“I think spying did occur.”
That’s Attorney General William Barr’s bombshell assessment of allegations the government was conducting surveillance of the Trump campaign.
Democratic senators were taken aback by Barr’s testimony before the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. They asked him to clarify his statement. Barr didn’t backtrack. “The question is whether it was adequately predicated,” Barr said, adding, “I have an obligation to make sure that government power is not abused.”
Democrats desperately want to keep the media narrative on the Mueller report. By obsessing over when, how and how much of the testimony behind it will be released, Democrats are trying to divert attention from an issue of far greater significance.
“Congress is usually very concerned with intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies staying in their proper lane,” Barr stated matter-of-factly.
There are now serious questions about whether intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies were “staying in their proper lane.”
These are some of the questions Barr wants answers to:
Exactly how did the Russia hoax begin?
Who first claimed that the Trump campaign conspired with the Kremlin?
Who ordered confidential informants contact members of the Trump campaign?
Did Halper — or other informants — provide the FBI with the pretext for a counterintelligence investigation and the wiretapping of a presidential campaign?
What other Americans were targets of electronic surveillance? Sen. Lindsey Graham has asked, “of the 1,950 [electronic surveillance information] collections on American citizens, how many of them involved presidential candidates, members of Congress from either party and if these conversations were unmasked, who made the request?”
Did people in the Obama administration listen in to these conversations? Was there a politicizing of the intelligence gathering processes?
There are serious concerns that the Russia collusion investigation is the result of misconduct at the highest levels of the FBI and Department of Justice.
House Intelligence Committee ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is preparing to send eight criminal referrals to the Department of Justice concerning alleged misconduct from “Watergate wannabes” during the Trump-Russia investigation, including leaks of “highly classified material” and conspiracies to lie to Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court.
There’s the matter of confidential informant Stefan Halper, who contacted Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. Halper has a history of working with intelligence agencies and infiltrating presidential campaigns.
There’s the matter of the Steele dossier, the opposition research document of unverified information (and disinformation) from Russian intelligence sources.
The dossier was paid for by the Clinton campaign, laundered through Obama State Department officials who gave it a thin sheen of veracity, and forwarded to the FBI. The FBI used that dossier to obtain warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court to wiretap the Trump campaign.
There’s the matter of the FBI using its counter-intelligence division to leak derogatory information that falsely implicated President Trump in the Russia collusion story.
There’s the matter of the wiretapping of American citizens whose identities were publicly revealed.
The special counsel did not investigate any of this. But Barr will.
The attorney general brought up the surveillance of Martin Luther King and antiwar groups in the Vietnam war era. “The generation I grew up in, which is the Vietnam War period, people were all concerned about spying on anti-war people and so forth by the government,” he said.
The misconduct by high-level officials at the Department of Justice and the FBI alleged in the Russia hoax are right out of the dirty tricks playbook the FBI and intelligence agencies used in the 1960s and 70s.
To refresh the memory of amnesiac Democrats, that playbook can be found in the final Senate Intelligence Committee’s report, “Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, Book Two, Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans.”
What the committee wrote in 1976 is relevant today. “The Government has often undertaken the secret surveillance of citizens on the basis of their political beliefs … Investigations have been based upon vague standards whose breadth made excessive collection inevitable. Unsavory and vicious tactics have been employed” (page 5).
If we go down the list of “unsavory and vicious tactics” employed in the Russia hoax we find them detailed in the Senate report.
Informants infiltrating and framing enemies? Check.
“The most pervasive surveillance technique has been the informant … used against peaceful, law-abiding groups” (page 13). The pretext of looking for hostile foreign actors triggered investigations of Americans “engaged in lawful political activity [who] have been subjected to informant coverage and intelligence scrutiny.” (pages 175-176)
Compiling dossiers on enemies? Check.
Every president from FDR to Nixon used the FBI to dig up dirt on political enemies, including journalists (page 227), Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders.
Leak derogatory information to the media to manipulate public opinion and the political process? Check.
The FBI “affected the processes by which American citizens make decisions. … it distorted and exaggerated facts, made use of the mass media, and attacked [those] … it considered threats” (page 226).
As Barr told senators, congressional Democrats used to be concerned about abuses by our security agencies.
Now Democrats are guilty of perpetrating one of those abuses: “Intelligence investigations … continued for excessively long periods in efforts to prove negatives.” (pages 180 -182)
When the FBI found no evidence a key advisor to Martin Luther King was a communist sympathizer, “Using a theory of ‘guilty until proven innocent,’ FBI headquarters directed that the investigation continue.”
Having failed to find any evidence of collusion or obstruction, Congressional Democrats are more determined than ever to pursue open-ended investigations to prove a negative.
My suggestion to Democrats: While you’re waiting for Barr to deliver the Mueller report to you, read the Senate Select Committee’s report from 1976.
That will show you what you should be worried about.
Kimberly Guilfoyle (@KimGuilfoyle) is vice chairwoman of America First Policies, a nonprofit organization supporting key policy initiatives that will work for all citizens in our country and put America first.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.