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Fear Dangers From Within, Not Those Abroad

Fear Dangers From Within, Not Those Abroad

One of the 6 buildings of the Watergate Complex in Washington, D.C., with statue of Benito Juarez in front. (Kelley Kibbey/Dreamstime)

By Monday, 14 May 2018 01:06 PM Current | Bio | Archive

One of the most astute observations attributable to Mark Twain ever made, was that history doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes.

We are in the process of watching the rhyming of Watergate.

President Nixon was hounded out of the Oval Office when evidence emerged that he had covered up a scheme to break into the headquarters of the Democratic party and was using agencies of the federal government to aid in the coverup. Nixon famously said, "I am not a crook."

The American people didn’t believe him. He was forced to resign.

We are supposed to be a government of laws, not men (or women), and no person, not even a president, is supposed to be above the law. Donald Trump’s enemies still seek to paint him as illegitimate, as having secured the White House through some nefarious means. The most prominent of these theories is that that Trump and his campaign colluded with Russians, who somehow managed to manipulate the electoral process to steal the election.

What we are on the verge, apparently of confirming, is that this story — of Russian collusion — is itself a fabrication planted by Democrats as a means of discrediting a lawfully elected Republican president.

Where this rhymes with Watergate is the use, by members of the Obama administration, of the agencies of the federal government — in particular, the Justice Department and the FBI — unscrupulously and blatantly illegally to monitor and undermine the Trump administration, and its agenda.

This was done, most likely, by using fabricated political propaganda with its source in the Clinton campaign to obtain warrants for surveillance of officials connected to Trump.

Worse, as we discovered last week, the FBI may have planted a mole, a government spy, in the midst of the Trump campaign.

Conceivably, had there been a real threat to national security this might have been justified, but it certainly flies in the face of our belief that partisan politics should be separate from government, and that no political party has a right wrongly to use the mechanisms of government to frustrate and compromise the electoral process.

In other words, we may be about to discover that those who were crying wolf about the Russians were the wolves themselves.

We find ourselves in this corrupt situation because of two developments our framers were unable to foresee — the rise of two ideologically distinct political parties, and the rise of the administrative state with its attendant executive agencies who see their task not as serving the people, but of maintaining persons and policies devoted to partisan ends.

The most prominent recent examples are Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, FBI operatives committed to defeating Mr. Trump and helping Mrs. Clinton.

It is increasingly clear that these two were not alone.

It now appears that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and former FBI Director James B. Comey, as well as a brace of other Justice Department officials, may have been engaged in associated misconduct.

We should know more details when the Justice Department inspector general releases his report later this month, and, Watergate-like, there will probably be grand juries and prosecutions, but if corruption is to be contained, it is now time for the president and Congress to act.

We discovered last week that two congressional investigators, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Rep. Trey Gowdy, D-S.C., continue to be stonewalled by reluctance on the part of the Justice Department to reveal evidence of the source of the FBI’s counter-intelligence operation on the Trump Campaign.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. an intrepid, savvy, and outspoken resident of The Empire State (much like President Trump himself) has accused the Justice Department of "manipulating" even the president, by claiming that revealing the details of the surveillance operation would endanger national security.

Mr. King believes that the Justice Department is seeking to conceal its own wrongdoing while urging the president to order the relevant officials to turn over information to Congress.

Mr. Trump should heed Mr. King’s advice.

For too long Congress has allowed other organs of government to accumulate power, and we have reached the point, as President Trump has maintained, that the federal leviathan, or, as he calls it, "the swamp," needs containing.

In the course of the Obama administration we also reached the point that a chief executive felt that with his phone and his pen he could ignore Congress and through executive orders, legislate for the country, while implementing partisan domestic and foreign policy without the need for congressional action — much less bipartisan consensus.

The rise of the swamp, the perversion of the Justice Department, and perhaps of the presidency itself in the last administration have demonstrated the corruption which the framers believed was the constant danger for republics.

Ours was not a Constitution designed for rule by partisans or bureaucrats.

It's well past time the effort began in earnest to reverse that corruption lest we completely forfeit popular sovereignty and constitutional government.

President Trump has begun to undo much of what Mr. Obama did, as we saw with the repudiation of the Iran nuclear agreement, as we may see with immigration reform, and as we have also seen with the reversal of myriad Obama administration regulations.

The president and Congress need to do still more, however.

The attempt by Obama administration officials, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, and others corruptly to undermine our constitutional scheme needs fully to be exposed. The real threat facing this country is not foreign intervention, it is the subversion of our Constitution and self-government by officials of the previous administration.

Stephen B. Presser is the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, the Legal Affairs Editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and a contributor to The University Bookman. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has taught at Rutgers University, the University of Virginia, and University College, London. He has often testified on constitutional issues before committees of the United States Congress, and is the author of "Recapturing the Constitution: Race, Religion, and Abortion Reconsidered" (Regnery, 1994) and "Law Professsors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law" (West Academic, 2017). Presser was recently appointed as a Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado's Boulder Campus for 2018-2019. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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For too long Congress has allowed other organs of government to accumulate power. The real threat facing this country is not foreign intervention, it is the subversion of our Constitution and self-government by officials of the previous administration.
gowdy, nunez, page, strozk
Monday, 14 May 2018 01:06 PM
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