Back in the day George Washington was most acclaimed for his leadership of the colonial army which defeated the greatest military force of its time. An argument can be made that Washington deserves to be remembered as the guy who made the governmental ideas of Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Ben Franklin, and John Adams come to life. Perhaps the best perspective is that he set the example, followed by presidents for the next 215 years, of accepting the election of his successor and graciously returning to his private life. He willingly turned over power to John Adams who reflected the industrial North, returning himself to his agrarian Southern roots. He didn’t try to stay; he accepted the electorate’s preferred successor.
Over the past couple of centuries there were undoubtedly circumstances where an outgoing president believed that his successor would do great harm to the nation. Perhaps the establishment Federalist John Quincy Adams before the populist Andrew Jackson; perhaps the compromising James Buchanan before the great emancipator, Abraham Lincoln; perhaps capitalist Herbert Hoover before the socialist Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They didn’t have today’s CIA and NSA. They didn’t have Facebook or Twitter. They also didn’t – as nearly as we can understand the history books – go to the lengths that Barack Obama did to use federal power to subvert the election of a successor they deemed unworthy.
We may never have a full, objective picture of the 2016 presidential election. Unless Robert Mueller does an exceptional job of pulling a rabbit out of the hat, the Republicans will have their version and the Democrats will have theirs. Mueller is giving the “nail Trump” team a full effort – selection of a prosecutorial team who saw Trump as an unacceptable presidential candidate; indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates; plea agreements with Michael Flynn and George Popadopoulos designed for leverage to elicit damaging testimony against Trump; and a willingness to go far beyond the question of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. If they cannot find collusion or real obstruction of justice, there will be little room for the Democrats to complain.
The second perspective, the Justice Department’s failure to hold Hillary Clinton accountable for the corruption of the Clinton Foundation, or her cavalier exposure of classified information, is important, but in the sweep of history it will be just a failure of the Obama administration to enforce the laws against a powerful member of the president’s party. Maybe Trump’s Justice Department will go there, but it seems unlikely.
A greater transgression, and a higher priority for Mueller or for a separate investigation, is the apparent unprecedented use of the Obama administration’s national security apparatus to move the election for Clinton and against Trump. Some of this is still seen through foggy glass, but the questioning of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein by Trey Gowdy and Jim Jordan on December 13, and of FBI Director Christopher Wray by Jim Jordan on December 7, is based on the following set of apparent facts:
– In April 2016, the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign hired a law firm, Perkins Coie, which hired a political consulting firm, Fusion GPS, which hired a former British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, to develop opposition research on Donald Trump – a later discredited “dossier” demonstrating that Trump would be subject to Russian blackmail for outlandish conduct. Some of the content was provided to the author by Russian intelligence services. The dossier itself was published in January 2017 by BuzzFeed.
– For months House Intelligence Chair Deven Nunes and Paul Ryan have been trying to get Fusion GPS or the FBI to reveal how the dossier got to the FBI, and what the FBI did with it. The assumed backstory is that the FBI made some of the payments to Fusion GPS. Discredited senior FBI agent Peter Strzok was apparently an intermediary.
– In December 7 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, FBI Director Cristopher Wray seemed to confirm that the line of thinking of Committee member Jim Jordan was correct, and that the FBI used the dossier in their application to the FISA court for warrants to tap the phone of Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
– Concurrently, there was an intense effort, involving National Security adviser Susan Rice and UN Ambassador Samantha Powers before and after the election to monitor the conversations of Trump advisers. Technically, they monitored the conversations of foreign officials who might be talking to the Trump team, then “unmasked” the Americans by asking the NSA for the identity of the Americans. Powers did this several hundred times.
– To complete the plan, the Obama administration changed the rules to allow the dissemination of raw intelligence to 17 agencies, rather than the former restriction of the NSA. The conversations of Team Trump were then also confidentially provided to Congress, and from that broad assembly, to the New York Times and the Washington Post, who used the leaked conversations for innumerable articles before and after the election.
Thus was born and fostered the story of Trump’s collusion with the Russians which rolled through the 2016 election campaign, and has formed the base of the subsequent effort to de-legitimize his presidency. Despite all of the effort to find collusion, none has been reported to date. What is being clearly revealed is a broad effort by senior leadership of the Obama administration to use the national security apparatus to publicize information intended to help the Clinton campaign, and a surprising difficulty of the Republican House, Senate, and President to provide a clear picture of what happened.