With the race for the Democratic nomination effectively concluded, Hillary Clinton now awaits the endorsement of President Obama, which they expect to come within the next few weeks. Obama is poised to play a big role in Clinton’s campaign against Donald Trump, acting as an emissary to groups and audiences that have been more reluctant to support Clinton in the past. But this creates its own set of problems: namely, that the FBI under the auspices of Obama’s administration is also actively investigating Clinton’s email server and her mishandling of classified information.
It’s hard to see any way that a conclusion reached under people like Loretta Lynch, serving at the pleasure of a president advocating vociferously for Clinton’s election, would be seen as treating the candidate fairly. Even if Clinton is cleared, a dark cloud will hang over the process. And Clinton herself should not be comfortable with the prospect of a process Trump will certainly denounce as crooked, especially considering that many Americans would likely agree with him.
Rather than deal with the typical rhetorical battles over this issue that have played out on cable television over the past year, Republicans in Washington should cite historical precedent in this context. Back in 2003, when a top presidential appointee was suspected of mishandling classified information, that president’s attorney general recused himself from the matter. A special prosecutor was appointed to investigate the allegations and determine if prosecution was warranted. That prosecutor investigated the case, brought charges, and obtained a conviction.
This was, of course, the Valerie Plame/CIA affair which ensnared top White House official Scooter Libby, who was later charged by the special prosecutor and convicted by a jury. And who was the individual at the DOJ who appointed the special prosecutor? James Comey, the current director of the FBI.
John Aschroft, the attorney general under George W. Bush, had the good sense to recuse himself from the matter and appoint Comey to make the decision about how the case ought to proceed. Ashcroft knew his own involvement would only taint whatever decision was finally made. So he removed entirely the possibility of political interference by recusing himself. As a Senator, Barack Obama hailed the verdict in that case and the process that led to it.
Republicans ought to demand that Loretta Lynch do the same thing Obama’s current FBI director did when he worked at the Department of Justice in 2003: appoint a special prosecutor.
If Hillary Clinton did nothing wrong, if no laws were broken, no classified information was mishandled, and no American men and women were put at risk as a result of her actions, then she has nothing to fear from an independent investigation of her activities. Where she stands right now is the worst of all worlds: she could still be prosecuted by FBI/DOJ, but if she’s not, everyone will assume that political interference saved her. She can never get out from under that cloud, no matter what happens.
An independent prosecutor, however, can put all of that to rest. If he or she finds evidence of any crimes, then the case will be prosecuted. And if the prosecutor decides not to charge, we’ll know that it wasn’t a political decision.
This is actually the best of all worlds for Hillary, because it actually gives her the opportunity to clear her name, if she’s innocent. It also happens to be the best solution for the American public. We deserve a justice system that actually delivers justice. We deserve a law enforcement system that actually enforces the law. A special prosecutor can deliver it. The current system that is so obviously rigged in favor of certain politicians cannot.