The FBI's investigation of corruption in Kentucky, Operation BOPTROT, took nearly three years, even though at the time getting legislators to accept bribes from FBI informants was like picking off fish in a barrel.
Why, then, would anyone suppose that in just one year the FBI could nail down an international plot against American democracy? Those who cherish that democracy must insist on a thorough investigation by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. Even President Donald Trump's most ardent supporters must see that what's at stake is bigger — much bigger — than any one president or election.
And, yet, defending Trump by scapegoating federal law enforcement is catching on among some right-wingers, including Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie.
On May 19, after news reports that a confidential FBI informant had made contact with three Trump advisers in July 2016, Massie tweeted that unless the articles were wrong, "an informant (spy) for the Obama administration (paid tax payer dollars?!) kept tabs (spied) on the Trump campaign. Of all the disturbing revelations about the deep state in the last 2 years, I find this one most disturbing."
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
What's disturbing is Massie's feverish parroting of Trump's unsubstantiated claims.
In addition to criticizing the length of the investigation — one year this month — Trump and his Fox News allies insist that the "Criminal Deep State," as the president tweeted, spied on his campaign as part of a plot to help Hillary Clinton.
Any thinking person will see the difference between planting a spy and following leads to people with ties to both Russia and Trump. Remember, too, that then-FBI director James Comey broke from protocol to publicly denounce Clinton's use of a private email server and revived the email questions days before the election, without ever breathing a word about the FBI's investigation of the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia. If FBI actions helped anyone, it was Trump.
Sen. Rand Paul is more measured, accusing Mueller of overreach by looking at Trump associates such as Michael Cohen. But Cohen has Russian links. Uncovering Russian influence on the U.S. government requires examining deals between associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump associates.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell renewed his support for the Mueller investigation, significantly, after a secret briefing Thursday.
Mueller has obtained 17 criminal indictments and five guilty pleas. Yet 59 percent of Americans in a recent poll said the investigation has yet to uncover evidence of crimes, suggesting that Trump's "witch hunt" drumbeat is working.
The FBI and Justice Department have an imperfect record, to put it kindly, from real spying on the civil rights movement to the cyber dragnet enabled by the Justice Department after 9/11. The excesses were grounded in fears for national security. Dread of domination by Soviet Russia drove Americans for decades. Putin sprang from the KGB, the Soviet security agency, and still smarts from the Soviet Union's breakup. Russia still craves dominance.
On this Memorial Day, as we honor those who died defending democracy, ponder the dishonor of surrendering to a hostile power's sabotage out of loyalty to any politician.
After BOPTROT broke, it took several years to obtain the 20 convictions.
Mueller might find nothing that implicates Trump, but investigators must have time to look for all that's there.