Promoting the Rule of Law is a Necessary Part of Protecting Civil Liberties

Republicans are a party who believe in individual rights. We are a party who defends civil liberties without exception. We believe in the immutable strength of the Constitution. And we support the rule of law and the institutions created to support it.

Those are not contradictory positions. Yet somehow liberals, in their desire to distract from the Obama Administration’s apparent abuse of the FISA court to surveil associates of the Trump campaign, are attempting to paint Republicans’ probing as the actions of a party who is anti-law enforcement.

Take, for instance, Frank Rich, who writes in New York Magazine:

In the fallout from the Nunes memo (and amid promises of more Nunes memos), the GOP finds itself in opposition to federal institutions of both law enforcement and national security. Isn’t this a radical shift for the party that once presented itself as the champion of law and order and portrayed the Democrats as soft on crime?

Or Ryan Reilly, who argues in the Huffington Post:

FBI agents aren’t feeling the love these days.

Call it the war on G-men. As they’ve run interference for Trump by undermining the special counsel investigation being led by Robert Mueller, some Republicans on Capitol Hill have unleashed broad attacks that suggest the nation’s premier law enforcement agency is tainted by corruption and malfeasance.

This is not even a clever deflection. The efforts by Republicans in Congress to uncover the institutional malfeasance directed against President Trump are no different in principle than Republicans’ efforts to investigate the “Fast and Furious” gun-running scandal under President Obama. Republicans support law enforcement, but law enforcement are not above the law themselves. To argue otherwise, as liberal commentators appear to be doing, is to shake the bedrock of what our nation is founded upon.

After all, there is a reason that just 20 percent of Millennials report “trusting the government,” which is at a historic low. And there is a reason that a separate poll finds that young adults’ trust in government institutions ranging from the military, to the federal government, to Congress, are falling, in some cases precipitously. It’s because government institutions have recently been caught toeing, if not crossing, the line between security and privacy.

Republicans are trying to reestablish that boundary. That comes from recognizing and supporting law enforcement for the tremendous sacrifice they make to keep us safe.

“Police and sheriffs are members of our community,” President Trump said. “They’re friends and neighbors, they’re mothers and fathers, sons and daughters – and they leave behind loved ones every day who worry about whether or not they’ll come home safe and sound. We must support the incredible men and women of law enforcement.”

But it also comes from upholding the rule of law in all circumstances, especially in cases where it appears there was a systematic denigration of individuals’ civil liberties. That’s exactly the situation that Republicans in Congress are investigating now, attempting to identify whether the Obama-era FBI and Department of Justice used politically driven opposition research of questionable veracity to surveil the Trump Administration.

If politics were used to short circuit a constitutional right to due process, that’s is (or should be) a big deal. The standard for obtaining a FISA surveillance warrant is supposed to be probable cause, a relatively high bar meant to protect against government abuses. And yet the FISA court appears to have acted as little more than a rubber stamp, failing to ask meaningful questions of the law enforcement community about their methods or even thinking critically about the impact of political motives on warrant applications.

The result is the sacrifice of civil liberties, not even at the altar of safety, but possibly of naked political ambition. That should be an absolutely unacceptable state of affairs for anyone, regardless of party. And it’s why any claims that Republicans’ efforts to maintain Constitutional rights as their polestar is somehow “anti-law enforcement” are not just absurd, they’re damaging to what America stands for.