Posted by Curt on 20 May, 2019 at 7:21 pm. 2 comments already!


While Washington pols and pundits angrily debate who counts as a spy, and whether any such exotic creatures have ever been employed by the FBI, new evidence is emerging that the FBI not only uses spies, but has done so extensively, including in the Trump-Russia investigation.

On Thursday, CNN host John Berman asked former FBI general counsel James Baker: “Did the FBI spy on the Trump campaign as the attorney general suggested?” Baker didn’t initially say no, but rather objected that the word “spy” has negative connotations.

Baker then seemed to switch the question from whether spying occurred to its intent, saying: “There was no intention by myself or anybody else I’m aware of to intrude or do activities with respect to the campaign.” Then he continued his sentence with a clause that significantly modified even that claim. There was no intrusion of the Trump campaign, he said, done “in order to gather political intelligence to find out what the political strategies were.” The FBI was only interested in what the campaign was up to regarding Russia.

There’s a very big difference between saying “I didn’t spy” and saying “I didn’t spy for inappropriate reasons.” The former is a denial, the latter is all but an admission. Baker asserted there was no spying done to gather information on Trump’s campaign strategies. Which could very well mean there was spying, just not any for the narrow reason given.

When President Trump raised the specter of spying in March 2017 – imprecisely claiming his wires had been tapped at Trump Tower – he was widely criticized as a liar and conspiracy monger for suggesting that Obama administration officials would have spied on a rival campaign. Now that it is clear such surveillance did occur, those deniers are trying to defend and play down those efforts.

Defenders of the Trump-Russia probe have come to rely heavily on variations of the “not for inappropriate reasons” clause, not only in their public comments but in closed-door interviews with witnesses. They have also tried to change the terms of debate by focusing on three words from a tweet Trump sent a year ago demanding that the Justice Department “look into whether or not the FBI, DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump campaign for political purposes.” Those last three words, with italic emphasis added below, have had quite the workout ever since.

“To your knowledge,” Baker was asked by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) in an October 2018 closed-door Capitol Hill interview, “did the FBI or DOJ ever investigate the Trump campaign, quote, for political purposes?” Raskin also asked Baker, in the same interview by joint House committees on the judiciary and on government oversight and reform, “To your knowledge, did President Obama or anyone in his White House ever, quote, ‘demand or request’ that the DOJ or FBI, quote, ‘infiltrate or surveil’ the Trump campaign for, quote, ‘political purposes?’” “No” and “no” Baker was able to respond. The assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, Bill Priestap, was asked in his Capitol Hill interview June 5, 2018, “Do you have any reason to believe that the Obama White House ever interfered with the FBI’s handling of either the Clinton or Trump investigations for political purposes?” He answered, “No, no” Asked in a congressional interview Dec. 7, 2018 whether the FBI or DOJ ever investigated the Trump campaign for political purposes, former FBI Director James Comey was definitive: “I know that we never investigated the Trump campaign for political purposes.

“Has the FBI or DOJ ever investigated the Trump campaign or the Trump presidency for political purposes?” FBI agent Peter Strzok was asked by Democratic staffer Janet Kim June 27, 2018. “Certainly not for political purposes,” he replied – and perhaps realizing how obvious that sounded, added, “I am not, by that answer, implying that there is or is not any other lawful predicated investigation.”

Evidence that the FBI’s answers to such questions are themselves political – aimed at protecting the bureau’s conduct during the Russia investigation – was provided in testimony Trisha Anderson gave last Aug. 31  to the House Judiciary Committee and the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight. Baker’s No. 2, the FBI’s Principal Deputy General Counsel, Anderson had since left the bureau to join the law firm Covington & Burling. The questioning was done behind closed doors. The transcript has not been released, but pieces of it have been reported on; a copy of the full transcript has been obtained by RealClearInvestigations.

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