For Whom the New Rules?

When Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s December 9 report did not challenge the claim by the FBI (and the CIA) that its surveillance and investigation of all things Trump were properly “premised”; when it failed to address the illegality of officials’ trafficking to the media information from said surveillance; when it downgraded the FBI’s misdeeds to “performance failures,” that report offered the deep state the opportunity to claim that its interference in American politics is a good thing.

William Webster, the only person ever to have headed both FBI and CIA, seized that opportunity with an op-ed in the New York Times, in which he claims both agencies acted to protect “the rule of law,” and that they should continue to do so. That claim abstracts from the undeniable—and undenied—clash between the FBI and CIA’s anti-Trump campaign and current law.

Nevertheless, given the power of precedent, as well as the unpunished permanence of the officials who established the precedent, yes: America’s national security apparatchiks  effectively have changed the meaning of current law. They have established the propriety—maybe even the necessity—of adulterating or manufacturing allegations as premises for investigations the purpose of which is to hurt candidates or officials of whom they disapprove.

None would suggest, however, that Webster or any of our reigning security-crats intend what amount to new rules will be applicable generally; i.e. that they mean to grant to others the presumption of  immunity from “second-guess[ing] discretionary judgments;” nor the right to surveil and investigate political enemies and then, laws on classified information notwithstanding, to spread results and innuendo so as to defeat or drive them from office.

In short, Webster’s “rule of law” amounts to the assertion that he and people like himself are the law. Hence, to criticize them is to criticize the rule of law.

And yet, regardless of what anyone might wish, the Left’s cynical use of the Steele dossier as a pretend-predicate for its activities has freed one and all to ignore the heretofore sacrosanct Fourth Amendment restriction that “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause . . . .” Unless that restriction is reinstated by prosecuting and punishing the liberals and leftists who trashed it, the Right, too, will use the powers of intelligence, turbo-charged by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to its own advantage.

That is because unilateral adherence to law is untenably stupid.

There is no reason why President Trump, or any successor, should not appoint to FBI, CIA, or any of the nation’s sundry intelligence and law enforcement agencies, people who will make whatever “discretionary judgments” they need to come up with “predicates” for covering major opposition candidates with webs of surveillance and research into their every act and utterance; and who then will gin up campaigns of vilification that vie for virulence with the ones that Trump has suffered since 2016.

The Left wrote the playbook on using intelligence to launch attacks and on claims of national security to shield the attackers from scrutiny. Anyone may speak the playbook’s words. One may hope only that the Right’s self-justifications might be less oily and foul than Webster’s.

Moreover, the Right’s investigations might actually aim at facts. That would be novel because, never forget, the “investigations” into Trump were not about unearthing facts, so much as to to validate and spread negative opinions under the color of authority.

The 2020 field of Democratic presidential candidates offers plentiful opportunities for the Right to inflict the new rules’ consequences upon their authors.

Consider: To what extent do South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s father’s extensive Communist contacts continue to influence his son? Mayor Pete grew up among ideas and persons hostile to America. These need to be identified, and questions need to be examined about whether and to what extent any continue to influence this presidential candidate.

Mayor Pete also has a history of illegal drug use. Who have his suppliers been? Tied to which cartels? What sort of leverage might they have on him? People need to be identified and examined under oath. Discrepancies in testimony need to be prosecuted. So do whatever crimes they may have committed. The anti-Trump investigations turned related persons’ “process crimes” into indictments of Trump. Democratic candidates should experience no less.

On their face, the Biden family’s financial profiting from the several offices Joe Biden has held involves the violation of numerous ordinary laws. Detailing the manner and extent to which the family’s enrichment have paralleled its access to power seems to be part of federal law enforcement’s core duties.

But arguably the foremost rule by which the ruling class has lived is avoidance of any and all matters that might inconvenience its members’ powers, prestige, and money.

So egregious have been the ruling class’s attacks on Donald Trump, so shameless has been the sanctimony with which men such as William Webster have defended their biased governing rules, that the rest of us are well nigh compelled to give it a double dose of its own medicine.

About Angelo Codevilla

Angelo M. Codevilla is a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and the author of To Make And Keep Peace (Hoover Institution Press, 2014).

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

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