Failing to Follow Norms

The editors of the Wall Street Journal remark on the reports that California Sen. Dianne Feinstein had a Chinese spy working for her:

Foreign countries are always trying to steal U.S. secrets, and they sometimes succeed. In this case Mrs. Feinstein tweeted over the weekend that the FBI approached her five years ago with concerns about an “administrative” staffer in her San Francisco office with “no access to sensitive information.” She said she “learned the facts and made sure the employee left my office immediately.”

This is what the FBI should do, and the question Mr. Trump should ask is why the bureau didn’t treat him as a potential President with the same customary courtesy. The FBI claims it had concerns beginning in spring 2016 that low-level Trump campaign staffers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos were colluding with Russians. Yet rather than give the Trump campaign the usual defensive briefing, the FBI launched an unprecedented counterintelligence investigation into a presidential campaign, running informants against it and obtaining surveillance warrants. The country is still enduring the polarizing fallout from that decision through special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

This disparate treatment is evidence that the FBI abused its authority in 2016, whether or not it acted with political bias. The bureau routinely warns politicians, campaigns and others about espionage threats. In Mrs. Feinstein’s case, the bureau had located an actual spy—and then went directly and discreetly to the Senator.

In Mr. Trump’s case, the FBI by its own admission was operating on nothing more than suspicions (many from the Clinton campaign-financed Steele dossier), and to this day the bureau has never presented definitive evidence of the campaign’s collusion with Russia. Yet it launched a full investigation that it didn’t disclose to Congress.

Mrs. Feinstein is also doing nobody a favor by downplaying this breach. She claims the driver never had access to “sensitive” information, but the infiltration of the staff of a Senator who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee is no small matter. Who knows what the spying staffer was able to hear and report to China over the years?

Donald Trump was a candidate who did not and is a president who does not conform to the norms for presidential candidates and presidents. His supporters love him for it. The media, regular Republicans and Democrats alike, and the civil bureaucracy have all responded by acting in ways that violate the norms of their own behaviors. They justify their abandoning of the norms on the grounds of the threat that Trump purportedly poses to the republic.

It is increasingly questionable to me whether there remains any republic worth defending.

In his WSJ column James Freeman asks what to me appears to be the right question:

Was there any response by the U.S. government? This column has the distinct impression that both parties are now concerned about foreign adversaries seeking to influence U.S. politics, yet the reporting so far suggests that getting fired is the only sanction potential spies need to fear. The San Francisco Chronicle has more:

Besides driving her around when she was in California, the staffer also served as gofer in her San Francisco office and as a liaison to the Asian American community, even attending Chinese Consulate functions for the senator…
The FBI apparently concluded the driver hadn’t revealed anything of substance.
How sure can anyone be of this conclusion given years of access? The local CBS affiliate in San Francisco, KPIX, notes that Ms. Feinstein was not just any politician, but the principal consumer of classified briefings to Congress…

Why have the last four presidential administration been so supine with respect to China? Are they following the lead of U. S. companies which violate virtually every American value and surrender intellectual property they’re claiming is their most valuable asset in pursuit of another American value, profit.

As I’ve mentioned before when I banned every Chinese IP address I could identify the amount of spurious and malicious traffic on this site subsided to a trickle. It is not credible that vast amount of traffic could have happened without at least the tacit approval of the Chinese authorities. Multiply that across the entire Internet and it’s not just an expensive nuisance but a concerted attack. Why do we tolerate it?

6 comments… add one
  • bob sykes

    It is odd that the Chinese get a free pass and the Russians get pilloried. However, the real culprit is Israel, which actually owns many members of Congress and people in the Executive and media and which has absolute control over our Middle Eastern policies.

  • There is no money in cozying up to Russia. Lenin’s remark about ropes and capitalists comes to mind.

  • CuriousOnlooker

    One thing I do not get reports – was this really a driver?

    Some reports say that a senator would send her driver to represent her at events. If I am host of an event, it would awkward (perhaps insulting) to tell everyone the senator couldn’t make it so she sent her driver instead.

    It would be a lot more useful if news media used the job title he used when he represented Sen Feinstein.

  • My interpretation was that the guy was a factotum.

  • CuriousOnlooker

    Factotum is a neat word.

  • There are less polite synonyms: gofer, dogsbody, SLJB.

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