by George Neumayr
Barack Obama has long bragged about his supposedly scandal-free presidency, a claim that conveniently ignores a host of ethical problems, from Hunter Biden profiting off access to Obama’s White House to the IRS harassing conservative activists. But the biggest scandal of Obama’s presidency is still coming into focus: his administration’s spying on a political opponent, Donald Trump, based on nothing more than a dirty trick deployed by Obama’s former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.
On the speaking circuit these days, Obama lectures Americans on dangers to democracy. But he presided over the most significant one in recent memory: an utterly bogus investigation that hobbled Trump’s campaign and presidency. Obama’s CIA director, John Brennan, had informed him by at least July of 2016 that Hillary was pushing a Trump-Russia collusion claim. Obama could have instructed his agencies to steer clear of this nonsense. But he didn’t.
John Durham, the Justice Department special counsel who is examining this debacle, has shown in his filings the ease with which Hillary got friends in the Obama administration to investigate Trump. Christopher Steele, her chief opposition researcher, was peddling the Trump-Russia hoax across the Obama administration in the months before the election.
The collusion in the 2016 election was not between Trump and Russia but between Hillary and the United States government under Obama. The final Durham report will presumably detail the full extent of that collusion. In some cases, it can be plausibly argued that the Hillary campaign simply duped government officials. Durham, for example, has established convincingly that FBI counsel James Baker took a meeting with lawyer Michael Sussmann without knowledge of his work for Hillary’s campaign.
But in other cases, the collusion can’t be described as accidental. Take Steele’s meeting with the State Department, to which Durham’s recent legal filings have alluded. A few weeks before the election, Steele met with State Department officials Kathleen Kavalec and Jonathan Winer, who is a friend of Sidney Blumenthal, one of Hillary’s most rabid supporters. Winer also knew Steele well and could not have been ignorant of his partisan motivations. In a 2018 column anticipating scrutiny of his interactions with Steele, Winer acknowledged sharing opposition research with Steele that Blumenthal had given him:
Blumenthal and I discussed Steele’s reports. He showed me notes gathered by a journalist I did not know, Cody Shearer, that alleged the Russians had compromising information on Trump of a sexual and financial nature.
What struck me was how some of the material echoed Steele’s but appeared to involve different sources.
On my own, I shared a copy of these notes with Steele, to ask for his professional reaction. He told me it was potentially “collateral” information. I asked him what that meant. He said that it was similar but separate from the information he had gathered from his sources. I agreed to let him keep a copy of the Shearer notes.
The Shearer to whom Winer refers is not a “journalist” but another dirt-digger long associated with Hillary Clinton. Steele ended up giving Shearer’s opposition research on Trump to the FBI as “corroboration” of his own opposition research — a multi-layered partisan farce that Obama’s State Department had facilitated.
Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who vowed to “stop” Trump, says that none of this scheming made any difference in the outcome of the election. But that wasn’t for lack of trying. A few weeks before election day, John Brennan deliberately leaked information about the FBI’s investigation into Trump-Russia collusion to Senator Harry Reid. This was Brennan’s version of an October surprise. As Reid explained to authors David Corn and Michael Isikoff in their book Russian Roulette, Brennan gave him this briefing knowing full well that he would broadcast it to the media. Corn and Isikoff write that Reid “had concluded the CIA chief believed the public needed to know about the Russian operation, including the information about the possible links to the Trump campaign.”
At every stage of the Obama administration’s investigation into Trump, the most committed liberal partisans pop up, with Brennan starting it, Strzok continuing it, and figures like Winer reinforcing it. Yet Obama, engaged in an endless post-presidential victory lap, affects an above-the-fray persona about it all, as if he led a singularly clean and uniquely dutiful administration. Joe Biden has, of course, joined him in this babble — “Know what I am most proud of? For eight years, there wasn’t one single hint of a scandal” — but fewer and fewer Americans believe this lie as the findings about Spygate trickle out.
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George Neumayr, a senior editor at The American Spectator, is author most recently of The Biden Deception: Moderate, Opportunist, or the Democrats’ Crypto-Socialist?