Federal abuses on Obama's watch represent a growing blight on his legacy

In all of the discussions about the political weaponization of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI, alleged corruption at the highest echelons of those agencies and serial abuse of the secret FISA process surrounding the 2016 election, one name has been conspicuously absent: President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaMontana governor raises profile ahead of potential 2020 bid Trump was right to ditch UN’s plan for handling migrants Ex-White House stenographer: Trump is ‘lying to the American people’ MORE.

High-ranking officials and other major players in those agencies — which Obama oversaw — are increasingly embroiled in the growing scandal: James ComeyJames Brien ComeyThere was nothing remotely treasonous in Trump's performance with Putin Opinion: One FBI text message in Russia probe that should alarm every American Clapper: Intel officials showed Trump evidence of Putin's role in election meddling MORE, Loretta Lynch, Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeBuck Wild: 'Is President Trump paranoid or is the Deep State out to get him?' Why does Congress keep playing political games on FBI oversight? FBI confidence in leaders sank after Comey was fired: report MORE, Andrew Weissmann, Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesSally Yates: Putin summit shows where Trump's loyalties lie Buck Wild: 'Is President Trump paranoid or is the Deep State out to get him?' Supreme Court hands Trump predictable win on travel ban MORE, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Bruce Ohr.

Given the tight control Obama exercised over every part of his administration and agenda, the idea that any of these appointees and loyalists freelanced their activities without at least his tacit approval or that of his White House strains credulity.

ADVERTISEMENT
These kinds of abuses of power were nothing new, given the Obama team’s long history of this type of misconduct on everything from the Benghazi terror attack to the political misuse of the IRS. They weaponized the most fearsome government agencies to target, monitor and presumably illegally unmask political opponents, including members of Congress, journalists reporting unfavorable stories, Trump allies and average Americans.  

These dark institutional offenses didn’t just materialize out of thin air. One of the criticisms of President Nixon was that even though he wasn’t aware of the Watergate break-in, he had created an environment in which such an action was acceptable.

Decades later, Obama created a climate in which the potentially criminal misuse of the DOJ and the FBI, as currently being unraveled, was not just acceptable but perhaps encouraged, thereby giving rise to what could be the most dangerous scandal in American history.

It’s increasingly apparent that these recently exposed abuses of power served two ostensible purposes: to secure Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House protests extend into sixth day despite rain Clinton: US is 'losing friends and allies' under Trump Justice Dept releases surveillance applications for former Trump aide MORE’s candidacy by shielding her from prosecution stemming from the use of her unauthorized private server, and to derail the candidacy and presidency of Donald Trump.

But something else, something more profound, drove their efforts: their urgency to preserve what Obama once called “the fundamental transformation of the nation” — a grand project much bigger than Obama himself or any other single figure. He largely fulfilled the long-held progressive ambition of changing the nation’s course, only to see Trump threaten to change it once again: not to return it to where it was pre-Obama, but to smash the corrupt existing order that had made their progressive advances possible.

Obama and the leftist movement over which he has presided could not tolerate a reversal of their gains (by Trump, no less!), so they got to work.

On the offensive side, these Obama officials — who obviously loathe Trump, as demonstrated by the glaring antipathy in the Strzok–Page texts and others’ communications — set out to damage him. Trump, they thought, gave them much material with which to work, plus they enjoyed a compliant media that stood ready to amplify spoon-fed narratives, regardless of their veracity. The acquisition of multiple FISA warrants — now known to be largely based on an unverified dossier prepared by a foreign spy, using anonymous Russian and close Clinton associates and paid for by her campaign and the Democratic National Committee — to subvert and impair Trump and his associates, succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

On the defensive side, Herculean efforts were made by the Obama DOJ and FBI to stonewall the Clinton investigation, not out of any real love for Hillary but because they needed to ensure a Democratic win and the continuance of their “transformative” agenda. Further, with Clinton at the helm, evidence of all of their previous abuses would never see the light of day.

Thus, the forward march to safeguard her.

In October 2015, Obama told “60 Minutes” that, while Clinton made a “mistake” using a private server, “this is not a situation in which America’s national security was endangered.” The signal to his law enforcement lieutenants to back off could not have been clearer.

As the National Review’s Andrew McCarthy has reported, Obama knowingly and repeatedly sent communications to Clinton via her nongovernment, unsecured email and server. One assumes those emails involved classified information, not yoga schedules. That meant if Clinton were guilty of committing felonies, so was Obama. Because they were joined at the hip over this and other toxic controversies, such as Benghazi, she required protection in order to protect him. To this day, they survive or fall together. Hence, Obama’s support of her candidacy over his preferred choice, Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenBiden rips Trump immigration policy: 'One of the darkest moments in our history' The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia Trump: Biden would be ‘dream’ opponent MORE, and the necessity of the email cover-up.

He and his allies have never taken their eyes off the prize. They cannot allow their progressive gains to be erased (and replaced by far more successful economic and national security policies) and their history of abuses to be exposed. Having never expected a Trump victory, the Obama and Clinton squads have been throwing the kitchen sink at him in an effort to protect themselves — and to try to backstop their hard-won “transformative” achievements.

Restoring the progressive revolution is also why loyal Obama soldiers such as Biden and Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderHolder to sit down with Colbert amid 2020 speculation The Hill's Morning Report — Trump, Putin meet under cloud of Mueller’s Russia indictments Eric Holder: Calls to abolish ICE are 'a gift to Republicans' MORE are considering White House runs. In the meantime, they must try to destroy Trump, his agenda, and the investigations that are quickly turning against them. After all, if Trump doesn’t just endure but succeeds, Obama, Clinton, their brigades and the larger decades-long radical movement have everything to lose.

Monica Crowley is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.