BARR BRINGS ACCOUNTABILITY

by Kimberley Strassel | April 12, 2019 11:38 am

The most inadvertently honest reaction to Attorney General William Barr’s congressional testimony this week came from former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Mr. Barr had bluntly called out the Federal Bureau of Investigation for “spying” on the Trump campaign in 2016. Mr. Clapper said that was both “stunning and scary.”

Indeed. Here’s what Trump’s foes have to be scared about

No doubt a lot of former Obama administration and Hillary Clinton campaign officials, opposition guns for hire, and media members are stunned and scared that the Justice Department finally has a leader willing to address the FBI’s behavior in 2016.

They all worked very hard to make sure such an accounting never happened. Only in that context can we understand the frantic new Democrat-media campaign to tar the attorney general.

Mr. Barr told the Senate Wednesday (4/10) that one question he wants answered is why nobody at the FBI briefed the Trump campaign about concerns that low-level aides might have had inappropriate contacts with Russians.

That’s “normally” what happens, Mr. Barr said, and the Trump campaign had two obvious people to brief—Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie, both former federal prosecutors.

It wasn’t only the Trump campaign that the FBI kept in the dark.

The bureau routinely briefs Congress on sensitive counterintelligence operations. Yet former Director James Comey admits he deliberately hid his work from both the House and the Senate.

And the FBI kept information from yet another overseer, the judicial branch, failing to tell the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee had paid for the dossier it presented as a basis for a surveillance warrant against Carter Page, a U.S. citizen.

Why the secrecy?

Mr. Comey testified that the Trump probe was simply too sensitive for members of congressional intelligence committees to know about—an unbelievable statement given the heavy publicity he gave the investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s improper handling of classified information.

Here’s a more plausible explanation: Mr. Comey and his crew have also testified that they were all convinced Mrs. Clinton would win the election.

That would have meant that no politician other than the incoming Democrat president would have known the FBI had spied on the Trump team. Nor would the public. A Clinton presidency would have ensured no accountability.

Mr. Trump’s victory destroyed that scenario, and it became clear that the new Republican president would soon know that the former Democratic administration had surveilled his campaign on the basis of information from his rival.

At that point two things happened. Neither was accidental, and both were aimed, again, at forestalling accountability.

First, Mr. Comey and other intelligence officials, including Mr. Clapper, engineered the public release of all the scandalous claims against Mr. Trump, to provide some cover.

As liberal commentator Matt Taibbi notes in his new book, “Hate Inc.”, Mr. Comey’s Jan. 6, 2017, briefing of the president-elect about the dossier was a classic Washington “trick.”

It served as the “pretext” to get the details out, a “news hook” to allow the press to publish the dossier—with its salacious fictions about prostitutes and Moscow hotel rooms—and go wild.

Democrats used the furor in their successful push for a special counsel, which gave greater legitimacy to the FBI’s probe. The appointment of a special counsel also froze other oversight.

Congress can’t have access to certain documents or ask witnesses certain questions, since that might interfere with the probe. The White House can’t demand answers, because that too would interfere.

Mr. Trump’s adversaries got to hide behind Robert Mueller for nearly two years.

Second, Democrats mobilized against the other big threat, incoming Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had the authority to conduct an internal review.

Don’t forget, the dossier wasn’t delivered only to the FBI. Its ultimate owners were the Clinton campaign and the DNC. And one huge outstanding question is just how many Democrats pushing for Mr. Sessions’ recusal in early 2017 did so with full knowledge of the FBI-Clinton tie-up.

Certainly no Republicans were aware, and thus they were clueless to the bigger consequences of the unnecessary Sessions recusal.

Namely, that no outsider would take a hard look at the FBI. The Russia question fell to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, an institutionalist who would go on to sign the final application for a surveillance warrant against Mr. Page. Again, no accountability.

Meantime, wonder why Democrats tried so hard to mau-mau Mr. Barr into also recusing himself? The goal all along has been to deep-six any discovery until a Democrat returns to the White House.

Mr. Barr didn’t merely refuse to recuse; he’s made clear he plans to plumb the FBI’s actions thoroughly. That makes him Threat No. 1 to everyone who participated in these abuses, and it’s why the liberal media establishment is now disparaging his integrity.

They are stunned and scared—that accountability has returned to the Justice Department.

Kimberley Strassel is a member of the editorial board for The Wall Street Journal.  This essay appeared in today’s edition, April 12.

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