'You have to get her': New book helps debunk the Trumpland conspiracy theories about the FBI
A forthcoming book from journalist James Stewart has arrived at a perfect time to burn down the conspiracy theories that have consumed President Donald Trump's administration, as revealed by Jonathan Chait's review in the New York Times.
"Deep State: Trump, the FBI, and the Rule of Law," to be published on Tuesday, tells the story of the twin FBI investigations into surrounding two 2016 presidential candidates: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. As Chait tells it, the new book doesn't actually present many new facts into the public narratives around the email investigation and the Russia probe, both famous in their own right, but in telling the stories together, it is revealing in its own way.
In that sense, Chait's review recalls an accidentally hilarious moment from Attorney General Bill Barr's Senate testimony in May. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) tried to make a point about how egregious the Russia investigation supposedly was as an offense against Trump, asking, “Do we know if [the Justice Department] investigated any other candidates running for president?"
At first, Barr said he didn't know. And then, cutting Cruz off, Barr recalled that Clinton has been under investigation during the 2016 campaign. Oh, right. As I argued at the time, this revelation — which everyone should know — deflates the conspiracy theories that somehow the intelligence community conspired to help Clinton win the election. Barr is now flying around the world trying to prove those conspiracy theories.
"Deep State," too, refocuses us on the history that debunks the right-wing myths about the FBI. It was hardly a bastion of Democratic support. As Chait wrote:
The F.B.I. agents investigating Clinton’s use of a personal email account realized early on that they would never have a prosecutable case. While Clinton had violated laws pertaining to the handling of classified material, she had apparently done so out of a combination of technical ineptitude and convenience, and the government had never charged an offender without establishing nefarious motives. As a result, the bureau concluded it didn’t “have much on the intent side.”
You might think this decision made life easier for the F.B.I., which would be spared the ordeal of having to insert itself into a presidential campaign. Instead, it made life harder. The reason for this: The bureau contained what some Department of Justice officials considered “hotbeds of anti-Clinton hostility,” especially in the Little Rock and New York offices. Stewart describes how F.B.I. officials encouraged colleagues investigating the Democratic nominee with messages like “You have to get her” and “You guys are finally going to get that bitch.” James Comey, the F.B.I. director during the Clinton email probe, went so far as to tell Attorney General Loretta Lynch, “It’s clear to me that there is a cadre of senior people in New York who have a deep and visceral hatred of Secretary Clinton.” Those agents leaked regularly to right-wing media sources that the bureau was turning a blind eye to what they saw as Clinton’s criminality.
It was, it seems, this hotbed of anti-Clinton fervor that pressured Comey into his unprecedented acts against the Democratic candidate: openly smearing her as "extremely careless" in July 2016 and then announcing the reopening of the investigation into her emails days before the election. Meanwhile, only minimal information about the Russia investigation leaked out, some of it spun to help Trump.
The piece also reminds us that while Trump has declared war on the investigators who launched the Russia probe, saying they should themselves be investigated, there's plenty of suspicious pro-Trump conduct surrounding the matter that should be scrutinized. Justice Department and FBI officials who were seen as insufficiently loyal were maligned and driven out of the government. And Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, met repeatedly with Trump during the probe under highly dubious circumstances. Not to mention, of course, the mountain of evidence that Trump obstructed Mueller's probe — potentially successfully.
All this is important to keep in mind as the news is certain to focus on Trump's attempts to get Ukraine to "investigate" the Russia probe's origins in a desperate and likely criminal attempt to exonerate himself.