Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media exploded last week after Attorney General William Barr told a Senate panel that the Obama administration spied on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
"I am going to be reviewing both the genesis and the conduct of intelligence activities directed at the Trump campaign during 2016," Barr stated, later adding, “I think spying did occur, yes. I think spying did occur."
Running predictable interference for the Democrats, CNN’s Jake Tapper ran a segment on his show, "The Lead," dissecting why Barr used the word "spied." The implication, of course, is that Barr is a partisan doing as he is told by President Trump and using alleged "dog whistles" to gin up the base.
CNN contributor Mary Katherine Ham, however, was quick to disrupt their display in unhinged anti-Trump outrage, informing the group that "spying" on someone and surveilling someone without their knowledge is effectively the same thing — no matter how much they may dislike the president.
"Barr said, quote, 'spying did occur. Yes, I think spying did occur.' He also said, I want to make sure there was no unauthorized surveillance," Tapper started the segment. "So I think it's still kind of up in the air, what did he mean when he said spying did occur. What do you think he meant?"
Karen Finney, CNN commentator and former Hillary Clinton campaign spokeswoman, suggested it was because Barr was trying to "give a little credence to ... conspiracy theories, maybe a little red meat for Trump."
"Was he trying, to ... you know, buy into or give a little credence to the sort of conspiracy theories, maybe a little red meat for Trump for being good for not tweeting the first weekend that the Mueller report was supposedly out," she said. "Or is it that Barr is not understanding — I mean, this is a very different time than the last time he was attorney general in terms of social media, in terms of the connotations."
Finney added that she’s not sure the AG understands "the weight of what he's saying that we think of spying in a very different way than the Vietnam era, which I would argue is all the more reason if you are thinking about Vietnam to make the report public."
Tapper then stepped in to play a clip of former FBI director James Comey assuring the public that they only surveilled and did not "spy" on the Trump team.
"It's concerning because the FBI, the Department of Justice...court-ordered electronic surveillance. I have never thought of that as spying," Comey says in the clip.
"I think that Barr is talking about whatever Donald Trump wants him to be talking about," Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons stated bluntly. "It just feels like he was told to use the word spying and he was looking for a way to work it into the conversation."
"Spying, surveillance, tomato, tomato. This wouldn't be the first time a Trump appointee has looked into a conspiracy theory," CNN contributor and former Ted Cruz staffer Amanda Carpenter claimed. "I remember that when Mike Pompeo was CIA director, he took a meeting with someone who claimed that the DNC hacking was an inside job. So, maybe sometimes you have to do stuff to make your boss happy."
"But why spying instead of surveillance, if you know the difference," Finney interjected.
"Yes," Tapper agreed.
That’s when Ham stepped in: "Because they're synonyms. That's why," she directly stated.
'If you're going to the FISA court and you are surveilling someone without their knowledge, you are spying on them, whether it is authorized or not. The question is, whether this was appropriate?" the commentator explained to the panel.
"Now I have always been more than willing to be convinced there was enough there, there that they needed to get this warrant specifically for Carter Page, but the bar should be extremely high for using FISA court warrants to go after American citizens," she continued. "And the DOJ inspector general is already doing investigation into this to determine whether that was the case, which I think is good for all private American citizens who would like not to be spied on if there is not good cause."
Ham added, "And I am not interested in pretending that words don't mean what they mean just because Trump uses them sometimes. And spy means this. I'm sorry. It just does."
Finney then suggested that such truth is thrown out the window when it comes to Trump. "But that's not the world we're living in. I mean, Trump uses certain words very deliberately to — as dog whistles, to send signals to the alt-right," she said.
"So spy doesn't mean what it means anymore?" protested Ham, adding, "I was very capable of explaining the difference."
"Does spy mean authorized or unauthorized?" asked Tapper.
Ham calmly explained, "I think it means both. We're now determining whether this was appropriate or not."
"So it means surveillance and now —,” the host started.
"When you are surveilling a person without their knowledge, you are spying on them, yes," Ham pointed out.
Still, Tapper pretended what Ham was saying was somehow controversial. "Okay, but Democrats are not happy with your explanation or that type of explanation."
"It's just words," Ham retorted.
H/t Molly Hemingway
Partial transcript via CNN