Back in February 2018, Republican-controlled committees in both the House and the Senate released detailed memos, dubbed the Nunes and Grassley memos respectively, accusing the FBI and the Obama Justice Department of using unverified and false information that was nothing more than opposition research paid for by the Clinton campaign to illegally obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), warrants that allowed them to spy on the campaign of Donald Trump as well as his administration following his election victory in 2016.
Put more bluntly, the Republicans accused the Clinton campaign, with the help of the Obama administration, of weaponizing the surveillance powers of the FBI and the Justice Department in order to defeat their political opponents.
Not surprisingly, the Democrats and former Obama officials denied these allegations, calling both memos partisan and false. In the House the Democrats issued their own memo, claiming the Republican memos left out key information that made their arguments invalid.
Who was right? What was true? How was an ordinary citizen going to determine which of these competing political positions properly described what had actually happened?
At the time I admit my instincts and own personal biases led me to believe the Republicans. Even so, the allegations were so horrifying — suggesting a clear abuse of power and a willingness of people in Washington to subvert an American election — that some skepticism of the Republican accusations was certainly reasonable.
In fact, the best thing one could do in this situation is to take a scientific approach to the problem. The Republicans had put forth a theory, citing some data that suggested the Obama administration, the Justice Department, and the FBI had abused their power in the worst possible manner. To prove that theory the Republicans would require both corroborating evidence as well as independent reviews that confirmed their conclusions.
It was for this reason that I decided to buy and read The Plot Against the President, written by long time journalist Lee Smith. Though Smith relied heavily on information from the Nunes memo as well as interviews from Nunes and staffers who researched and wrote that memo, he also as an independent journalist did a great deal of additional research that appeared to confirm both the Nunes and Grassley memos.
Even more important for an ordinary citizen like myself, Smith’s book provided a well documented overview and chronology of what the Republicans said had happened. This put the Republican allegations into context. If there were any inconsistencies or errors in those allegations, Smith’s wider view, supplemented by the events that have occurred in the two years since the release of the memos, would have either confirmed or refuted those allegations.
Sadly, I found Smith’s book to strongly confirm the Republican allegations. Repeatedly he carefully documented how the Clinton campaign had paid for the dossier that was then used improperly by the FBI and the Department of Justice to initiate a false investigation into the opposition party’s political campaign.
Still, Smith was a journalist, and a conservative one at that. He could very easily have an anti-Democratic ax to grind. From a scientific point of view, it was necessary to get a completely independent and non-partisan review of the facts in order to consider the Republican accusations confirmed and trustworthy.
Last week we finally got that independent confirmation, with the release of the report on those allegations [pdf] by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz. That report found that:
- the FBI doctored evidence to get its FISA warrants
- the FBI’s ‘entire chain of command’ was involved in the corrupt activity
- based on this false information the FBI obtained warrants allowing it to spy on the Trump campaign and later his administration
And finally, the inspector general report confirmed every single one of the allegations in the Republican memos, while finding all of the claims by the competing Democratic memo to be false.
To understand how damning the IG’s report is, we must note how much Horowitz bent over backwards to be objective, almost to the point of absurdity. For example, despite documenting extensively how all the lies, evidence tampering, and disinformation exclusively served to attack the Trump campaign and later the administration, while aiding the Clinton campaign and the Democrats, Horowitz still insisted that he could find no evidence of political bias in these actions.
Based on this IG report, it is now clear that a significant number of FBI and Justice Department officials participated in the past three years in an illegal scandal aimed at overthrowing a legal election. Based on the information we now have, the prosecution and conviction of those individuals should proceed as quickly as possible.
Truth and lies
It is often said that the problem with lying is that it soon becomes difficult to keep your story straight. Soon the inconsistencies between each lie pile up, and the whole fabrication collapses in a heap of manure.
Tell the truth however and you never have a problem with consistency. There is only one truth, and to tell it is easy and reliable.
For the past few years the Republicans have told a consistent and reliable story. At the same time the story from the Democrats has repeatedly changed, often found to be false, and time after time contradicted itself. First they accused Trump of Russian collusion. That was shown to be false, by their own hand-picked investigator. Then they said Trump used his power as president to bully the leader of the Ukraine for political purposes. Very quickly we found this accusation to be false, proven by the quick release of the phonecall transcript by Trump.
During the impeachment hearings in the House the past two weeks we’ve seen more of the same. The accusations against Trump kept changing, until the final two impeachment charges (obstruction of Congress and abuse of power) are so vague as to be meaningless.
The Enlightenment in the 1700s earned that name because it was at that moment in human history that our western civilization put the unemotional and forthright search for the truth above all else. Or as Francis Bacon noted
Truth is to be sought for, not in the felicity of any age which is an unstable thing, but in the light of nature and experience, which is eternal. . . . Let every student of nature take this as a rule — that whatever his mind seizes and dwells upon with peculiar satisfaction is be held in suspicion. [Novum Organum, sections 56 and 58]
It is very clear that the only thing the Democrats have consistently “seized and dwelt upon” these last three years is an outright and irrational hatred of Donald Trump and those who support him. Along the way this hatred has had them repeatedly fabricate lies and slanders against Trump as well as anyone they think is allied with him. The inspector general report merely confirms this impression.
It is impossible for a free and open society to flourish when such people are in a position of power. It is now the responsibility of the American citizenry, the true rulers of this country, to step forward and fire these people.
If they do not, it is unlikely our free democracy can survive.
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