Kim Strassel devotes her weekly Wall Street Journal column today — “Barr brings accountability” (behind the Journal’s column) — to the news that Attorney General William Barr is undertaking a review of the surveillance of the Trump presidential campaign conducted by the FBI and intelligence agencies under the Obama administration. As we have frequently observed, we weren’t meant to learn a blessed thing about this surveillance. Strassel picks up this particular thread of the saga in the conclusion of her column. She writes:
[I]t 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.
Second, Democrats mobilized against the other big threat, incoming Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had the authority to conduct an internal review. Don’t forget, the dossier wasn’t delivered only to the FBI. Its ultimate owners were the Clinton campaign and the DNC. And one huge outstanding question is just how many Democrats pushing for Mr. Sessions’ recusal in early 2017 did so with full knowledge of the FBI-Clinton tie-up. Certainly no Republicans were aware, and thus they were clueless to the bigger consequences of the unnecessary Sessions recusal.
Namely, that no outsider would take a hard look at the FBI. The Russia question fell to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, an institutionalist who would go on to sign the final application for a surveillance warrant against Mr. Page. Again, no accountability. Meantime, wonder why Democrats tried so hard to mau-mau Mr. Barr into also recusing himself? The goal all along has been to deep-six any discovery until a Democrat returns to the White House.
Mr. Barr didn’t merely refuse to recuse; he’s made clear he plans to plumb the FBI’s actions thoroughly. That makes him Threat No. 1 to everyone who participated in these abuses, and it’s why the liberal media establishment is now disparaging his integrity. They are stunned and scared—that accountability has returned to the Justice Department.
And how is it that Rosenstein — he who signed the third FISA renewal on Carter Page — was able to supervise the Special Counsel without a disqualifying conflict? I hope they’ll get around to addressing that question some time soon as well.