The executive branch of the U.S. Government — yes, the same one administered by President Obama — appears to be looking closely into the conduct of Democratic presidential nominee-in-waiting Hillary Clinton.
Following a request in late July by inspectors general for the State Department and the intelligence agencies, the FBI has begun investigating the potential mishandling of classified information by Clinton during her tenure as Secretary of State. Despite her best efforts to ignore, deny, deflect, misdirect, and redirect criticism over her decision to conduct official business through a private email server, and then to scrub the server clean, the wheels of justice have started to turn on Clinton.
Perhaps this development seems reasonable. After all, if an official who is charged with safeguarding our nation’s most sensitive communications circumvents policies and procedures designed to protect them, then something should be done about it.
Then again, the agency that can do something is the Department of Justice. Under President Obama, this agency does not have a track record of objectivity. Consider the lack of accountability for the Operation Fast and Furious gun-running debacle, the IRS targeting of conservative advocacy groups, the self-dealing and gross malfeasance by VA bureaucrats, and the strong-arming of investigative journalists. While a few political appointees have been eased out of their jobs under pressure from lawmakers, DOJ has not pursued charges against any ringleaders of the scandals. If there still are investigations underway, DOJ is setting new standards for foot-dragging. When is the last time we heard from the White House about any of these shameful episodes?
It’s not as if DOJ couldn’t move quickly if it wanted to. Take the events in Ferguson, MO and Baltimore over the past year. When white police officers harmed unarmed blacks, the government found a way to move federal investigations — and their resolutions — to the front of the queue.
When it suits a political agenda, the White House is all in. In 2009, President Obama appointed a special prosecutor to investigate possible abuses by intelligence agencies in the wake of 9/11. None of the alleged abuses occurred on his watch, so there was little political risk to the move (even if he later elected to quash any charges to avoid friction with the intelligence apparatus).
But when it comes to wrongdoing within his own administration, the president demurs. In the case of IRS misconduct, he flatly dismissed the idea of a special prosecutor. “I think we’re going to be able to figure out exactly what happened, who was involved, what went wrong,” he told the press, “and we’re going to be able to implement steps to fix it.” More than two years later, we are no closer to resolving the issue or restoring confidence in IRS impartiality.
From the very start, this administration has used a cherry-picker approach to law enforcement. The letter of the law matters little when it comes to our immigration or drug statutes. States are free to legislate in direct opposition to federal prohibitions against the sale of marijuana and cities are free to shield illegal aliens from ICE detention, all without fear of reprisal from the feds. Despite laws on the books he once claimed tied his hands, President Obama issued executive orders blocking authorities from deporting whole classes of undocumented immigrants. Defenders called it “prosecutorial discretion.” Of course, when Arizona or Texas employed measures to beef up inadequate border security, no such discretion could be found. The Obama administration came down hard.
All of which makes the probe into Clinton’s email practices curious. Why would the president green-light an investigation of his would-be successor if he has the power to quash, or at least to slow-walk it? Some attribute the decision to the independence and integrity of his new attorney general. Others see Frank Underwood-style maneuvers behind-the-scenes to engineer a Joe Biden candidacy. There may be a bit of truth in both explanations, but my bet is simply that there is fire behind the smoke. Hillary has tested the limits of our collective tolerance for the Clinton way of doing business. Even President Obama lacks the stomach to run interference on this one.