“Trump Has Picked a Fight with the FBI. He’ll Be Sorry,” reads a headline in the Feb. 1 Washington Post. The headline expresses what the owners of the liberal media and the middle-class left wish to be the result in a sharp political confrontation over revelations that the Democrats are using Washington’s political police as part of the “resistance” to Donald Trump’s presidency.
At the heart of the debate is a memo drafted by the Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee released by the White House Feb. 2.
The memo explains that leaders of the FBI, in an effort to get a warrant to spy on Donald Trump’s campaign and since, relied on a dossier authored by a Trump-hating former British spy, Christopher Steele, who had been hired by the Hillary Clinton campaign to write it.
Former FBI Director James Comey played the key role in getting Clinton off the hook for the thousands of secret government documents she put on her personal computer. Trump fired him for abrogating the authority of the Justice Department when he did.
The memo outlines how Comey and the FBI continued to go after Trump, describing the roles of others associated with the Clintons, including now retired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Associate Attorney General Bruce Ohr, and FBI chief investigator Peter Strzok.
To get the warrant, the FBI had to apply to the secret so-called Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court. The FISA courts are stacked in favor of the cops, no one else gets to argue before them. In the 33 years since they were set up, FISA judges have only rejected 11 of more than 33,000 requests.
Today’s scandal revolves around the fact that the FBI didn’t inform the court about who they got their information from or their connections to the Clintons. The liberals say the memo tarnishes the FBI, which they laud as key to defense of the American way of life.
“I believe it creates a constitutional crisis when the president distrusts the Justice Department and the FBI,” Leon Panetta, former CIA director and longtime Democratic operative, told CBS. “They’re the primary law enforcement agencies under our constitution.”
The liberals and left have been in a frenzy to get Trump since the moment he was elected, which they blame on the stupid, racist, reactionary “deplorable” working class who voted for him.
The tiff over the memo comes as the liberals’ “resistance” has weakened. Trump has boosted his backing from the U.S. rulers over the past couple months, after shepherding tax relief for moneyed interests through Congress, advancing U.S. imperialist interests at the Davos conference, and giving a State of the Union address proposing a compromise on immigration.
The FBI: Bosses’ political police
Working people and the Socialist Workers Party in particular have decades of experience with the assaults the political police carry out to defend capitalist rule.
The U.S. rulers’ expansion of its political police began in response to workers and farmers seeking to emulate the revolutionary example of the Bolshevik-led 1917 October Revolution in Russia. Police sought to crush U.S. communist organizations founded in 1919. Thousands were deported and party conferences were declared illegal and broken up.
Washington renamed their federal cops the FBI in 1935. As the rulers prepared to enter the second imperialist world war, they moved to revamp the FBI to target opposition. They started with the Socialist Workers Party and others in the class-struggle leadership of the Teamsters union in Minneapolis, whose fighting capacity and opposition to imperialist war were well known. The Democratic administration of Franklin Roosevelt used the Smith “Gag” Act, passed in 1940, which outlawed advocacy of revolutionary ideas.
Eleven leaders of the Communist Party were prosecuted under the Smith Act in 1949. All were convicted and 10 were given the maximum sentence of five years. The FBI helped spearhead the anti-communist witch hunt that marked the early years of the 1950s.
When Black fighters led the successful battle to overturn the racist Jim Crow system of segregation and a mass movement forced the U.S. rulers out of Vietnam, the FBI launched “Cointelpro” operations to spy on and disrupt the Socialist Workers Party, fighters for Black rights and other political activists.
In 1973, the SWP and Young Socialist Alliance launched a political campaign to expose the role of the FBI as the rulers’ political cops. The party and YSA took the FBI to court for disrupting the party’s activity in the labor movement, fight for Black rights, women’s liberation and against imperialist war.
During the SWP’s 13-year political and legal battle the scope of the spy agency’s operation was forced out. The FBI had to admit that between 1945 and 1966 it carried out 204 “black bag jobs” — burglaries of party offices — deployed 1,300 undercover informers and collected more than 8 million documents on the party and its supporters. In 1986 the SWP won the case.
The SWP campaign and other revelations it inspired helped reveal the true class purpose of the rulers’ FBI and dealt a blow to the government’s ability to use its political police. They’ve worked overtime since to try and refurbish the FBI. As in the past, today it’s the liberals who are leading the effort to shore up the FBI.