U.S. Attorney General William Barr’s recognition that spying on the Donald Trump campaign occurred and that “spying on a political campaign is a big deal” incited congressional Democrats and liberal pundits to condemn Barr.
Barr “is acting as an employee of the president,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer charged, adding that he thinks “the attorney general believes he needs to protect the president of the United States.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the Associated Press “she didn’t trust Barr and suggested his statements undermined his credibility as America’s chief law enforcement officer.” Meanwhile Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer took to Twitter to accuse Barr of “peddling conspiracy theories,” and media personalities tweeted out attacks on the attorney general, calling him untrustworthy.
Democrats and the mainstream media seem oblivious to the implication of their attacks on Barr’s independence: Barr’s supposed lack of independence would justify the appointment of a second special counsel, this one to investigate the initiation and handling of the investigation into Trump and the Trump campaign.
Since evidence of misconduct by the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order to spy on former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page first made headlines, many high-profile Republicans have demanded the appointment of a second special counsel to probe the abuse. But former attorney general Jeff Sessions rebuffed the requests and instead directed Utah U.S. Attorney John Huber to work with the inspector general’s office to investigate the claims of misconduct.
Nothing has come of Huber’s investigation—at least publicly. There is also reason to doubt that anything would come from the probe given evidence suggesting the FBI has already ended an investigation into dossier author Christopher Steele without any charges forthcoming.
Unless Barr intervenes, that is, which his recent congressional testimony suggests is likely: “I feel I have an obligation to make sure that government power was not abused,” the attorney general told the Senate appropriations sub-committee last Wednesday. Barr added that he is “concerned about whether improper surveillance occurred and is looking into it.”
Barr’s statements give conservatives hope that the misconduct of anti-Trump zealots will not go unexposed and unpunished. Democrats seem fearful of this possibility and seek to shackle Barr by attacking his independence and credibility. But rather than deter Barr from investigating Spygate, the Democrats’ criticism of the attorney general can only lead to one result: the appointment of a special counsel.
By regulation, the attorney general is directed to “appoint a Special Counsel when he or she determines that criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted and that the investigation or prosecution of that person or matter by a United States Attorney’s Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department or other extraordinary circumstances.” Additionally, it must be “in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter.”
There is already sufficient evidence to justify a criminal investigation related to the Russia collusion probe, whether it be the false statements Steele made to the FBI, or those contained in the FISA applications and attested to by numerous FBI and the DOJ officials. The numerous leaks that spurred on the Russia collusion hoax also provide ample cause to launch a criminal investigation into the matter.
So if Democrats want to cry conflict, fine: Barr can appoint a special counsel to oversee the matter. In fact, were Democrats truly concerned about the propriety of the investigation, they would be demanding a special counsel to ensure that the investigation—led by a Trump-appointee—does not devolve into a vindictive witch hunt against political opponents.
Will anyone in the mainstream media make this point? Not likely. But hopefully congressional Republicans will recognize the significance of the left’s rhetoric and call on their colleagues to join them in supporting the appointment of a special counsel.