Fred LaSor claims President Obama “weaponized executive branch agencies” to interfere in the 2016 election, citing a number of alleged scandals. Let’s have a look.
LaSor claims the IRS denied tax-exempt status to nonprofit political organizations “that appeared to support conservative candidates and policies.” As the Treasury Department’s IG reported after an exhaustive investigation, between 2010 and 2012 the IRS experienced a surge in applications for tax-exempt status by political organizations. Approval required a determination the group is “primarily engaged in the promotion of social welfare.” Such organizations can engage in political activity “so long as, in the aggregate, these nonexempt activities are not its primary activities.” To get a feel for how this rule applied to specific organizations, IRS investigators searched for keywords such as “tea party,” “patriot,” “progressive,” “occupy,” “green energy,” and “ACORN.” That isn’t the IRS weaponizing anything. They were doing their jobs.
Another example of alleged bureaucratic weaponization was Fast and Furious, a botched ATF gunwalking operation during which, according to Fred, agents “acted criminally by encouraging Arizona firearms dealers to break the law by selling weapons to unqualified purchasers.” That’s not true. Those sting operations, though ill-conceived, were completely legal and well-intentioned. The idea was to trace straw-purchased weapons to higher echelons of Mexican drug cartels. Instead they ended up costing lives on both sides of the border. As this operation began in 2006, it’s hard to see how President Obama, who took office in 2009, was responsible for “weaponizing” it.
LaSor goes onto claim tFBI Director James Comey weaponized the FISA court “to spy on one-time Trump advisor Carter Page without knowing more about Christopher Steele and his ‘dossier.’” The FBI first applied for a surveillance warrant on Page in September 2016, and subsequently obtained four 90-day renewals, all during the Trump administration. Page had been on the FBI’s radar since 2013, when his contacts with members of a Russian spy ring in New York City came to light.
The FBI didn’t belong to President Obama in September 2016 any more than it belongs to President Trump today. It hasn’t been weaponized by anybody. The FBI was and is doing its job, as was Christopher Steele when he compiled his opposition research on behalf of both Republican and Democratic presidential campaigns. The political nature of the funding was fully disclosed to the FISA court, and wasn’t the sole basis for the warrant requests.
After being caught conniving with White House staffers in a political stunt, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes was forced to recuse himself from that committee’s investigation into Russian election meddling. But that didn’t stop him from spinning Joe McCarthy-style yarns about how the FBI, the Department of Justice, and now the State Department, Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency are all part of a deep state cabal determined to undermine President Trump’s national security agenda. If you can buy into a supersized conspiracy theory like that, Fred LaSor is your kind of political pundit.
Mr. LaSor derides the claim by former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper 17 intelligence agencies concurred in the assessment “the Trump campaign had illegal contact with Russian officials.” He fails to mention Mr. Clapper’s job was to oversee the 17 agencies that make up what’s collectively referred to as the “Intelligence Community.” At Clapper’s level, intelligence assessments are reviewed by all 17 of those agencies. In this case, their assessment was unanimous.
Republican Senators Grassley and Graham thought it “odd” President Obama would’ve stressed the importance of every aspect of the Russia investigation being handled by the book. Mr. LaSor agrees, though it’s not clear why. It’s essential for the chief executive to set a professional tone on matters that could potentially be politicized, as President Trump has done by calling the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt” and “fake news.”
Rich Dunn had access to compartmentalized intelligence information during his military career. He is troubled by the way others with similar backgrounds distort the facts to defame past and present leaders of the Intelligence Community for partisan political purposes.