As Democrats debate the relative merits of Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden and the field, the weekend brought a sobering reminder that it may not matter who the Democrats nominate.
The attorney general of the United States, among others, is trying to rig the coming election by making sure that next year’s headlines are filled with “revelations”—imagine this—about how what was really corrupt about the last election was the way it was fixed against Donald Trump.
On Saturday morning, NBC News posted new reporting from Ken Dilanian that Bill Barr has expanded the Justice Department’s review into the origins of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. You’ve surely read something about this. It’s the… well, “review” is the best word, or was; more on that in a second… into the Russia angle being conducted by Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham.
The new development is that this review may now have morphed into a full-blown criminal probe. Barr has given Durham approval to expand the time frame of his investigation and to hire more staff, according to NBC.
The stated point of this investigation is to determine whether anyone at Justice or in the FBI acted inappropriately in the way the 2016 Russia probe was initiated and carried out. But you have to ignore a mountain or three of circumstantial evidence to fail to realize what’s really going on here: Barr wants Durham to find and describe a vast “deep state” conspiracy—a criminal conspiracy—that intended to deny Donald Trump the White House, the details of which will dribble out, if it can be managed, over the course of next spring and summer and even into the fall.
In other words, the purpose of this investigation appears to be 100 percent political and electoral. It’s to show that the system cheated, or tried to cheat, Trump in 2016, and thereby give him a huge hand to play in 2020. Shorter purpose: to reelect Trump.
It shouldn’t need to be said, but it does, that this has almost no basis in fact. Yes, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page wrote those text messages they shouldn’t have written, although there’s no proof so far that they did anything to follow through on their ill-advised joking. Beyond that, well, there are enough stray tidbits that three or four right-wing agitproppers have hit the bestseller lists by stringing them together into tens of thousands of words in some kind of Bilderberg-Rosicrucian-Illuminati nightmare. But on Planet Earth, the plain facts are otherwise.
I seem to remember that if anyone was damaged by the FBI in 2016, it was Hillary Clinton. James Comey’s press conference “clearing” her was like Vito Genovese’s kiss of Joe Valachi. Then, of course, Comey announced he was reopening a probe into Clinton 11 days before the election. Meanwhile, his FBI was also investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, a probe that had been launched that July. Somehow or another, Comey forgot to announce that before the voting.
And on top of that, there are the questions raised back in 2016 in The Daily Beast by the late Wayne Barrett about anti-Clinton activities in the New York field office of the FBI during the closing weeks of that campaign. Suffice it to say that if there were a liberal Fox and liberal versions of Hannity, Jarrett, and Bongino, one-third of America would be persuaded that that New York field office was crawling with traitors.
And on top of that, remember the core, central fact of the 2016 election with respect to all this: Our 17 intelligence agencies agreed that Russia was interfering in the election to help Trump.
Is any of this, which may have helped the candidate who received 2.8 million fewer votes win, being investigated? Nope. But a conspiracy that a) didn’t exist and b) didn’t succeed even if it did exist (which it didn’t) is.
As always, what Trump says is the direct opposite of the truth, and he is describing not his opponents but himself. The deep state story is Trumpland’s Plan B. That is, in case he can’t win reelection on the merits, he can charge that it wasn’t because the voters rejected him but because the system is out to get him.
It was bad enough when he did all this in 2016 as a private citizen-candidate. But now, he’s the president. He controls the machinery of what we once quaintly called justice in this country. And he’ll do anything he can get away with to make it serve his personal ends. Back in May, I wrote a column based on Corey Lewandowski’s promise in a Fox News appearance that next year, with the presidential campaign in full swing, will be punctuated by show trials of Strzok, Page, Comey, and others.
All of it, to the inattentive observer, will look legitimate, because real-live federal prosecutors will be saying very grave things about these people, and the effect will be to cancel out Trump’s actual crimes. If he can’t drain the swamp, which Trump never intended to do anyway (did you catch the recent news that Trump in three years has hired four times as many ex-lobbyists as Obama did in six years?), then he’ll muddy it.
And conducting this criminal orchestra? The attorney general of the United States. We know now what he is. He’s out-Cohn-ing Roy Cohn. We learned earlier this month that he personally traveled to Italy in an attempt to advance this conspiracy. And we also learned this month his true motivation, in that Notre Dame speech he gave. He doesn’t think Democrats and liberals are good Americans who have different political views from his. He thinks they are Satan’s representatives. If you believe that, you obviously believe they must be prevented from gaining power by any means at hand, and what’s a trifle like the law when it’s really “God’s law” (his phrase) that must be preserved?
A normal presidential reelection campaign consists of the campaign staff and the various party committees. Trump’s consists of that plus the Kremlin plus crooked Ukrainian prosecutors plus Mark Zuckerberg, who thinks history will reward him for allowing the publication of false political ads, and, perhaps most importantly, plus the Justice Department (or is that the Rackets Department?).
And that list, of course, includes only the things they’ve thought of so far. The election is more than a year away.