Remember when that asshole accused Obama of sticking wire tapps up his voluminous ass to spy on him? Well, hold on to your hats, kids, because it turns out that the guy using the Justice Department to spy on his political enemies was actually ...

You'll never guess ...

Just kidding, it was Trump. Which you knew, because we all lived through the past five years, watching a madman promise to LOCK HER UP Hillary Cinton, then burn down the firewall between the White House and the DOJ and shred every norm meant to ensure unbiased federal law enforcement. The real surprise would be if this gang of corrupt sonsabitches didn't turn into J. Edgar Hoover once they got their hands on the keys to the Hoover Building.

And yet, the New York Times scoop last night about the DOJ subpoenaing phone records from multiple sitting members of Congress including House Intelligence Committee members Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, their aides, and even one of their minor children is still shocking. Both in its brazenness, and the duration of the investigation, which stretched from Jeff Sessions's tenure as attorney general, softening under Counselor Masculine Toilet (sorry not sorry), and wound up as a pet project of Bill Barr.


According to the Times, prosecutors secured a warrant for the "Apple data" of at least 12 people during 2017 and 2018 in an effort to find out who was leaking information about the Russia investigation to the media. The preposterousness of a White House which leaked like a sieve accusing sitting members of Congress of divulging classified information is only topped by the fact that Trump himself torpedoed the leak cases by forcing the DOJ to declassify all the evidence. Pretty hard to claim that someone else jeopardized national security by talking to reporters about Michael Flynn's contacts with the Russians when Trump poodle John Ratcliffe got himself confirmed as Director of National Intelligence and then published it himself in an attempt to prove that the whole Russia investigation was a Deep State plot.

But let's go back to 2017, perhaps the most chaotic time in the Trump administration. Remember when no one had a security clearance and Bannon was in the back room with Stephen Miller cooking up those batshit executive orders? Fun times!

With Trump fulminating that every time he took a piss it wound up on the front page of the Post before he got his fly zipped up, AG Sessions dutifully announced that he was opening eleventy hundred leak investigations. Only a handful ever came to fruition, of course — this is Ol' Butterscotch Sessions we're talking about here. But four years later, we're finally finding out about all the crazy shit that Elmer Fudd did trying to git that rascally, leakin' rabbit. As with the recent revelations about secret subpoenas for journalists' emails at the Times, the Post, and CNN, Sessions routinely used "last resort" investigative tools, designated to be deployed in important cases, and only when all other avenues had been exhausted. In a sense, he was hunting rabbits with dynamite.

Please keep this in mind when the wingers scream bloody murder about the DOJ raiding Rudy Giuliani's law office or howl about FISA warrants on Carter Page. Ditto for claims that Congress can't subpoena the executive branch because of separation of powers — the DOJ can spy on individual members of Congress, but the DOJ is itself immune from subpoena? REALLY?

And speaking of hypocrisy, do you see Senators Rand Paul or Ben Sasse, supposed Fourth Amendment stalwarts, objecting to what Sessions and Barr did and demanding to see the predicate for these warrants? LOL, we are silly on Fridays.

Worse still, not only did the government seek and obtain warrants for these communications, but it persuaded the court to impose a gag order so that Apple couldn't tell Schiff, Swalwell, and the rest of the targets that they were under state surveillance. And with no one to contest the subpoenas, the court continued to authorize them. (Bad court!)

Contrast this with Twitter, which stood up to the DOJ when it tried to unmask the identity of the @NunesAlt account. Because of the gag order, the account holder couldn't contest the subpoena, so Twitter stepped in — albeit at a time when it was clear the Trump administration was coming to an end. Staring down three more years of regulatory negotiations with a vengeful loon, Apple made a different choice. Which was probably a smart business move, but also it's something to keep in mind when Tim Cook brags about his company's commitment to user privacy. The fact that Apple eventually notified Schiff et al. in May of 2021 when the gag orders finally expired is cold bloody comfort.

The investigation came to nothing, of course, and under (acting) AG Matthew "Big Dick Toilet" Whitaker, it "languished."

"We did nothing but our jobs, and we followed the rules we were supposed to follow," Rep. Swalwell told the Post's Greg Sargent. "I'm not above the law, just like no one else is above the law, but to go after this many people, boy, that feels like a Donald Trump-driven investigation and I don't have a lot of faith in his ability to fairly interpret the law."

But Bill Barr was confident in his ability to interpret the law, or at least to twist it to justify any intrusion on the privacy of his political enemies. Yeah, don't faint — the guy who only closed the Hillary Clinton email investigation in 2019, a full six years after she'd left the State Department; the guy who kept the James Comey leak investigation open because he was too chickenshit to tell the president he'd come up empty; the guy who proceeded with a leak prosecution of former (acting) FBI director Andy McCabe that was so shoddy he couldn't even get a grand jury to indict — that guy was hot to trot on this POS investigation from 2017.

So in February 2020, Barr stuck his crony Osmar Benvenuto on the National Security Division to keep an eye on the Schiff/Swalwell case. Benvenuto, who made his bones doing gang and healthcare fraud prosecutions in New Jersey, had no particular national security or leak expertise. But he was loyal to Barr, and that was apparently enough.

The Times reports that Benvenuto hauled in Michael Bahar, a House Intelligence Committee staffer who'd left government service in May 2017, to shout ARE YOU LEAKER? at him. Shockingly, the answer was NO. But still high-level attorneys in the Department devoted substantial time last year to tracking down the source of those three-year-old leaks, even though they were pretty busy blowing up the Michael Flynn and Roger Stone cases. Busy ratfucking bees!

Were Bill Barr and his merry band of hacks trying to bolster their boss's re-election prospects? Perish the very thought! Although we can't help but notice that one of the lawyers on the case was John Demers, head of the DOJ's National Security Division, and known to readers of this here mommyblog for his role in burying the Ukraine whistleblower report.

Demers, Benvenuto, and several other lawyers involved in this plot, as well as the surveillance of reporters, are still on the DOJ payroll. The Times notes cryptically that "Their continued presence and leadership roles would seem to ensure that Mr. Biden's appointees, including Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, would have a full understanding of the investigations."

In plain English, that means that they probably have to cooperate with the inevitable Inspector General investigation of this insane clusterfuck. Although we wouldn't be surprised if Demers and Benvenuto announce their departure in the next 10 minutes, putting themselves conveniently beyond the ability of the IG to compel their testimony.

President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland have vowed to quit surveilling reporters. Presumably they will also agree to quit spying on members of Congress. Thanks a bunch, fellas! But they don't seem particularly inclined to make a clean breast of it and explain how things went so totally off the rails at the DOJ in the past four years. Schiff and Swalwell told the Post that they're getting zero information from the Department other than assurances that the cases are now closed.

Meanwhile Democrats in Congress are out for blood.

"We expect that our Republican colleagues will join us in getting to the bottom of this serious matter," Senators Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin said today. "Former Attorneys General Barr and Sessions and other officials who were involved must testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath. If they refuse, they are subject to being subpoenaed and compelled to testify under oath."

Republican cooperation to root out Republican corruption? Yeah, don't hold your breath.

[NYT / WaPo]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.

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