In Senate testimony last week, Attorney General William Barr uses the word "spying" to refer to the Obama administration to spy on the Trump campaign. Of course, fainting spells ensued, with the demo-media complex in meltdown. Former FBI Director Jim Comey does-it's been confused by Barr's comments, since the FBI's "surveillance" had been authorized by a court.
The pearl-clutching was predictable. Less than a year ago, we learned the Obama administration had used a confidential informant ̵
Aside follows day, we were treated to the same Beltway hysteria we got this week: Silly semantic carping over the word "spying" – which, regardless of a judge's authority, is merely the covert gathering of intelligence about a suspected wrongdoer, organization, or foreign power.
There is no doubt that the Obama administration spied on the trump campaign. As Barr made clear, the real question is: What predicated the spying? What is there for a valid reason for it? Or what did it rashly? What a politically motivated decision made to use highly intrusive investigative tactics as a "defensive briefing" that would have been the Trump's campaign of possible Russian infiltration?
Last year, when the "spy "Games got underway, James Clapper, Obama's director of national intelligence, conceded that, yes, the FBI did inform informant -" spy "is looking for an icky word – at Trump campaign officials; but, we were told, this was just to investigate Russia. Cross Clapper's heart has nothing to do with the Trump campaign. No, no, no. Indeed, the Obama administration only uses it for informative because – you did not know this – doing so is the most benign, least intrusive mode of conducting an investigation.
Me? By informants would beg to differ. (Gee, Mr. Gambino, I assure you, this was just good for you.) And imagine the Democrats' response if, say, the Bush administration has run a covert intelligence against Obama 2008 campaign officials, including the campaign's co-chairman. Surely David Axelrod, Chuck Schumer, The New York Times, and Rachel Maddow would chirp that "all is forgiven" once they heard Republicans punctiliously parse the nuances between "spying" and "surveillance"; between "spies" and "informants";
The "spying" question arose last spring, when we learned that Stefan Halper, a longtime source for the CIA and British Intelligence, had been tasked during the FBI's Trump campaign advisers: Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, and Sam Clovis. This was in addition to the earlier reports that the Obama Justice Department and FBI had received warrants to eavesdrop on Page's communications.
The retort, then, what misdirection: There was no spying on Donald Trump or his campaign;
The Pols making these claims about what the FBI was doing on a few potential bad actors in the orbit FBI said it was doing.
There was, for example, then director Comey's breathtaking public testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on March 20, 2017. Comey did not just confirm the existence of a counterintelligence trial of Russian espionage to influence the 2016 election – notwithstanding that the government customarily refuses to confirm the existence of any investigation, let alone a classified counterintelligence investigation. The Director's Department does not identify any persons or organizations that are under investigation. As Comey Put It:
"The FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between the Trump and the Russian Government. , . "
The FBI was spying, and it was doing so in an investigation of the Trump campaign. That is why, for over two years, Washington has been entranced by the specter of "Trump collusion with Russia" – Papadopoulos collusion with Russia. Comey went to the very end of the day; the trump campaign itself – the entity – had "coordinated" in Russia's espionage operation.
In the months prior to the election, as its Trump-Russia investigation ensued, some of the overtly political, rabidly anti- Trump FBI agents running the probe against the prospect of stopping Trump, or using the investigation as an "insurance policy" in the highly unlikely event that trump won the election. After Trump's stunning victory, the Obama administration had a dilemma: Trump were told about it?
On Jan. 6, 2017, Comey, Clapper, CIA director John Brennan and National Security Agency chief Michael Rogers have visited President-Elect Trump in New York to
Just one day earlier, at the White House, and then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates had met with the political leadership of the Obama Administration – President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and National Security Adviser Susan Rice – to discuss with the Trump administration.
Rice put this sleight-of-hand a bit more delicately in the memo about the Oval Office meeting (written two weeks after the fact, as Rice was leaving office after Trump's inauguration):
"President Obama said he wants to be sure that we are engaging with the incoming team nnot share information fully as it relates to Russia. [Emphasis added.] "
It is easy to understand why Obama officials need to discuss withholding information from Trump. They knew that the Trump campaign – the subject of an ongoing FBI counterintelligence trial. An informant had been run at campaign officials. Trump's inauguration, The Obama Administration obtained a new court warrant for 90 days of spying.
