Just when you thought that the civil war in Washington D.C. between elected officials, branches of the government, law enforcement, and the judiciary had gone as low as it was going to go, Senate Democrats have come up with yet another twist.
A top member of the Senate Finance Committee is urging the FBI to refuse to cooperate with a congressional Ukraine investigation.
Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the committee, on Thursday morning sent a letter to FBI Director Chris Wray and Attorney General Bill Barr urging them to stiff-arm a request from two Senate chairmen for materials from Alexandra Chalupa, a former Democratic National Committee consultant. The Daily Beast obtained the letter.
Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson, the Republican chairs of the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, asked Wray late last year to turn over the FBI’s images of Chalupa’s phone and computer. Chalupa has said she voluntarily provided those devices to the FBI after she was the victim of what appeared to be a Russian government-sponsored hack. The FBI made digital copies of the phone and laptop’s contents, a standard step in cyber crime investigations.
Whatever the merits of the Chalupa investigation, the FBI is not supposed to be a political football between politicians. That not only destroys its credibility, but continues to poison its function and transform it into a partisan weapon. The ship may have sailed on that in some ways.
But the Democrats seem determined to double down on it.
In the letter, he argued FBI cooperation would discourage future victims from sharing evidence with the bureau.
“The Senators’ request will have a chilling effect on the victims of nation-state cyber-attacks,” he wrote, “and would discourage them from seeking law enforcement assistance, thereby jeopardizing our national security, limiting our ability to respond to sophisticated cyber-attacks, and undermining the civil liberties of American citizens.”
Wyden also called the Ukraine probe “an effort to legitimize Russian propaganda.”
“The FBI is not a political weapon,” he wrote, “and should not be pressured into violating a citizen’s civil liberties for political gain.”
Again, that ship has failed, and Wyden and his party have taken the lead in using the FBI as a political weapon. The FBI has been repeatedly used to violate civil liberties for political gain dating back to the Clinton administration. There were highlights in the Clinton era also. And now we’ve reached the golden age of it all.
Wyden is telling the FBI not to cooperate with his opponents in the Senate, and that specifically turns it into a political weapon.
This entire debate is innately political. Urging that information from the investigation be denied only politicises it further.