Will this be the week? With bated breath, we wait to find out whether we’ve reached the moment, after the Labor Day end of summer, just as the critical midterm races heat up, when President Trump will follow through on his threat to declassify and publicize key FISA-gate documents — in particular, the redacted portions of the Carter Page surveillance-warrant applications.
I hope the president follows through, at least to the extent he can do so without putting intelligence methods and sources at risk. Accountability is essential here.
The FBI and the Obama Justice Department launched an investigation of the Democrats’ political adversaries, and they used Clinton-campaign-generated, foreign-provided innuendo to do it. They strained to make a case on Donald Trump even as they were burying a daunting criminal case on Mrs. Clinton. As I have previously explained, moreover, the president was misled about his status: not only was he a suspect in the investigation, he was the main suspect.
The main suspect in an investigation with no crime.
Before we unwind that, let’s dispense with the tired claim that the Obama administration did not really spy on Trump and his campaign. Every one of the four FISA warrant applications, after describing Russia’s cyberespionage attack on the 2016 election, makes the following assertion (after two redacted lines):
the FBI believes that the Russian Government’s efforts to influence the 2016 election were being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with Candidate #1’s campaign.
“Candidate #1” is Trump. See, the upper hierarchies of the FBI and the Justice Department believed the Steele dossier — or at least they said they did. The operating assumption of the Obama administration in the months before the 2016 election was that the Trump campaign was complicit in the Kremlin’s hacking conspiracy. Otherwise, the FBI would not have made this representation to the FISA court four times, including twice after President Trump was already in office.
Did they say this because they believed it was true? Because they wanted to believe it was true? Because they had misplaced confidence in Christopher Steele, the former British spy who shared their anti-Trump contempt? Probably a bit of all those things. But the point is: You must always bear in mind that the incumbent leadership of the intelligence community had convinced itself that the Trump campaign was in cahoots with the Kremlin. Based on that belief, the FBI and Obama’s DOJ took bold risks because they’d further convinced themselves that there was no risk at all: Everything was in the black box of classified intelligence and, besides, Hillary was a shoo-in to win. No one would ever be any the wiser.