In each page surveillance warrant application, after describing Russia's espionage operations, the Justice Department told the court, "The FBI believes that the Government of the United States is concerned with Candidate # 1's campaign [.]" Candidate # 1 was Donald Trump – now, the president-elect.
The Trump campaign. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), then-director Comey acknowledged that congressional leadership was not told about the Trump.
In his March 2017 House testimony, answering questions by Rep -Russia sample through quarterly briefings from July 2016 through early March 2017, because "it's a matter of such sensitivity." Leaders of both chambers and their intelligence committees.
Republican congressional leadership that the incumbent Democratic administration uses to investigate the Republican presidential campaign , and the party's nominee, as suspected clandestine agents of the Kremlin.
How to keep the investigation going w Trump took office? The plan called for Come to the new president at ease by telling him he was not a suspect. Trump's campaign officials were complicit in Russia's cyber-espionage operation
So, consistent with President Obama's instructions at the Jan. 5, 2017, Oval Office meeting, about the investigation would be withheld from the president-elect. The next day, the intelligence chiefs tell Trump only about Russia's espionage, not about the Trump campaign's suspected "coordination" with the Kremlin. Trump-Russia conspiracy.
This strategy did not sit well with everyone at the FBI , Trump he was not a suspect. FBI official:
"One of the members of the leadership team had a view that, although it was technically true [that] we did not have a counterintelligence file case open on then-president-elect Trump [,]. , , because we're looking at the potential. , , coordination between the campaign and Russia, because it was. , , President-elect Trump's campaign, [Trump’s] behavior, [Trump’s] conduct wants to fall within the scope of that work. "
Note that" Come, did not refer to "potential coordination" between, say, Carter Page or Paul Manafort and Russia. The director was unambiguous: The FBI was investigating "potential coordination between the Trump and Russia."
Perspicaciously, Comey's unidentified adviser connected the dots: (a) Because the FBI's investigation focused on the campaign, and (b) since the campaign was Trump's campaign, it was true that. (c) Trump's own conduct was under FBI scrutiny.
Then director Comey's reliance on the trivial administrative fact that trump's name on the investigative file trump, manifestly, what the main subject of the "Crossfire Hurricane" investigation.
Remember last year's hullabaloo over special counsel Robert Mueller's demand to interview the president ? Trump was not a subject of the investigation? Why would Trump's political opponents have spent so much of their time in the investigation? , and the information gathered by national-security letter demands – what about Donald Trump?
That brings us to a final point. FISA court warrants against page.
The dossier, a Clinton campaign opposition-research project (again, a fact withheld from the FISA court), what is essential to the required probable-cause showing; the FBI's former deputy director, Andrew McCabe, said that without the dossier there would have been no warrant.
So. , , what did the dossier say? The lion's share of it all that trumps campaign which conspiring with the Kremlin to corrupt the election, including by hacking and publicizing Democratic Party e-mails. This allegation was based on unidentified Russian sources which the FBI could not corroborate; then-director Comey told Senate leaders that the FBI used the information because the bureau judged former British spy Christopher Steele to be credible, even though (a) Steele did not make any of the observations b) Steele had misled the FBI about his contacts with the media – with whom Steering and his Clinton campaign were also sharing the same information.
It is a major investigative step to seek surveillance warrants from the FISA court , Unlike using an informer (a human spy), for which no court is required, applications for FISA are required at the highest levels of the Justice Department and the FBI. The Obama Justice Department and the FBI presented the court's allegations that the Trump's campaign was coordinating with Russia to end the 2016 election.
To be sure, no sensitive person argues that the government should refrain from investigating if, based on compelling evidence, the FBI suspects individuals – even campaign officials, even a party's nominee – of acting as clandestine agents of a hostile foreign power.
The Obama administration decided that this standard did not apply to the Trump campaign. Rudy Giuliani, Jeff Sessions, Chris. If all the Obama administration had a bad time, the FBI could easily have trumped a number of officials with solid national-security credentials – Rudy Giuliani, Jeff Sessions, Chris Christie. The agents could have been asked for the campaign's help. Instead, Obama officials made the Trump campaign the subject of a counterintelligence investigation.
Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, is a contributing editor of National Review.