‘This wasn’t Jason Bourne; this was Beavis and Butthead…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) Among the most shocking aspects of the FBI‘s surveillance of Trump campaign advisers may be the impunity with which biased and corrupt law-enforcement officials conducted themselves during the Obama administration and 2016 presidential campaign.
While the Left’s media echo chamber shows no signs of being swayed by revelations in Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz‘s recent report, outlining 17 gross abuses of the warrant application process for the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court, some centrist adversaries of President Donald Trump are taking note.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., has been a vocal Trump critic in the past—as well as a staunch believer in the FBI’s integrity, he acknowledged during Wednesday’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Noting his impassioned debates with fellow GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, Sasse said, “I constantly defended the integrity and professionalism of the bureau and of the department that you couldn’t have something like this happen.”
The self-described national-security hawk said that in the wake of Horowitz’s findings he was “embarrassed on behalf of the FBI … because I believe that it is critically important that we have the FISA statute.”
Sasse observed that the unprecedented power of the FISA courts to permit the wiretapping of American citizens without any due process meant that it was particularly incumbent upon the court and the investigating agencies to act in good faith.
Roughly 98 percent of the surveillance applications to the court are approved, he said.
“When you, the American citizen who might be being surveilled … if you can’t be there to defend yourself, it’s because the department’s lawyers are so super-scrupulous that if there’s any information that might exonerate you … they would say the bar is so high here we’ll always err on the side of privacy unless we believe there’s a good reason to pursue this investigation,” Sasse said.
Several of the conservative senators on the Judiciary Committee spent their allotted time during Horowitz’s testimony highlighting the seriousness of the abuses committed by partisan operatives in the FBI who willfully deceived the FISA court.
Among their offenses were:
- altering an email from the CIA that confirmed Trump adviser Carter Page‘s role as an informant to say he was not one
- failing to report that the Steele dossier‘s primary source had disavowed the reports as jest and drunken bar talk among friends
- omitting in their warrant application and renewals the fact that the Steele dossier had been commissioned as opposition research against Trump by the rival Hillary Clinton campaign
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who preceded Sasse in interrogating Horowitz, drew upon his own experiences as a DOJ prosecutor.
While the disregard of privacy rights was astounding in its own right, Cruz said the fact that it happened to a rival presidential candidate—and later president—made it particularly staggering.
He found it unlikely that top brass at the FBI and Justice Department would be so disinterested in the actions of low-level attorneys like Kevin Clinesmith, whom Horowitz referred for criminal prosecution over the altering of the CIA email.
“Any responsible leader, when hearing that you’re talking about sending in spies and sending in a wire tap on any presidential nominee should say, ‘What in the hell are we doing,'” Cruz said.
“… This wasn’t Jason Bourne; this was Beavis and Butthead,” he added.
Contradicting the preliminary media spin on the report, which was released Monday, Horowitz agreed with the GOP senators that his conclusions were not simply addressing minor mistakes committed by low-level bureaucrats at the agency.
Horowitz told the senators that top officials whose oversight should have provided an extra safeguard—including then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr—actively supported the use of the discredited Steele dossier to bolster the Trump wiretapping effort.
Nonetheless, the inspector general said, many of the chief decision-makers closest to the Obama White House were able to maintain plausible deniability by exploiting policies that did not require them to sign off on the controversial measures of their overtly partisan underlings.
“One of the most concerning things here was that nobody needed to be told,” Horowitz said.