In a series of tweets earlier this week, former Attorney General Eric Holder said the Department of Justice should stonewall any attempt to launch an investigation into possible surveillance of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, saying that it should defy any orders from the president in order to “protect the institutions and time tested norms.”
The president has called for an inquiry into FBI surveillance after two separate reports seemed to indicate the FBI had planted moles within the Trump campaign.
“I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!” the president tweeted Sunday.
A Wall Street Journal report by Kimberley Strassel first noted that the language the FBI had used to justify its refusal to turn over information about a “top secret intelligence source” on their Russia investigation may have pointed to human surveillance within the campaign.
“When government agencies refer to sources, they mean people who appear to be average citizens but use their profession or contacts to spy for the agency. Ergo, we might take this to mean that the FBI secretly had a person on the payroll who used his or her non-FBI credentials to interact in some capacity with the Trump campaign,” Strassel wrote. “This would amount to spying, and it is hugely disconcerting.”
Axios later reported that Trump economic adviser Peter Navarro brought Stefan Halper, suspected of being an FBI informant, onto the Trump campaign.
These alone should be dangerous signs that the Department of Justice was greatly overstepping its bounds and politicizing intelligence collecting during the 2016 campaign.
However, to Holder, the DOJ needs to stand up and say no to Trump — even if that constitutes a breach of the Constitution.
“Trump demand for DOJ investigation is dangerous/democracy threatening. DOJ response is disappointing,” Holder tweeted. “There is no basis/no predicate for an inquiry. It’s time to stand for time honored DOJ independence. That separation from White House is a critical part of our system.”
“More DOJ norms being eroded,” he continued. “Trump-a SUBJECT of the investigation-wants access to material related to the inquiry. His Congressional supporters want evidence connected to an ongoing investigation. Time for DOJ/FBI to simply say no-protect the institutions and time tested norms.”
As with so much that escapes from Holder’s pen, there’s plenty wrong with these statements. One can start with the fact that putting moles into presidential campaigns to gather evidence about Russian collusion that everyone seems to pretty much agree never happened erodes “institutions” and violates “time tested norms” — which means it’s probably high time for an investigation.
More serious, however, is the suggestion that the Department of Justice and FBI “simply say no” to the president, who is the chief law enforcement official in the country. Holder is a former attorney general and (one hopes) familiar with constitutional law. He would therefore be aware of the fact that both the DOJ and FBI are subordinate to the executive branch.
He is, in other words, essentially ordering open revolt to protect the fact that the DOJ likely surveilled the campaign of a major party candidate largely on the “evidence” provided by a second-hand account of what a drunken braggart said.
Furthermore, despite Holder’s protestations to the contrary, Trump is not a subject of this part of the investigation. The special counsel probe is more or less separate, at this point, from whether or not improper political surveillance was done on the campaign of a major party candidate for the presidency by the other party.
We know now that questions of Russian collusion have mostly been cast aside by Mueller and his retinue for Stormy-mania, something that hardly would have required a mole inside the 2016 campaign to investigate.
We’re already well beyond these “time tested norms” Holder is talking about; if the DOJ wanted to stick to them, the time to do it was in 2016 when the alleged surveillance was occurring and not in 2018 when the head of the executive branch — the individual who oversees the departments that were doing the alleged surveillance — decides to ask for an investigation.
But then again, a member of the Obama administration believing they could act with total impunity while the successor administration should be handcuffed by illusory “institutions and time tested norms” is hardly a new development.
As for the DOJ’s response being disappointing, Holder is likely referring to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s statement that “if anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action.”
Think about that for a second. All Rosenstein said was that he thought it was proper and prudent to know “if anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes.”
By his remarks, it appears that Holder thinks officials should disobey the Constitution so that nobody finds that out. That should tell you all you need to know about the legal and moral scruples of one Eric Holder.
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