WASHINGTON, January 12, 2017 — Between 2010 and 2012, roughly 426 conservative organizations were targeted for extra scrutiny by the IRS. A 298-page report by the Office of Inspector General says the IRS targeted organizations for harassment with names that included the words “tea,” “liberty,” “patriot” or “constitution” in their titles.
Subsequent congressional hearings revealed the IRS colluded with the Justice Department, the Federal Election Commission and leading Democratic members of Congress on which tea party groups to target. One of those congressional members is today’s Democratic Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer.
In 2012, Schumer joined several of his Democratic colleagues in drafting a letter urging the IRS to investigate tea party organizations “focused on federal election activities” and applying for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status.
When Democrats lost control of the U.S. Senate in 2014, Schumer expressed his fear to members of the Center for American Progress that tea party groups could out fundraise Democratic-friendly organizations, thus purchasing more commercial time for political ads.
“It is clear that we will not pass anything legislatively [to curtail tea party influence] as long as the House of Representatives is in Republican control, but there are many things that can be done administratively by the IRS and other government agencies—we must redouble those efforts immediately,” Schumer said.
When Lois Lerner, who headed the tax-exempt division of the IRS, was subpoenaed to appear before congress to explain her agency’s targeting, she exercised her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. She eventually resigned, with the Obama Justice Department exonerating her of any criminal wrongdoing.
Lerner is retired and drawing a comfortable federal pension.
History, they say, is prelude.
During the recent presidential election, an unnamed source in the intelligence community told the Washington Post and New York Times that Russian hackers were behind the theft of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
WikiLeaks eventually released these embarrassing communications, which showed that DNC officials rigged their party’s primaries against Sen. Bernie Sanders in Clinton’s favor. Another revelation was the media’s collusion with the Clinton campaign on its crafting of political coverage.
These same media outlets later claimed Russian hacking swayed the close 2016 presidential election in favor of Republican Donald Trump.
When a scheduled intelligence briefing with the president-elect concerning the hacking incidents was rescheduled, Trump acerbically tweeted, “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed … perhaps more time needed to build a case.”
NBC News reported, “President-elect Donald Trump’s dismissal of U.S. intelligence findings that Russia tried to sway the presidential election is a distressing slap in the face to the intelligence community, current and former U.S. intelligence officials said.”
This brings us back to Schumer.
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow described Trump’s skepticism of America’s spy agencies as “taking shots,” “antagonism” and “taunting of the intelligence community.”
Schumer, her guest, peered over his bifocal readers and spoke in hushed tones, “[If] you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday to come back at you. So, even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.”
Tuesday, Buzzfeed released a leaked, 35-page dossier supposedly compiled by British intelligence officer Christopher Steele—and in the possession of U.S. intelligence agencies—containing unsubstantiated claims Russian intelligence possess compromising information on Trump for purposes of blackmail and, incredibly, claiming Trump is in essence a Russian spy.
A portion of that file reads:
“Former top Russian intelligence officer claims FSB [Federal Security Service] has compromised TRUMP through his activities in Moscow sufficiently to be able to blackmail him. According to several knowledgeable sources, his conduct in Moscow has included perverted sexual acts which have been arranged/monitored by the FSB … Further evidence of extensive conspiracy between TRUMP’s campaign team and Kremlin, sanctioned at highest levels and involving Russian diplomatic staff based in the US … TRUMP associate admits Kremlin behind recent appearance of DNC emails on WikiLeaks.”
News reports suggest copies of the leaked dossier have been circulating among Washington lawmakers and the press for several weeks.
At a Wednesday news conference, Trump described the allegations and CNN’s reporting of them as “fake news” and “phony stuff. It didn’t happen.” Trump indirectly suggested the source of the leak was the U.S. intelligence community by calling it a “tremendous blot on their record.”
Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who reported on Edward Snowden’s damning revelation that a secret U.S. government domestic spy program (PRISIM) allowed intelligence agencies to violate the Fourth Amendment protection of millions of Americans against the unreasonable search and seizure of cellphone and email communications, reminded the BBC:
“The former head of the CIA, Michael Morel, went to the New York Times and endorsed Hillary Clinton. George Bush’s CIA head General [Michael] Hayden went to the Washington Post and did the same thing. They both accused Trump of being a recruit of Vladimir Putin, they were in agreement with Hillary Clinton’s views.”
Calling the dossier “farcical,” Greenwald added that any “rational human being with even minimal” knowledge of the Central Intelligence Agency’s history “would take everything that the CIA says with a huge grain of salt.”
When most Americans hear the term “intelligence community,” they think of dark rooms filled with analysts poring over satellite images with magnifying glasses, or clandestine operatives risking their lives carrying out daring missions in enemy capitals.
But like the other alphabet agencies of the federal government, the employees of the CIA and NSA, which are two of 16 civilian and military organizations making up the U.S. intelligence community, are first and foremost federal bureaucrats.
In a written statement to the press, James Clapper, director of national intelligence, which oversees the country’s spy agencies and advises the president on matters of national security, denied the dossier leak came from the layers and layers of clandestine bureaus under his purview.
He said he phoned Trump to express his “profound dismay at the leaks that have been appearing in the press, and we both agreed that they are extremely corrosive and damaging to our national security.”
Sources within Trump’s transition team say the soon-to-be U.S. president is planning to streamline intelligence operations to improve their efficiency.
But in testimony on Capitol Hill, Clapper told a Senate committee on Thursday, “Congress, I think, gets a vote here.”
And there’s little doubt Schumer acknowledged Clapper’s sentiments with a wink and a nod.
Move over IRS. The shadowy U.S. intelligence community, with its state-of-the-art domestic and global spying operations, missile-bearing drones and license to kill, is morphing into a political targeting apparatus beyond Lois Lerner’s wildest dreams.