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Trump v. FBI: How the right is smearing our leading law enforcement agency



The only chance Trump has of winning this contest with Mueller is if he can besmirch the FBI’s reputation to such a degree than tens of millions of Americans think it’s nothing more than a criminal organization.

That’s insane, of course; the FBI has been America’s premier law enforcement agency for 110 years, and despite some controversies in the past, its reputation remains above suspicion—unless, that is, you’re a Republican, in which case your prior fondness for the FBI has been put on hiatus now that it’s standing up to Trump.

The provocateur of the FBI smear is Donald J. Trump, of course, but he couldn’t get away with it without co-conspirators to amplify his lies and lend them credibility with the base. Sadly, among his chief co-conspirators is the Wall Street Journal. It’s sad and ironic that Rupert Murdoch’s flagship newspaper, which always has been strongly pro-law enforcement, should now stoop so low. One can only speculate why. The Wall Street Journal can’t possibly believe the drivel about the FBI being a rogue, out-of-control agency. One would have to get inside the mind of the Murdoch family to determine with any precision the exact balance of cynicism, profit-motive and blind partisanship fueling their anti-FBI obsession. One can, though, see right through their smear campaign; it’s so vacuous, so filled with lies and evasions of truth and red herrings, that it fairly begs to be demolished.

The latest (and there seems to be a fresh attack every day) is from one of the paper’s most rightwing, angry propagandists, William McGurn, whom I’ve criticized before. The headline of his piece from yesterday, “The FBI’s Watergate,” suggests the track that extremist Republicans are taking in carrying Trump’s water. Republicans have never gotten over Watergate. Richard Nixon perfected the dark arts of criminality in the Oval Office, was driven from office, and Republicans have been itching to get even with Democrats ever since. That’s why they went after Clinton with such a vengeance. Now, they’re taking the symbol of Watergate itself and trying to twist it around, knowing that to accuse anyone or anything of “Watergate” tactics is to accuse it of criminal behavior. So we get McGurn Watergating the FBI.

The FBI did nothing wrong. Paul Ryan knows it. Floyd Flake knows it. Trey Gowdy knows it. Even Mitch McConnell, the most partisan Majority Leader in recent decades, knows it. Indeed, every rational Republican in the U.S. Congress knows it (which eliminates many, such as Devin Nunes, who are irrational). A good example of the Republican anti-FBI attack machine (led by Trump) is the lie that the agency planted a spy in the Trump campaign. Such nonsense! Indeed, just yesterday Ryan himself told reporters (in the Wall Street Journal’s summation) that the Federal Bureau of Investigation acted appropriately when it sent an informant to meet with two Trump campaign aides during the run-up to the 2016 election.”

The FBI acted appropriately, says the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Yet here’s McGurn, muddying the waters, deliberately spitting on the FBI. “The more we learn about these investigations, the more troubling the FBI’s behavior appears.” Christopher Wray, its director, and Rod Rosenstein, the deputy Attorney-General, according to McGurn, are “playing a double game, pretending to cooperate with Congress but acting to keep documents away…”. Wray needs “to come clean,” and so on and so forth. The pattern is so clear, so obvious. McGurn has one goal only: to exonerate Trump and allow him to continue his probably criminal behavior indefinitely (as long as he empowers the rightwing agenda). The idea is to place an indelible stain on the FBI so that, when push comes to shove (as it will), and the nation has to come to grips with the fact that a felon (and possibly a traitor) is in the White House, the pro-Trump forces will have discredited the FBI—at least, enough to satisfy low information Republican voters, who really couldn’t care less how illegal or dangerous Trump’s behavior may have been (and continues to be).

What does this make William McGurn? Equally a traitor, same as his president. Equally an obstructer of justice. Can a newspaper columnist be guilty of obstruction of justice for putting out false and misleading information? Probably not, in a legal sense. But if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, we’re justified in calling it a duck. William McGurn is going to go down in journalistic history as a protector and defender of the worst president ever. He will be minor asterisk, with the verdict that he supported Trump’s coverup and lies, and actively colluded with forces in America that seek to undermine the FBI, law enforcement in general, the courts, journalistic ethics and the safety and security of the United States. Does I sound extreme? Well, extreme lies require the telling of extreme truths.

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