By the bureau’s Trump standard, he looked like an agent of Iran.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reportedly opened a counterintelligence investigation in 2017 to find out if President Trump was a Russian agent. What if the FBI had similarly looked into whether President Obama was an agent of Iran?
Counterintelligence agents would have examined the target’s personal and professional networks. The FBI investigated at least four Trump campaign figures for supposed ties to Russia. Only one, Mike Flynn, worked in the administration, and for less than a month. The Obama administration had a few senior officials with personal ties to Iran.
Obama confidant Valerie Jarrett was born in the Iranian city of Shiraz and reportedly led back-channel talks with the Iranians in 2012. Secretary of State John Kerry’s daughter quashed right-wing rumors that her Iranian-American husband’s best man was the son of Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. But under the FBI’s Trump procedures, that denial might have made her suspect. A month after Trump adviser Carter Page publicly asked then-Director James Comey for an interview to clear his name, the FBI obtained a warrant to wiretap him.
As Mr. Trump’s desire for improved relations with Russia raised eyebrows at the bureau, a 2008 article written by John Brennan—who went on to serve as White House counterterrorism adviser and Central Intelligence Agency director—advocated a grand bargain with Iran. In 2009 the Obama White House conducted secret negotiations with Tehran.
Mr. Obama later sidelined Project Cassandra, an investigation of illicit trafficking networks employed by Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese franchise. Launched in 2008, the investigation was run by a multiagency task force, including the FBI itself. Then for 18 months in 2014-15, the Obama White House gave the Iranians $700 million a month in sanctions relief. In January 2016, Mr. Obama sent Iran another $1.7 billion in cash. The administration also had a habit of leaking news of Israeli strikes on Iranian arms convoys and depots in Syria.
All these Obama actions are easily explained: Inducing Iran to sign a nuclear agreement was the former president’s top foreign-policy priority. I believe this pro-Iran policy was disastrous. But it wasn’t collusion or treason or any of the other crimes of which Democrats and their media allies have accused Mr. Trump.
The FBI’s suspicions about Mr. Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin were reportedly piqued by, among other things, a May 2017 television interview in which he said he fired Mr. Comey for the “Russia thing.” He’s also staged a series of brazenly public events where he professed his hopes of warmer ties with Vladimir Putin. Like Mr. Obama’s pro-Iran policies, Mr. Trump’s hope for better relations with Russia was anything but clandestine.
Yet critics of the Russia investigations are wrong to suggest the attacks on the president and his associates reflect the increasing tendency to criminalize policy differences . It has nothing to do with policy, for Mr. Trump’s Russia policy has been as hard-line as that of any post-Cold War administration, including Mr. Obama’s. The FBI’s motive for investigating Mr. Trump looks more like pure politics.
The criminalization of political differences destroys what’s left of civility in our political culture.
.. For a year, Democrats listened to crowds at Trump rallies and even the delegates at the Republican National Convention engage in chants of “lock her up.” Today, the Internet is reverberating with Democrats engaging in some virtual revenge as the latest leaks about the investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians have indicated that Jared Kushner is a “person of interest.”
That means liberals are chortling about the president’s son-in-law having to choose between a jail cell and informing on his wife’s father.
.. Flynn is, of course, in no position to complain about people hoping to see him in jail, since he was the one that led the crowd in “lock her up” chants at the GOP convention in Cleveland.
.. The problem is that both parties seem to have lost the ability to oppose an administration or candidate without seeking to “lock up” the other side.
.. The current process by which foes are delegitimized means that all too many Americans don’t merely disagree with their opponents. The questioning of motives has now escalated to the point where Democrats believe that Republicans are not merely hard-hearted tools of the corporate class but willing to commit treason to gain a political advantage or increase profits to private interests.
.. many on the right not only condoned Trump’s birther smears about Obama but actually thought Hillary Clinton wanted four Americans to be murdered by terrorists in Benghazi and deliberately exposed U.S. secrets to foreign powers.
.. tolerance of opposing views in the public square has been discarded in favor of a Facebook-feed mentality in which all ideas and persons who don’t confirm our pre-existing prejudices and assumptions can be deleted and “defriended.”
The result isn’t just the collapse of civility that is taken for granted on both sides of the aisle but a political cycle in which the impulse to criminalize differences has become the default reaction to losing an election
If that is where we are, America is not merely a bifurcated nation but well on its way to banana-republic status.