The February 2020 issue of Commentary magazine contains an important piece titled “The FBI Scandal,” in which author Eli Lake traces the origins and timeline of the Democrats’ long quest to prove that Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign secretly colluded with Russian government agents to steal the election from Hillary Clinton. Writes Lake:
Donald Trump published the most consequential tweet of his presidency on March 4, 2017. “How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process,” the chief executive pondered. “This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
The response from Trump’s opposition was outrage. The Washington Post fact checker gave it four Pinocchios. The director of the FBI, James Comey, rebuked Trump and said such a thing had never happened. James Clapper, Obama’s director of national intelligence, assured NBC’s Meet the Press that no warrants had been issued in 2016 to surveil members of the Trump campaign.
In a narrow sense, the pushback against Trump’s tweet was correct; Trump himself was never personally the target of an FBI wiretap. In any case, the president doesn’t order such a thing; the FBI applies for a warrant to eavesdrop on Americans from a secret court. No such warrant was issued to bug the president’s offices.
But the furious denials were misleading. To paraphrase a cliché from 2016, Trump’s tweet should have been taken seriously, not literally. Obama did not tap Trump’s phones. But his FBI did spy on Trump’s campaign. That fact is no longer in dispute. […]
[T]he FBI relied on lurid, sketchy, and sleazy opposition research generated by former British spy Christopher Steele—information so spurious that even liberal news organizations briefed on the so-called Steele dossier before the 2016 election wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole. And it used that information in a specious, circular, and misleading manner to keep that investigation afloat and active into the first two years of Trump’s presidency. Even after the bureau had good reason to doubt its veracity, it didn’t share the exculpatory information it had uncovered—not with the public, not with the courts, and not even with the Justice Department lawyers who were supposed to check its work.
The result was a debacle. What had been teased as the greatest espionage scandal in American history—a U.S. president conspiring with Russia to steal an election—today should be seen as a cautionary tale about the fallibility of our lawmen and spies, the credulity of our press, and the hubris and hysteria of Trump’s resistance.
Here is what happened.
To read the rest of Eli Lake’s article, click here.
The FBI Scandal
By Eli Lake
Spygate: The Attempted Sabotage of Donald J. Trump
By Dan Bongino