All the president’s men, Obama style

Today is the official publication date of my friend Andrew McCarthy’s Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a Presidency. Courtesy of Encounter Books I read an advance copy of the book last week and want to recommend it enthusiastically to Power Line readers. Even though I have closely followed the “collusion” story as it has come into public view since January 2017, I was reminded of pieces I had forgotten and learned details I had overlooked on every page of this riveting book.

My comments here are intended to be in the nature of an appreciation rather than a review. Reading the book, I was impressed with how much I didn’t know that was necessary to understand the case, so to speak. I offer these comments in the hope that readers will take up the book on their own.

In his weekly National Review column, McCarthy has covered the story as it emerged. He now steps back and turns it into a narrative that incorporates his professional experience and legal analysis as it bears on the story. I think this is the best book of its kind since Woodward and Bernstein’s All the President’s Men, but without that book’s fictional elements and fictional devices. Drawing on congressional testimony, investigative reports, primary documents, daily journalism and the like, McCarthy’s story nevertheless puts Watergate in the dust. What we have here is the biggest political scandal in American political history.

McCarthy himself refrains from such a judgment. He marshals the facts and applies the relevant analysis. He expressly withholds imputation of ill motives from key players such as James Comey and perhaps (I’m not entirely clear) even John Brennan, but he provides the reader with the information necessary to draw his own conclusions (and I diverge from McCarthy in my judgment on these players). He is fair to a fault.

McCarthy mostly lets the facts speak for themselves and allows the reader draw his own conclusions, although he states up front: “[I]n 2016, the incumbent Democratic administration of President Barack Obama put the awesome powers of the United States government’s law enforcement and intelligence apparatus in the service of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, the Democratic Party, and the progressive Beltway establishment.”

A few pages later McCarthy puts it this way: “This book contends that the Obama administration, abetted by Washington’s politically progressive order, exploited its control of law-enforcement and intelligence agencies to help Clinton and undermine Trump. This was a scandalous abuse of power.”

The word to which McCarthy frequently recurs is “pretext.” The Obama administration undertook to spy on the Trump campaign and undermine his presidency through a counterintelligence investigation in search of a crime. It understates matters considerably to say that the basis of the investigation was forced and insubstantial.

The absurd Steele Dossier was the linchpin of the investigation. It is, as McCarthy demonstrates several times over, absurd on its face. Although it was never “verified” as required by the law, the FBI seized on it to procure the FISA warrant taken out on Carter Page. It remains “unverified” to this date.

Even worse, taken at face value, the Steele Dossier rather obviously appears to constitute Russian disinformation. Did Barack Obama, John Brennan, and James Comey take it at face value? McCarthy applies a sort of presumption of good faith to Comey and perhaps even to Brennan, but in my view McCarthy’s analysis of the dossier belies this presumption.

In addition, when Trump improbably won the election, Obama and his men turned the investigation into an ongoing effort to undo it. McCarthy shows how, after Trump’s inauguration, the effort continued secretly under Trump’s nose. It represents, you might say, the audacity of nope.

In this book, McCarthy provides the evidence and a host of lucidly developed arguments. The exposition is masterful. Although the style is breezy, almost conversational, and the book is easy reading, McCarthy hands up a stinging indictment that calls for a day of reckoning.

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