Many political scandals acquire the “–gate” appellation simply because they are scandals.
They bear little similarity to the circumstances of the actual Watergate scandal itself. But the House Intelligence Committee memorandum on the abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by the Obama FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) sheds light on a scandal that is strikingly similar to Watergate. Only it is far more sinister.
Both scandals occurred in the middle of a heated presidential campaign. In Watergate, President Richard Nixon was seeking re-election against Sen. George McGovern (D-SD). In FISA-gate, Hillary Clinton was seeking to retain Democrat control of the White House against Donald Trump.
Both scandals involved the illegal collection of information from the opposing campaign. In Watergate, five men hired by the Nixon re-election campaign were arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate office complex. In FISA-gate, the Obama FBI and DOJ relied on a fictitious dossier paid for the DNC to obtain a FISA warrant and conduct surveillance on a member of the Trump campaign (Carter Page).
And both scandals led to a cover-up. In Watergate, the Nixon White House tried unsuccessfully to cover up and impede the investigation of the break-in and the ties of the burglars to the Nixon campaign. In FISA-gate, the Obama FBI and DOJ concealed from the FISA court that the warrant application relied on unreliable information driven by the DNC; and more recently, former FBI director James Comey and current FBI director Chris Wray (along with Democrats in Congress) resisted the disclosure of the memorandum to the public.
That’s where the similarities end. In terms of magnitude and threat to the Republic, the current scandal makes Watergate pale in comparison. The surveillance of the Trump campaign wasn’t something perpetrated merely by private citizens associated with the opposing political campaign, like Watergate was. It occurred with the blessing and direction of the oh-so-self-righteous Director of the FBI, James Comey, who personally signed three of the four FISA warrant applications. It also occurred at the behest of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who signed one of the applications. Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (who still holds the post), and Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente signed the FISA warrant applications on behalf of the DOJ.
In other words, high ranking government officials holding positions of public trust were the principal actors not just in the cover-up, but in the underlying scandal itself. These high-ranking officials were persuaded to take action against one side in a presidential race using sketchy information paid for by the other side. It would be as if the FBI itself broke into the DNC headquarters at Watergate, not five bumbling burglars hired by the Nixon campaign.
Where is the outrage in the mainstream media? Where are the Democrats who claim to be concerned about the abuse of power? Crickets.
Kris W. Kobach is the elected secretary of state of Kansas. An expert in immigration law and policy, he coauthored the Arizona SB-1070 immigration law and represented in federal court the ten ICE agents who sued to stop President Obama’s 2012 DACA amnesty. During 2001-03, he was Attorney General John Ashcroft’s chief adviser on immigration law at the Department of Justice. He is also a 2018 candidate for the office of governor of Kansas. His website is kriskobach.com.