Treason narrative collapses; who bears responsibility?

In late 2016, the federal government began leaking like a sieve. Although this is not uncommon, these leaks rose to the level of crimes because they were of sensitive national security information. Who was the target of the leaks? Donald J. Trump and his presidential campaign.

What were these leaks? Chiefly that the FBI had opened a counterintelligence investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to influence the U.S. election.

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As we digest the news that special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s investigation has vindicated Trump and his campaign of any such collusion, it’s helpful to review how we got to this point — and who actually may have committed crimes.

Recall that in July 2016, emails of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDavis: The shocking fact that Mueller never would have accused Trump of a crime Trump says he would challenge impeachment in Supreme Court The Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? MORE’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) were hacked by foreign actors and publicly released by WikiLeaks. They were quite embarrassing and, among other things, showed a concerted effort by Democratic officials to ensure that Clinton would win the party’s nomination over Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Buttigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election Meghan McCain: Bernie Sanders supporting prisoners being able to vote 'bats**t insane' MORE (I-Vt.).

When Trump won the White House, the leaks continued — including the salacious revelations in the so-called “Steele dossier” that leaked as soon as then-FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyDavis: The shocking fact that Mueller never would have accused Trump of a crime Sarah Sanders is entitled to her opinions, but not her own facts James Comey, wife donated ,400 to Klobuchar's presidential campaign MORE had briefed the newly inaugurated president about it. Word even leaked in April 2017 that the FBI had obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant — using that unverified dossier, we now know — to monitor Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

This new information set off fresh attacks on the president. Many on the left and in the media began to opine wildly — without evidence — that Trump and his campaign conspired and colluded with Russia to hack the DNC and Clinton emails, and even to sway the outcome of the election itself in some treasonous, corrupt fashion.

When Trump fired Comey, he cited conflicting reasons for doing so; on national television, the president indicated his frustration with the ongoing FBI investigation into whether he colluded with Russia was one reason for the firing. Officials in the Department of Justice (DOJ) decided, against the wishes of the president, to appoint Robert Mueller, a former U.S. attorney and FBI director, to investigate whether the president, his inner circle and/or his campaign engaged in such nefarious, traitorous activity.  

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Thus began the sweeping investigation that lasted nearly two years, cost nearly $30 million and involved some 500 interviews, 2,800 subpoenas and thousands of other legal processes. We have now reached the conclusion of this investigation — with not one American accused of conspiring with Russia to hack the Democrats or sway the election. Significantly, Mueller even noted that the Trump campaign, contrary to many accusations, actually was given multiple opportunities to conspire with Russia to sway the election and did not.

To be clear, the president and his campaign not only did not betray this country, they exhibited patriotism by refusing to engage with a foreign government in influencing the election’s outcome. Trump has been accused repeatedly of betraying this nation, but the only charges related to putting a thumb on the scale of the election were brought against Russians.

The president has been cleared of committing any other prosecutable offense, including obstruction of justice in the firing of Comey. This conclusion was reached by the attorney general and deputy attorney general; Mueller left the decision for any obstruction prosecution to his bosses. They decided that, based on the lack of any underlying crime that Comey’s firing purportedly was designed to conceal, no prosecution would stand. This conclusion, they said, was irrespective of any DOJ opinion on whether a sitting president can be indicted.

All those resources, all that time, all the people distracted by this investigation — it now seems like such a waste. But with what we know now about false statements made by DOJ and FBI officials to the FISA Court, the “insurance policy” against a Trump presidency and partisan bias of high-level officials at the FBI, what happened is far worse than waste. It is corrupt and potentially criminal. Will we devote similar resources to ferreting out the names of every agent or prosecutor who reviewed or signed off on the four secret intelligence surveillance warrants against Carter Page?  

No American actually conspired with Russia to sway the 2016 election. We must, then, uncover why we spent so much, in terms of the credibility of the presidency itself, just to end with a whimper, rather than a bang. The Sword of Damocles that hung over this nation during the first two years of this presidency still hangs there. It always will, regardless of which party is in power, if we don’t root out and expose those who corruptly used the national security apparatus of this country to lie about, investigate and falsely accuse Americans of treason.

Expect partisans opposed to the president to be monumentally unsatisfied with this outcome.  They roiled this country with allegations that Trump was “a Russian asset.” People of good faith would be issuing abject apologies to the president; to Carter Page, whose privacy was violated for many months; and to all U.S. citizens for accusing Trump of crimes against this nation that have embarrassed him and our country in front of the world.  

Will his adversaries apologize? Will anyone be held accountable for the lies and leaks that launched this farce? Sadly, I doubt it.

Francey Hakes was a prosecutor for 16 years and now consults on national security and the protection of children. As a former assistant U.S. attorney, she appeared before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, presenting applications for counterterrorism and counterespionage warrants on a special detail to the Department of Justice Office of Intelligence Policy and Review. Follow her on Twitter @FranceyHakes.