When President Trump nominated Bill Barr to replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general, like many conservatives, I was wary. Barr was formerly George H.W. Bush’s attorney general — and the Bush family is notable for its antipathy to Donald Trump.
In addition, there was little in Barr’s record that suggested that he would be inclined to take on the political establishment. And it was “the establishment,” lest we forget, that considered it normal, even patriotic, to surveil the Trump campaign in 2016 and presume the Republican candidate for president to be a Russian agent.
I therefore thought to myself, when Barr was nominated: there goes any hope of holding the Deep State accountable for what it has done to Trump, and to the American people.
But I may have been wrong. Recently, Barr went before Congress and he was frank about the fact that the Department of Justice and the FBI “spied” on the Trump campaign. They unquestionably did so.
No, the American version of 007 was not planted inside the campaign, but actual spies initiated contacts with Trump campaign officials designed to probe them (or entrap them?) on the issue of possible illegal coordination with the Russian government. The FBI (and the Clinton campaign) retained an actual spy, the Englishman Christopher Steele, to entice other actual spies, Kremlin-linked Russians whose motivations can only be guessed at, to dish out unverified and unverifiable dirt on Donald Trump.
Carter Page, who worked for the Trump campaign, was wiretapped with the permission of a (deliberately misled) FISA judge, and his conversations with other Trump campaign staff were therefore intercepted and read by Obama administration officials.
Moreover, the CIA and other intelligence agencies, both foreign and domestic, became involved in the vendetta against Trump — and thus what we know today about the secret machinations of these Deep State authorities may be just a small fraction of the truth. In all likelihood, the law enforcement and espionage resources that were deployed against the Republican Party, and eventually against the president-elect and the president, were vast.
As Barr said to Congress, this is all a “big deal,” and no one should claim otherwise.
I have called repeatedly for the attorney general to appoint a second special counsel to investigate how the Trump-Russia hoax, and the related investigations, got started. So far he has not done so. Last week he did announce, however, that he intends to assemble a “team” to look into the matter.
That may mean the attorney general intends to lead this inquiry himself. It may mean that he will consider appointing another special counsel in due course. What is doesn’t mean is that he intends to sweep this potential abuse of power under the rug. That is heartening, to say the least.
Bill Barr may not be the Trumpian pit bull that many conservatives were hoping for, but he is, by all appearances, a man determined to see that justice prevails and that no one, no matter how well-connected, can assume themselves to be above the law. Good for him.
(Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an associate professor of history at SUNY Alfred and blogs at www.waddyisright.com.)