Screengrab from https://twitter.com/Uncle_Jimbo/status/1116056133091852289
William Barr upset a lot of Democrats yesterday when he said he believed improper spying on the Trump campaign did occur, though he did not go as far as to say it was maliciously attempted on the part of intelligence agencies.
Many Democrats and liberal activists were outraged because it put Barr in line with Trump’s talking points and not those put forward by people like James Clapper – people who have repeatedly lied to the public about what went on inside the Justice Department (Clapper, quite famously, lied to Congress and received no punishment for doing so). They were further outraged at the idea that Barr would open investigations into those possibly-improper investigations into the Trump campaign.
This is something that Republicans and Democrats alike should want, however. We must know that our law enforcement agencies, at every level, are conducting proper investigations without political motivation. While President Donald Trump has frequently employed the phrase “witch hunt” with regard to the Mueller investigation, the fact is that witch hunts by federal investigators have been so common in our history that we passed laws to make sure it couldn’t happen again.
Barr pointed out yesterday that investigations into past anti-war protestors, as well as whatever political whims J. Edgar Hoover felt on a particular day, were themselves improper and were the reasons we had those laws. Those laws exist in order to make sure any administration shouldn’t be able to investigate political opponents on a whim. There should be political campaigns free of wiretapping, spying, and any other sort of intelligence-gathering by the federal government without proper cause and the appropriate briefings on the matter.
This shouldn’t be controversial. But, for some reason, it is.
Imagine the roles are reversed. Trump spying on the Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, or whoever else ends up running against him in 2020. His Justice Department under orders not to brief anyone on the subject, and for the people he has put in charge to act with extreme prejudice against anyone Trump deems a possible threat to the country (or to himself). The Democrats would call for this exact kind of investigation into not only the Justice Department but Trump himself. The Republicans, meanwhile, would defend the Trump Justice Department in much the same way the Democrats are defending the Obama Justice Department.
It is not a case of whataboutism here. I would want investigations to exist both ways, and the rest of you – Democrats and Republicans alike – should want the same. There are protections on political speech and campaigns in order to protect against things like this, and we need to make sure those are regularly enforced.
Barr is correct, and the investigations must be allowed to happen without outside interference. To not investigate this is to say it’s fine to allow it to occur again, whether it be by another Democrat or a Republican.