All Enemies, Foreign & Domestic
(First Published in The Greenwich Sentinel on May 18. 2018)
Article VI of the US Constitution states that all legislators, executive and judicial officers, “both of the United Sates and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution.” In furtherance of that requirement, 5 U.S.C. Sec. 3331 provides that all individuals, except the president (who takes a special oath), “elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services shall take the following oath:
I, [NAME], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
Growing up, we were taught to respect the Constitution. We were taught that our word was our bond. That if we took an oath or made a promise, we were duty bound to follow through to the best of our ability. That failure to do so would make us untrustworthy in the eyes of others.
Imagine this scenario: Certain senior leaders in the United States Intelligence Community (CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, etc.) and the Department of Justice (Attorney General’s Office, FBI, etc.), personally and ideologically invested in the outcome of an American presidential election, intentionally or coincidentally coordinate efforts in support of that outcome.
When allegations of potentially criminal activity are raised against the preferred candidate, the FBI conducts an investigation but publicly concludes (in an unprecedented exception to longstanding policy and in usurpation of the DOJ’s prosecutorial role – triggered in part by the Attorney General’s surprise recusal on appearance of conflict grounds), just four months shy of the national election, that no reasonable prosecutor would pursue the case.
When additional evidence relevant to the investigation is subsequently uncovered, lower level FBI officials wait for a number of weeks to disclose that to their boss, the Director of the FBI. The Director then feels bound by an earlier promise to Congress to disclose that information just five weeks prior to the election. While he ultimately decides again that no prosecution would be warranted, the disclosure inflicts damage to the preferred candidate’s campaign, and is later cited as a reason for that candidate’s loss in the national election.
Prior to the election, officials in the FBI speak of an “insurance policy” in the event that the non-preferred candidate wins the election. The FBI plants an informant in the non-preferred candidate’s campaign, and the preferred candidate’s campaign and national political party organization fund opposition research on the other candidate, prepared by a former UK foreign intelligence officer from other foreign sources, including Russian. The report contains unconfirmed and even salacious allegations about the other candidate. The report is given to a senior Senator from the opposing candidate’s party, who is known to be personally antagonistic to that candidate. The Senator delivers the report to the FBI, which then hires the author for a period of time.
The unverified report is used as basis for securing a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to conduct surveillance on an American citizen member of the opposing candidate’s campaign. Curiously, no charges are ever brought against that individual, but the warrant (repeatedly renewed) permits collection of information and conversations pertaining to other American citizen members of the campaign. Then, in an extraordinarily exceptional manner, the identities of some of those American citizens are revealed (“unmasked”) and some of the content of their conversations leaked to the media.
After the election, notwithstanding lack of authentication, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) instructs the FBI Director to brief the new president-elect on the salacious aspects of the report, creating the appearance of credibility and the pretense to characterize the entire report as such. The DNI then discusses (leaks) the report with a media organization, further fueling the impression of credibility. The report is ultimately publicly published in full by another media source.
Once in office, in an unusual but constitutionally permissible move, the new president fires the FBI Director. Unbeknownst to the president, the FBI Director had made contemporaneous notes of his conversations with the president (not a practice he had undertaken with the previous president). The now former FBI Director intentionally shares (leaks) certain of these notes to a “friend” (a law school professor who had actually worked directly for the former Director at the FBI as a “special government employee”) with the clear expectation that the friend would share the information with the media. The former Director later admits publicly that he did so in expectation that the leaked information would trigger appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of foreign collusion on the part of the new president and his campaign.
In the midst of all this, the Justice Department Inspector General is quietly investigating a series of allegations of improper behavior by FBI officials in connection with a series of matters involving the defeated candidate both during and prior to the national campaign.
A special prosecutor is in fact appointed. Conveniently, the individual so appointed is the former FBI Director’s friend and immediate predecessor as FBI Director. The special prosecutor and his team spend over a year investigating the collusion charges without uncovering any evidence. They do, however, cause unrelated charges to be brought against some individuals associated with the president’s campaign — in at least one instance, relying on information obtained through the FISA warrant. The topic of collusion and the special prosecutor’s investigation dominate the news headlines seemingly exclusively, almost as if intended to distract the public from looking harder at the curious actions of certain government officials in the months leading up to and immediately following the election.
The above is not the screenplay for an episode of “The Twilight Zone” or the Cliff Notes version of a book by Tom Clancy, though I think we all wish it could be simply that. These are real facts, and real allegations; even if only some of them are true, we are in serious trouble as a nation. We are presented with the real possibility that officials at the highest levels of our government have betrayed our trust, violated their oaths, abused their power and authority, undermined our democracy, cynically and possibly criminally put their own interests and ideologies above the common weal. This cannot be countenanced. We must restore integrity and faith in our government.
Hopefully, the upcoming Inspector General’s report will provide the basis for a cleansing and a new beginning. We may find that the truth is scarier than fiction, but at least we can then start to write a new and better story.