The political winds have shifted in Washington. The law enforcers who abused their badges to launch a political inquisition targeting Donald Trump are themselves now exposed to the furies they unleashed. It’s poetic justice — without the poetry. The process may be painful, but the nation is less likely to suffer a coup redo if the instigators have their cover-up blown.
Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein underwent a grilling by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, when he defended his decision to appoint special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate the Trump campaign team on the basis of information gathered by agents behind “Crossfire Hurricane,” the code-named operation to spy on associates of the Republican candidate prior to the 2016 election.
Critical to the operation were applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court for warrants to conduct espionage against a presidential candidate, unprecedented in the American history. “Every application that I approved appeared to be justified based on the facts it alleged, and the FBI was supposed to be following protocols to ensure that every fact was verified,” Mr. Rosenstein told the committee.
“Protocols,” a Washington word for rules, are only as proper as the individuals responsible for observing them, and the former federal lawman admitted that “Crossfire” got its wires crossed. The result was, according to committee Chairman Lindsay Graham, South Carolina Republican, “a very major abuse of power.” Mr. Rosenstein continued: “But investigative reviews published by the Inspector General in December 2019 and March 2020 revealed that the FBI was not following written protocols and that ‘significant errors’ appeared in applications filed in connection with the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.”
For committee Democrats, the deceitful machinations that triggered the Trump-Russia collusion narrative are yesterday’s story, lacking relevance to current events. “I wonder if people today watching this hearing over CSPAN think they’re watching a rerun, a classic hearing of several years ago on the Mueller report,” commented Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin. “But unfortunately, this is not a rerun. This is the priority of the Senate Judiciary Committee today.”
Indeed it is, and it should be. In Washington, the FBI is still touted as “America’s premiere law enforcement agency,” but it has yet to win rehabilitation in the eyes of millions of citizens who have followed the investigatory debacle with indignation for the entirety of the Trump presidency.
Investigative journalist John Solomon, who demonstrated his adherence to fact-based reporting when he led this publication’s newsroom, wrote Tuesday that law enforcement officials barreled through warning signs no fewer than six times when they should have shut down their Russia collusion probe or at least paused it in order to ponder its deficiencies.
Most damning was an absence of something more concrete than third-hand rumor that a Trump associate had spoken to a foreign national about Russian claims to have hacked the emails of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. “There is nothing in the [electronic communication] that meets the traditional thresholds for opening up a [Foreign Agent Registration Act] or [counterintelligence] investigation,” former FBI chief of intelligence Kevin Brock told Mr. Solomon.
Among other missteps, the FBI spied on Trump campaign volunteers George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, who were suspected of collusion, but ignored evidence gathered that supported their claims of innocence. Agents were also aware that the so-called Steele dossier leveled fictitious charges against Mr. Trump, but nevertheless used it as a basis for their surveillance operations.
It’s clear that Justice officials who despise Donald Trump and Americans who voted for him have energized other crusades to oust him from office. Though the Russia collusion hoax failed and the Ukraine impeachment trial fell short, the coronavirus that has claimed more than 100,000 victims has served as a new opportunity to saddle him with blame.
Piling one crisis atop the other, the president’s enemies now intend to goad him into committing his own abuse of the justice system. By cheering on the civil unrest arising from George Floyd’s tragic death, they dare Mr. Trump to overstep the First Amendment right “to petition the government for a redress of grievances” in an effort to save U.S. cities from arson and looting.
In the meantime, Americans mustn’t lose sight of the moment when the perpetrators of “Crossfire Hurricane” blew it by dishonoring their duty and crossing the line into lawlessness.