The alarming revelation that Rep. Adam Schiff’s House Intelligence Committee obtained and released telephone records of a journalist, another House member and President Trump’s lawyers is just the latest in an escalating pattern of abuse by Democrats.
Democratic attempts to weaponize government power against their adversaries have largely gone unpunished, leading to ever more brazen offenses.
Having once held the power to write congressional subpoenas myself, I am familiar with the restrictions on Congress. For instance, the courts have not allowed Congress to compel documents from private entities unless the information informs legislation.
There is no legislation under consideration that requires Congress to view call records of the president’s lawyers or the media.
Intelligence Committee Chairman Schiff, D-Calif., has weaponized the subpoena power of Congress to collect data to which he is not entitled.
There was no justification for Schiff to use his subpoena power to obtain and publish the records of telephone calls by the ranking member of his committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif. Nor was there adequate reason to spy on a journalist or legal counsel for the president.
Though this is uncharted territory for the House, partisans in Congress and the media have bent over backward to defend Democrats’ spying.
Schiff’s abuse of power follows a much more audacious violation by a politicized FBI, as revealed by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz. His recent report detailed numerous egregious abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by Obama administration bureaucrats.
In one example from the FISA report, we learned that the FBI in 2016 sent an informant to ask whether the Trump election campaign was planning an October surprise. That is information that wouldn’t be particularly relevant to a criminal investigation, but would certainly be relevant to political espionage.
Though this flagrant perversion of the FBI and the FISA process may yet be prosecuted, thus far Democrats have gotten exactly what they wanted from their Deep State allies – a thin pretext upon which to derail the Trump presidency with years of negative stories in the media.
Where did the Democrats get the idea they could get away with such overreach? Perhaps from the success of past attempts to spy on adversaries and weaponize agencies.
Democrats have certainly not had to worry about prosecution by their allies in the bureaucracy. Hillary Clinton famously destroyed her smartphone with a hammer and wiped her hard drive with Bleach Bit – despite congressional subpoenas – to prevent investigators from legally accessing evidence of wrongdoing. She got away with it. Why would anybody expect to be prosecuted?
But the spying even candidate Trump and the Clinton email investigation. In 2013, we learned the Obama Justice Department had spied on journalist James Rosen, accessing his emails, tracking his movements and collecting his phone records.
The spying on Rosen was revealed just weeks after reports surfaced that Associated Press reporters had been spied on when phone records of more than 20 lines were secretly obtained.
Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder made a show in 2014 of signing new rules to assure journalists the Justice Department would abide by written guidelines. But no one was fired or disciplined by Holder.
Just two years later, the Obama Justice Department would change tactics, this time using the FISA Court process to spy on political adversaries,
Concurrent to the Justice Department spying on the media, the Internal Revenue Service was targeting conservative nonprofits for unprecedented scrutiny, requiring them to submit answers to detailed questionnaires about their donors.
This information was not required of left-leaning nonprofits. Like the spying at the Justice Department, this process produced information that was more useful for political than for regulatory use, and it deprived the applicants of their First Amendment rights.
Though my Republican colleagues and I pushed hard for consequences, including the impeachment of the IRS commissioner, the Obama administration held firm against holding anyone accountable. The Justice Department would later pay out millions of dollars to settle claims by the nonprofits.
I even had my own personal brush with Deep State spying when more than 40 members of the Secret Service unlawfully accessed my personnel records. In an effort to intimidate and embarrass me during an investigation of their agency, some leaked my personal information to the media in violation of department policy.
In this case, the agency did ultimately mete out soft consequences, but nobody was prosecuted and nobody was fired. Little did I know then that this was just part of a pattern of abusing surveillance.
These are just some of the corruptive acts we know about. What else is out there?
If we don’t take action now and prosecute, the pattern will only continue to escalate because federal officials wrongly using their powers will continue to know there are no serious consequences.
In the long run, that’s an outcome that will be bad for Republicans, bad for Democrats and bad for all Americans.
Attorney General William Barr should be applauded for taking this threat seriously and assigning U.S. Attorney John Durham to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing committed during the 2016 election campaign. But thus far, the Democrats have not been held accountable for their brazen spying on their political opponents.