Partisan attacks on the FBI are weakening our democracy

Today’s Republican party has taken partisanship to a level never before seen in the United States. Politics has always been nasty and divisive, but with the Republicans’ various recent attempts to undermine the FBI and Department of Justice, they have proven that they value remaining in power more than a functioning democracy. By deceiving and misleading the very people who elected them, they have found a way to delegitimize anything and everything that could threaten their power.
There was once a time when the truth mattered, when facts were the center of every story. Sadly, under this new administration, that is not the case. The Republicans have realized that if they forcefully repeat the same talking points, whether true or not, they can convince a substantial number of their followers to believe whatever they say. In 2015, a poll by Reuters found that 84 percent of Republicans reported favorable views of the FBI. Today, according to a poll by Axios, that number has dropped to 38 percent. If you are not frightened by that statistic, you should be.
Authoritarian leaders undermine democracy through attacks on state institutions that are supposed to be neutral, like the FBI and the courts. Whether it was Trump requesting “loyalty” from since-fired FBI Director James Comey, asking former Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe who he voted for then pressuring to resign or trying to fire the man leading an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia, Trump has proven that he did not pay attention to the whole “checks and balances” part of his government class.
The release of California Representative Devin Nunes’ memo by Trump and his Republicans is nothing more than propaganda designed to undermine the FBI ­– the same FBI that Republicans once ardently defended. The document alleges that the FBI tricked a federal court into granting a warrant to spy on former Trump campaign advisor, Carter Page, by hiding that a dossier prepared by British spy, Christopher Steele, was funded by Democrats. The Republicans claim that this corrupts the entire investigation into the Trump campaign, with Trump even tweeting that it “totally vindicates” him.
Republicans are trying to sell the controversial release of this memo as a way to proving transparency. However, if that were true, then Trump would not have vetoed the release of an opposing memo from California Representative Adam Schiff.
Even if the memo, which both the FBI and DOJ have said is misleading and omits “fundamental facts”, were true, it really doesn’t mean much. The White House, Republicans and Fox News have presented the information in this document like it is the biggest political scandal since Watergate, which is a complete misrepresentation of the facts.
Keep in mind that the investigation had already been going on for several months before the warrant was granted. Page had been on the government’s radar since 2013 when investigators discovered he was targeted for recruitment by a Russian agent. To obtain a warrant to spy on an American citizen, the dossier would have been only one small part since investigators are required to show probable cause that the person was working as a foreign agent. Since the warrant was approved it has been extended, which means that investigators found new information beyond the original warrant. The decision to publicize the cherry-picked memo is just the Republican party taking advantage of people’s ignorance of how our intelligence courts work so that if the Russia probe does find wrongdoing in the Trump campaign, the agency won’t have any credibility.
Another attempt to mislead the public and delegitimize the FBI came from House Representative Ron Johnson, who said he had found evidence of anti-Trump bias and “corruption at the highest levels of the FBI.” His “evidence” was a series of texts that disparaged Trump between two FBI agents. Johnson raised questions about Barack Obama’s involvement in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, citing a text that said “the president wants to know everything we’re doing.” What Johnson conveniently left out was that Obama was referring to the investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election, not into Hillary Clinton. In fact, the texts were sent several months after the investigation into Clinton had concluded.
One might hope that at some point members of the GOP will realize the harm they are doing to our democracy, but that chance is slim. It has become clear that Republicans care only about winning their next election, and that the consequences can be dealt with later.

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