Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and somebody absolutely corrupt to begin with who gets power suddenly becomes a madman. All in all, we are lucky that the guardrails of democracy and the rule of law held as well as they did. The New York Times is reporting that Donald Trump, he who loathes witch hunts, instituted a witch hunt of his very own right out of the gate in 2017. He had DOJ prosecutors subpoena data from Apple from the accounts of Adam Schiff and one other member of the House Intelligence Committee, plus aides, family members, and even a minor child. He also investigated James Comey.
Prosecutors, under the beleaguered attorney general, Jeff Sessions, were hunting for the sources behind news media reports about contacts between Trump associates and Russia. Ultimately, the data and other evidence did not tie the committee to the leaks, and investigators debated whether they had hit a dead end and some even discussed closing the inquiry.
But William P. Barr revived languishing leak investigations after he became attorney general a year later. He moved a trusted prosecutor from New Jersey with little relevant experience to the main Justice Department to work on the Schiff-related case and about a half-dozen others, according to three people with knowledge of his work who did not want to be identified discussing federal investigations.
Sessions would never be the killer that Trump wanted, but Trump figured he had as close of a Roy Cohn clone as he was ever going to get in Bill Barr and Barr had no problem pushing the envelope.
The zeal in the Trump administration’s efforts to hunt leakers led to the extraordinary step of subpoenaing communications metadata from members of Congress — a nearly unheard-of move outside of corruption investigations. While Justice Department leak investigations are routine, current and former congressional officials familiar with the inquiry said they could not recall an instance in which the records of lawmakers had been seized as part of one.
Moreover, just as it did in investigating news organizations, the Justice Department secured a gag order on Apple that expired this year, according to a person familiar with the inquiry, so lawmakers did not know they were being investigated until Apple informed them last month.
And if Trump had gotten reelected, it’s highly likely that no one would have ever found out about this investigation. Trump wanted to do all his dirty work in secret and James Comey became an impediment very early on. Adam Schiff followed swiftly.
Soon after Mr. Trump took office in 2017, press reports based on sensitive or classified intelligence threw the White House into chaos. They detailed conversations between the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time and Mr. Trump’s top aides, the president’s pressuring of the F.B.I. and other matters related to the Russia investigation.
The White House was adamant that the sources be found and prosecuted, and the Justice Department began a broad look at national security officials from the Obama administration, according to five people briefed on the inquiry.
While most officials were ruled out, investigators opened cases that focused on Mr. Comey and his deputy, Andrew G. McCabe, the people said. Prosecutors also began to scrutinize the House Intelligence Committee, including Mr. Schiff, as a potential source of the leaks. As the House’s chief intelligence oversight body, the committee has regular access to sensitive government secrets. […]
A CNN report in August 2019 about another leak investigation said prosecutors did not recommend to their superiors that they charge Mr. Comey over memos that he wrote and shared about his interactions with Mr. Trump, which were not ultimately found to contain classified information.
Mr. Barr was wary of how Mr. Trump would react, according to a person familiar with the situation. Indeed, Mr. Trump berated the attorney general, who defended the department, telling the president that there was no case against Mr. Comey to be made, the person said. But an investigation remained open into whether Mr. Comey had leaked other classified information about Russia.
It is as clear as glass and always was that James Comey vexed Trump. Comey wouldn’t go along with covering up for Mike Flynn and so Trump fired him via tweet and Comey found out about it by watching a Fox News chyron on the wall of a building in Los Angeles. Trump always had a simplistic, banana republic concept of government and Bill Barr always had held a notion of an all powerful executive branch and so theirs was an alliance made in Hell, no question.
And nobody is the least bit surprised at this new development, on the heels of reporters and media outlets being similarly investigated for leaks.
Actually, that’s not the worst thing. The worst thing is that it was the WH that demanded investigation (Barr picked it back up after it lagged) because they were upset about leaks. Not ones that compromised national security, but leaks that exposed wrongdoing inside of the WH.
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) June 11, 2021
If timing is correct, AG Jeff Sessions was ALSO out of control
— Bebe? (@lovinbebemocha) June 11, 2021
First Comey, now Schiff. Clear that leak investigations are the way DOJ officials decided they could answer Trump’s demand to target his political opponents while telling themselves they were just following the law. Without a doubt more to come.
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) June 11, 2021
In “1984” Winston Smith obtains a copy of the book with the truth in it and he says, “The best books are the ones that tell you what you already know.” This is like that. The best exposes are the ones that tell us what we already know. Trump was bat guano insane to take down his political enemies from the beginning and we knew that. And he particularly hated Comey and Schiff and we knew that. I agree with Matthew Miller. Without doubt there’s more to be revealed in days and weeks ahead.
We are indeed blessed that the guardrails held on democracy and the rule of law. And we are doubly blessed that Trump lost reelection. If he was in office now, all this would be buried and democracy as we know it would be finished. I don’t think that’s a hyperbolic statement. I think it’s the plain truth.