government officials who may, or may not, have acted improperly. Schiff himself, along with Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, has always insisted that the FBI operation had no political origins. The congressman’s use of the term “political enemies,” then, could be a subconscious admission that the people behind the Russian collusion story were indeed Trump’s political enemies.
Bizarre Objections to Declassification
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, also criticized the president for giving “sweeping declassification powers to an attorney general who has already shown that he has no problem selectively releasing information in order to mislead the American people.” The senator is being selective with the truth here, though. Barr was under no legal obligation to release the Mueller report, yet he expedited its release with only those redactions required by law and by long-standing DOJ policy.
The redactions were not at all politically selective; they consisted of grand jury testimony, information that would compromise ongoing investigations, and information that would identify individuals not charged with any crimes: All very standard redactions for DOJ documents made public.
Clapper and Brennan also appear to be tying themselves in knots, going after the president and the attorney general. “[I]t’s unclear to me what Mr. Barr is actually going to do,” the former CIA chief said recently on MSNBC. “Is he investigating a crime? Well, what’s the predication of that crime?”
A Freudian slip, perhaps, on Brennan’s part. Was the FBI investigating a crime? No, it was not. When the operation codenamed “Crossfire Hurricane” was set in motion, it was predicated – according to FBI officials – on one comment made by former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, concerning Hillary Clinton’s infamous missing emails. There was no evidence that a crime of any kind had been committed.
Technically, Crossfire Hurricane was a counterintelligence operation and not an investigation. It did not, therefore, need to be predicated on an actual crime. Be that as it may, the operation was always portrayed, by Democrats and their media minions, as an investigation, implying that Trump and his campaign associates had been engaged in criminal activity. Moreover – investigation or not – it was a highly sensitive and politically explosive law enforcement operation grounded in little more than pure speculation and more than a little unverified disinformation.
Barr’s investigation has far more credibility. There is, quite simply, a mountain of evidence to suggest that the FBI surveillance of the Trump campaign was based almost entirely on political opposition research and that it was set up and conducted by a cabal of FBI, DOJ, and possibly CIA officials who shared a common cause: preventing Trump from becoming president and undermining his presidency if he did. Additionally, there is compelling evidence that the FBI misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court when it applied for a warrant, or warrants, to spy on one or more Trump associates.
Warner, Brennan, and Clapper all seem to be concerned that the attorney general will cherry-pick the information he decides to declassify – releasing material that calls into question the FBI’s motives and conduct while holding back material that clears the Bureau of impropriety.
On its face, the implication is both ridiculous and insulting. Were Barr to play such a game and be exposed – any time now or in the future – his reputation, his integrity, and quite possibly his very freedom would be forfeit. He could not possibly take such a risk even if he were the kind of man who would consider it. Moreover, there is no compromising information for the AG to uncover if the FBI’s Russia investigation was airtight and conducted within the law.
Schiff, Warner, Brennan, and Clapper are deeply concerned that Barr is going to expose the Russia collusion story for what it was: a hoax and, far worse, a fabricated scandal that turned into a seditious conspiracy to bring down a sitting U.S. president.
Brennan and Clapper, of course, do not like the idea of transparency, by virtue of their careers in the intelligence community. Schiff and Warner have weaponized the entire concept of transparency. They want the American people to see only the information they believe undermines the president. They fear what will become of their own reputations – and their party – if the American people learn how that information was obtained or manufactured and how it was used for political ends.
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