April 12, 2019

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL: Barr Brings Accountability: Trump’s foes call it ‘stunning and scary.’ Here’s what they have to be scared about.

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.

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

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 Democratic 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.

Flashback, March 2017: “Hypothesis: The spying-on-Trump thing is worse than we even imagine, and once it was clear Hillary had lost and it would inevitably come out, the Trump/Russia collusion talking point was created as a distraction.”

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