WASHINGTON -- It has taken a long time, but finally the Justice Department is training its guns on what heretofore was unthinkable, unless you're a career civil libertarian.
For years, the civil libertarians have been warning us that the Intelligence Community posed a threat to democracy as we know it in the United States. Every so often, they would point to some excess of the FBI or the CIA and tell us that the lights were going out in democratic America. Does not The Washington Post run atop its front page the maudlin line, "Democracy Dies in Darkness"?
Well, the darkness descended upon Donald Trump the moment he decided to run for president. The FBI and CIA, in cahoots with Hillary Clinton and those popularizing the infamous "dossier" she financed, threw a blanket of darkness over his campaign.
Late last week, we learned that what had been a Justice Department administrative review has suddenly become much more serious. It has become a criminal inquiry. That means the Justice Department believes there is sufficient evidence that a crime has been committed.
Now, the prosecutor in charge, John Durham, will have the power to subpoena witnesses' testimony and documents. He can convene a grand jury and file criminal charges. My guess is he has already convened a grand jury.
Durham and Attorney General William Barr have been looking into the origins of the Obama administration's spying on Trump. Just how did it begin? And who exactly started it? They are clearly unsettled by the answers they have found so far.
My colleague George Neumayr and I have been studying the Obama administration's spying on Trump for over three years. While most of the mainstream media searched desperately for a smoking gun carried by one of President Trump's people or even by the president himself, we looked elsewhere. We looked at the politicized atmosphere within the FBI and the CIA. We even looked at British intelligence. No one else seemed interested, but we found evidence of criminal misbehavior by former CIA Director John Brennan, former National Intelligence Director James Clapper and former FBI Director James Comey.
On March 23, 2018, we published the following: "While Brennan's recklessness is obviously of no interest to the media, it is provoking increasing concern among government investigators, who are looking at a range of his abuses -- from leaks to perjury to the outsourcing of spying on Trump to foreigners under the guise of 'intelligence-sharing.'"
And we went on: "A member of the intelligence community tells (us) that he was approached by FBI investigators inquiring about Brennan's improprieties at the CIA. He was startled to hear them venting aloud about Brennan's practice of using British intelligence officials to spy on the Trump campaign, including American contractors hired by the British who were working from the 12th floor of a building in Crystal City, Virginia, and an NSA building in San Antonio, Texas. Brennan, they fumed, was using British intelligence agents so that he could deny, if asked, that he had spied on the Trump campaign."
Now if you will remember, President Trump claimed that the Obama administration had bugged Trump Tower. The chattering class raged about this claim for months. But we now know Trump was right. Comey had sitting on his desk warrants -- through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- on Carter Page, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn that gave him the power to reach into Trump Tower and intercept their communications. Seized with Trump derangement syndrome, the three stooges -- Brennan, Clapper and Comey -- had convinced themselves that Trump, a sui generis American businessman known for his patriotism, was a plant for the Russians.
Psychologists would call such a far-fetched notion a case of projection. It was Brennan, after all, who famously voted for Gus Hall, the Soviet plant who ran for president in the 1970s.
The most perverse irony in all of this is that the American officials who bleated the loudest about "malicious actors interfering in the election" presided over a government that actually did. It was members of the U.S. government who spied upon Trump's campaign and sought to sabotage it through entrapment schemes and criminal leaks. It was Brennan who turned to foreigners for dirt on Trump to throw the election. They failed, but not for lack of trying. Just ask Harry Reid, who has noted Brennan's "ulterior motive" for briefing him on Crossfire Hurricane before Election Day.
In the coming days, we will learn much more about this audacious mischief, first through the report of Inspector General Michael Horowitz detailing FISA abuses and then through Durham's findings, which could result in a raft of indictments. Brace for impact, lefties. It is going to be a bumpy year ahead.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and the author, most recently, of "The Death of Liberalism," published by Thomas Nelson, Inc. To find out more about R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.