Biden Will Answer for FBI Abuse
| le 22 May 2020
Barr is right to rule out a criminal probe. Voters will have their say in November.
By Kimberley A. Strassel – The Wall Street Journal
For millions of Americans frustrated that no Obama-era leaders have been held to account for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s rogue 2016 actions, Attorney General William Barr this week offered an important reminder. Former Vice President Joe Biden, at least, will face judgment in November.
Mr. Barr felt compelled to address the Biden question after last week’s news that the putative Democratic nominee was among those who “unmasked” incoming Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn. Mr. Biden was also present at a Jan. 5, 2017, Oval Office meeting at which the FBI’s Flynn investigation was discussed—suggesting a political element. The revelations inspired President Donald Trump to tweet “OBAMAGATE!” more than once, and there had been growing speculation that U.S. Attorney John Durham’s probe was homing in on Barack Obama and Mr. Biden.
Mr. Barr put that idea to rest at a press conference. “Based on the information I have today,” he said, “I don’t expect Mr. Durham’s work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man.” But the press largely ignored the fuller context of Mr. Barr’s remarks. He reminded Americans that our system provides for two methods of accountability—political and criminal—and it’s dangerous to mix the two.
The attorney general noted that for decades “there have been increasing attempts to use the criminal-justice system as a political weapon.” He specifically cited the “grave injustice” of a “law-enforcement and intelligence apparatus” that advanced “a false and utterly baseless Russian collusion narrative against the president.” That narrative was provided to the FBI by Democrats and the Hillary Clinton campaign, making the FBI’s Trump investigation the purest expression of politicized justice.
Mr. Barr said this weaponization wouldn’t continue on his watch. The Supreme Court, he noted, distinguishes between “abuse of power and a federal crime. Not every abuse of power—no matter how outrageous—is necessarily a federal crime.” That’s when he noted the unlikelihood of a “criminal investigation” of Mr. Biden or Mr. Obama. For anyone who misses the obvious point: While their actions may not rise to a “crime,” both men may be guilty of an outrageous abuse of power. Such abuses require political accountability, through elections.
It’s a powerful point, one largely missing in the Russia-collusion scandal. The Justice Department’s inspector general excoriated the behavior of former FBI leaders like James Comey and Andrew McCabe. But whatever happened to Mr. Obama’s brag that “the buck stops with me”? Mr. Obama appointed Mr. Comey, despite many warnings (including on these pages) that he had a record of prosecutorial excess and bad judgment. Another Obama appointee, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, failed in her responsibility to keep Mr. Comey in line.
The former president didn’t clean up this mess because the Obama-Biden administration—and Democrats in general—are fine with politicized justice. Ms. Lynch’s predecessor, Eric Holder, proudly declared himself an “activist” attorney general and pursued ideological campaigns against churches, corporations and state voter-identification laws. Politics permeated every Obama agency, from the Internal Revenue Service, which terrorized conservative nonprofits, to the Environmental Protection Agency, which bullied developers.
Mr. Biden’s support of this approach, and his own rah-rahing of the FBI and intelligence abuses, deserves center stage in the campaign. We still require answers on his specific role in the Flynn saga. But what’s already clear is that Mr. Biden was a nodding believer in the politicized Comey approach. Asked on Jan. 12, 2017, by MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell if it was a “mistake” for intelligence officials to include the dossier in their briefing of President-elect Trump (thereby allowing it to leak), Mr. Biden repeated the talking points that Mr. Comey had an “obligation” to do so. And asked by CNN in February 2018 if he’d seen anything to suggest abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Mr. Biden credulously asserted that the FBI’s processes were too rigorous for anything to go wrong. Mr. Biden has been mum on the inspector general’s report outlining the FBI’s outrageous manipulation of the court—which happened on the Obama-Biden watch.
In Mr. Barr’s comments is some subtle advice for Mr. Trump. The president’s constant pressure on the Justice Department to pursue the prior administration only undercuts the Durham probe. Mr. Trump would do far better to make the politicization of the Obama-Biden Justice Department a main campaign point—and to warn Americans that a President Biden would again unleash prosecutors to pursue political targets, while covering up any further revelations about the 2016 abuses and killing any chance at reform.