Justice: A White House Toy?
Terry H. Schwadron
Nov. 16, 2017
It’s pretty difficult not to conclude that the Trump administration is improperly using the Justice Department to gun for Hillary Clinton, wholeheartedly adopting the practices of third-world autocrats in seeking to jail their political opponents. Or threaten to do so.
Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions announced Monday night that he would appoint senior prosecutors to review once again Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email service, handling of email that contained some material that later was classified, and to review the FBI’s probe of the email matter. Further he agreed to look at a seven-year-old handling of a interdepartmental government commission okay for a uranium deal while she was Secretary of State and later contributions by one of the companies in the deal to the Clinton Foundation.
All this happened after Trump, who likely is seeking distraction from Special Counsel investigations into his own campaign’s possible involvement in all-things-Russia, has spent weeks of intimidation and ridicule going after Hillary, and after a number of House Republicans decided to take up the newly convenient anti-Hillary chant for a criminal investigation — and a second Special Counsel to go after Democrats.
To be clear, there is nothing illegal about calling for an investigation of the Clintons, there is nothing definitive about Sessions acknowledging the congressional call by saying he would have prosecutors look into the complaints.
But it stinks. Justice Department veterans think so too, according to The Washington Post, who interviewed several. To me, this is Sessions allowing Trump’s bullying to move him “independently” to decide to launch criminal inquiries against Trump’s opponent.
It suggests that the government’s enforcement powers are supposed to exist as toys in the hands of the current resident of the White House. While that is not against the law, it is against the spirit of what is supposed to drive this country. It has left me fairly furious. I don’t care about the Clintons or even the Foundation, both of which have generated their fair share of negative news over the years. But this is overreach by the White House.
The only remaining question is whether Donald Trump has already written the would-be special counsel’s final report, allowing him to crow about the positive criminal results.
For the record, the previous investigations of the uranium deal have not even included suggestions of a decision-making role by Hillary Clinton. As I understand the deal, a Russian company bought Uranium One, a Canadian company, with interest in uranium mines in the United States. That purchase was reviewed by an inter-agency group that included the State Department, where Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, among the nine government departments involved. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, an intragovernmental agency that includes input from the Departments of State, Treasury, Justice, Energy, Defense, Commerce and Homeland Security, as well as the office of the U.S. Trade Representative decided that on the whole, the sale could proceed without intervention by the government.
The hitch here seems that later, after the decision, a former Uranium One owner was also a donor to the Clinton Foundation, giving $145 million to the charitable foundation, and critics see a connection. Amusingly or dangerously, Fox News newscaster Shepard Smith on Tuesday drew angry calls from viewers when he laid out the facts of this case as not being supportive of prosecution.
So where could an investigation go here? What is the possible criminal matter? What would a special counsel investigation bring to ensure that no such thing should happen again? I’m missing the bigger meaning here.
As for the emails, this has been investigated multiple times, by the FBI, by congressional committees and by journalists of all stripes. Nevertheless, the central hitch here is that the FBI was led by the same James B Comey Jr. who was fired by the president in an apparent attempt to stop Comey from pursuing the Russia investigation against Trump associates.
Again, however, prosecution serves only two purposes — either to punish for a crime or to shore up government misdeeds to keep them from being repeated. Which applies here? The FBI already decided that Hillary’s sloppy email handling did not violate criminal law.
If investigation is meant to stop use of private emails, guess what? It already has been reported that Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, both have been using a private e-mail server. If it is meant to stop misuse of classified material, one need look no further than Trump himself, who has blurted out classified information that Israelis were the source of particular classified information to the Russian Foreign Minister and disclosed classified information about the location of nuclear subs to Philippines President Roberto Duterte.
That leads back to the obvious conclusion — that these incidents have nothing to do with criminality surrounding Hillary Clinton and serve instead to distract attention from the all-things-Russia investigations of the Trump circle.
Sessions, meanwhile, spent hours before a House committee, trying to defend himself over differing stories he has offered to explain his contacts with Russians or Trump campaign folks who themselves had been meetings with Russians. He repeated or tried to slide by various misstatements about his own contacts with Russian operatives or he “could not remember” various discussions about work with Russians. None of that made me feel particularly more confident in our top law enforcement officer,
The Justice Department does not exist for the president to use as a private army. He ought to worry about himself.