Friday, July 31, 2020
With so many big stories breaking, it’s hard to get attention even for important news about the FBI’s and CIA’s misdeeds. Still, the wrongdoing at James Comey’s FBI and John Brennan’s CIA was serious, as the news this week amply demonstrates.
On July 17, we learned that the FBI knew, just as Donald Trump’s presidency was beginning, that there was no evidence his campaign had colluded with Russia. That’s the significance of a memo written by FBI agent Peter Strzok in mid-February 2017 and just released.
The news matters for three reasons. First, almost all the public investigation and damaging narrative about “Trump-Russia collusion” came after investigators knew how little supporting evidence there was.
Second, the more we learn about the ensuing investigations, the more they look like concerted abuses of government authority. We give law-enforcement and intelligence agencies tremendous power so they can protect us; when they abuse that power, they need to be held accountable and reined in. That seldom happens to anyone in Washington’s sprawling bureaucracies, which protect their own within the gurgling ecosystem of power, profit, regulation, and rent-seeking. Just ask Lois Lerner.
Third, when the FBI, Department of Justice, and intelligence agencies act in biased, partisan, and illicit ways, they cut to the very heart of our constitutional democracy, damage our institutions, and undermine trust in them. That is exactly what happened in 2016 and afterward. Public trust was undermined by these prolonged investigations and the narrative about them. It will be undermined further as we learn how the investigators themselves likely pursued partisan goals, ignored crucial evidence, and broke laws to do it. (The counter-charge, already being made, is that exposing these violations is itself partisan.)