Democrats and their many media allies already have exonerated the Obama administration’s spying on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Not long ago, however, Democrats and the press were more than happy to defend a presidential candidate’s right to keep private his talks with Russian officials.
The year was 1992 and the candidate in question was Democrat Bill Clinton. At the time, Russia and the United States were still thawing out from the Cold War that had ended two years earlier.
In sum: The Bush campaign tried to make an issue out of candidate Clinton’s travels to the Soviet Union in 1969; while there, Clinton had protested the Vietnam War on foreign soil (London). There were also unfounded rumors that Clinton had contemplated renouncing his citizenship to avoid being drafted into the military.
But Republicans weren’t the only ones. Some members of the press also asked questions of the 1969 trip and filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests of the State Department looking for documents in Clinton’s passport records.
Government officials opened Clinton’s passport records in search of evidence that he might have been viewed as a security risk.
The meddling into Clinton’s ties to Russia was not well received. The media turned sour on the whole thing. The result was one familiar in today’s headlines and copy — an independent investigation.
The conclusion: There was no criminal actions. But the process took three years.
By the time they were exonerated, some of the State Department employees either had been fired or demoted. Indeed, at the investigation’s end, the independent prosecutor called it “a Kafkaesque journey for a group of innocent Americans.” (From The New York Times, Dec. 1, 1995.)
At best it was a ham-handed attempt at political skullduggery. At worst it was a bait-and-switch that presaged many more machinations between the Clintons and their pliable, agenda-driven media allies.
But the not-guilty verdict hardly placated the media hordes.
The New York Times wrote in its editions of Dec. 1, 1995:
“Officials at the State Department expedited inquiries into the passport files based on the news organizations’ requests and examined several Clinton files looking for the renunciation letter, reporting their progress to political aides at the White House. Soon State Department officials were thrown on the defensive as news reports raised questions about the propriety of the search.”
The coverage at the start of the so-called incident was even more feckless.
Newsweek magazine in its edition of Oct. 18, 1992, accused State Department officials of a “dirty trick” with “criminal” implications. (The article can be found here.)
On Dec. 22, 1992, The Washington Post called those involved “bad apples” who had “tried to use the department’s records and staff to improperly influence the presidential election.”
And on Dec. 2, 1995, one day after the not guilty verdict, The Times weighed in again. It called the State Department searches “a clear inclination within the Bush team to see if government records could be used to damage the opposing candidate.” (Article is here.)
These are strong words from the very same media outlets now defending the use of the FBI, CIA, and FISA Court to investigate the Trump campaign.
But the instigators among the media aren’t the only familiar names from 1992 and today. Also involved: An inspector general and a California Democrat heavy on conspiracy theories and light on evidence.
In 1992, the State Department’s Inspector General launched an investigation into those who tried to fulfill the request into Clinton’s passport and ties to Russia. He concluded months later there was no criminal wrongdoing.
And in the role of today’s conspiracy peddling Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)…was then-Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA).
Under the NYT headline “Political Motive Cited in Scrutiny of Passport Files,” Berman in 1992 accused the Bush Administration of turning the state department into “an opposition research arm of the Republican National Committee.” (Entire article is here.)
One stark difference from 1992 and today is the GOP response. No one from the Bush administration said they were doing Clinton a favor, nor that Clinton should be glad that they were making sure he wasn’t a Soviet mole or that it was for his own good.
Those familiar refrains are owned by today’s press and Democrats.
These days, Democrats and their media allies tell us now that their interest in the Trump Campaign was based solely on national security. Obama Director of Central Intelligence, James Clapper, for example said that President Trump should be “happy” that the FBI was “spying” on him and his campaign.
The Washington Post suggests the surveillance didn’t go far enough. “The real question isn’t why the FBI apparently tried to obtain intelligence from within Trump’s campaign, though — it’s why the bureau didn’t do so more aggressively and directly.” (The Washington Post, May 18, 2018, article is here.)
In the 1992 incident, The New York Times lectured “no one should think that they provided sound examples of how government employees should behave in a campaign.” (NYT, Dec. 2, 1995.)
In short, expediting a FOIA request became a potential criminal act for Democrats at that time. Now Democrats define using the FBI, Department of Justice and the CIA to infiltrate the opposition party and leak damaging, unverified innuendo is considered doing Donald Trump a favor.
They might as well borrow a line credited infamously to former President Bill Clinton: They could tell President Trump, “Better put some ice on that”.
Scott Wheeler is a former investigative journalist and the founder and executive director of the National Republican Trust PAC.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.