UH-OH: DOJ Inspector General To Probe FBI’s ‘Improper’ Handling Of Clinton Investigation

When reviewing the most consequential events of the 2016 presidential election, one strikingly inappropriate action comes immediately to mind. Less than two weeks before the nation voted, FBI Directer James Comey violated a long-held principle of law enforcement. He released confidential and unsubstantiated data concerning an in-progress investigation of Hillary Clinton.

Comey Trump

Comey’s action gave Donald Trump’s campaign a jet-propelled boost at a time when it needed it most. And it left little time for Clinton’s campaign to respond or recover from the political harm. As it turned out, there was nothing of significance in the additional analysis that Comey initiated, but the damage was done.

Thursday morning the Inspector General’s office of the Department of Justice announced that it will be reviewing these events. Requests from member of Congress, outside organizations, and members of the public, spurred the IG to commence this review. According to the Huffington Post, the review will address several specific topics, including:

  • Allegations that Department or FBI policies or procedures were not followed in connection with, or in actions leading up to or related to, the FBI Director’s public announcement on July 5, 2016, and the Director’s letters to Congress on October 28 and November 6, 2016, and that certain underlying investigative decisions were based on improper considerations;
  • Allegations that the FBI Deputy Director should have been recused from participating in certain investigative matters;
  • Allegations that Department and FBI employees improperly disclosed non-public information;
  • Allegations that decisions regarding the timing of the FBI’s release of certain Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents on October 30 and November 1, 2016, and the use of a Twitter account to publicize same, were influenced by improper considerations.

These are the most salient issues that desperately need to be resolved. Comey’s behavior was suspiciously beneficial to one political candidate, and this investigation should explore any and all motivations. The IG’s review is being careful not to engage in further partisanship. Consequently, it’s also examining allegations that an assistant AG improperly disclosed non-public information to Clinton’s campaign.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

It remains to be seen what conclusions will be drawn when the review is complete. There could be consequences for Comey, or it could be swept under the FBI’s rug. Timing will also be critical. If this stretches too long into the Trump administration, and his anticipated purges at the DOJ are effected, then nothing of significance will result. Trump’s people will surely protect him and his allies in the FBI, including Comey. So stay tuned as this developing story continues to unfold.

Top Advisor Proposes Changes In Ethics Laws For Trump’s ‘Billionaire Presidency’

The specter of Donald Trump’s looming presidency has stirred up serious consideration of potentially unlawful conflicts of interest. His expansive business empire makes ethical violations a near certainty. In fact, there have already been incidents where foreign dignitaries made reservations at Trump hotels in order to curry favor with the President-Elect.

Donald Trump

The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution expressly prohibits the president from receiving money, gifts, or anything of value from foreign governments or officials. Thus, any foreign officials staying at a Trump hotel would automatically put him violation of the Constitution. Additionally, there are numerous ethics laws enacted by Congress to prevent bribery or corruption on the part of public officials. Trump’s businesses present a tangled web of pending breaches just waiting to happen.

This is not a partisan observation aimed at hobbling The Donald before he even moves in. Republicans are keenly aware of the legal obstacles in the road. One of Trump’s closest advisors, Newt Gingrich, conceded that it was an issue in a radio interview on Monday. His remarks were a disturbing commentary on the privilege of class in politics. He described Trump’s ascension to power as a “billionaire presidency,” which he meant as a justification for special treatment. As reported by Politico:

“We’ve never seen this kind of wealth in the White House, and so traditional rules don’t work,” Gingrich said Monday during an appearance on NPR’s “The Diane Rehme Show” about the president-elect’s business interests. “We’re going to have to think up a whole new approach.”

In other words, the rules for the rich are different than those for the rest of us. That’s an argument for the kind of aristocracy that the United States fought a revolution to escape. Public servants enriching themselves through their office should be illegal no matter their net worth. That’s why in prior administrations, presidents would place their assets in a blind trust and divest them if necessary. And contrary to Gingrich’s assertion, there has been great wealth in White House. Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy come to mind.

Gingrich doesn’t provide any details of the “whole new approach” he’s proposing. However, he did offer one specific method of by which Trump could avoid accountability:

“In the case of the president, he has a broad ability to organize the White House the way he wants to. He also has, frankly, the power of the pardon,” Gingrich said. “It’s a totally open power. He could simply say, ‘Look, I want them to be my advisers. I pardon them if anyone finds them to have behaved against the rules. Period. Technically, under the Constitution, he has that level of authority.”

Actually, he technically does not. The power of the pardon is not “totally open.” For instance it cannot be used to absolve someone for crimes that have yet to be committed. So for Gingrich’s idea to work, Trump would have to wait for the conflicts to occur, then pardon the offenders. And with his unique business structure, his refusal to let go of any of it, and his family’s involvement, he would have to issue new pardons every day.

Furthermore, while the president can pardon himself for criminal penalties, he cannot stop Congress from impeaching him. So any violation of the Constitution as described above could trigger his ouster from office.

Earlier this month Trump promised to hold a press conference on December 15, to address these matters. That was a week ago and he has still not rescheduled the canceled event, other than to say it could be sometime in January. He may be able to evade questions from the press about his shady financial dealings, but he can’t evade justice for long.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Proposals like the one Gingrich offered only serve to inflame the class division that Trump represents. He is not a king and he is not above the law. But no should be surprised that Gingrich favors leniency for ethical violations by the rich and powerful. He himself was ousted as Speaker of the House for ethical breaches related to his book royalties

Fox News ‘White’ Washes Racist Past Of Trump’s Attorney General Nominee

The Trump transition marches on with another name being floated for a prominent role. This time it’s Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (R-AL) who is reportedly being tapped for Attorney General. Jeff Sessions would join white nationalist Stephen Bannon and religious bigot Michael Flynn in Donald Trump’s inner circle.

Jeff Sessions

The choice of Sessions is perfectly aligned with Trump’s well-documented record of prejudice and division. But it’s not particularly suited for leadership of the Justice Department which is responsible for enforcing civil rights laws. Prior to his senate service, Sessions was a U.S. attorney and attorney general in Alabama. He was nominated by President Reagan for a seat on the federal bench, but failed to receive confirmation from a majority Republican senate. Among the reasons were his criticisms of the NAACP as un-American and communist-inspired. He also referred to a black lawyer as “boy,” and called white attorneys who defended black clients “race traitors.” No wonder former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke tweeted his support saying:

Ordinarily, this sort of behavior would be disqualifying for a high profile government post. But in the Age of Trump there are no depths too low for an aspiring public figure to sink. Trump himself has engaged in the most abhorrent forms of hate-speech aimed at African-Americans, women, Muslims, and others. And throughout it all, Fox News was there to tidy up his bigotry and re-frame it as bold, straight talk.

That’s exactly what happened Friday morning on Fox & Friends when guest host Ed Henry interviewed Trump advisor Brad Blakeman. Predictably impressed, Blakeman said that Trump “couldn’t pick a better candidate” than Sessions. He lauded the Senator as:

“…a guy who is steeped in the law, got an excellent reputation, was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1981 to be the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, served for more than a decade, then became the attorney general thereafter of Alabama, and then the U.S. Senator. So he’s got a stellar record.”

Henry deftly dodged the substance of Blakeman’s glowing tribute to Sessions. Instead, he diverted to unrelated questions about Republican frustration with Democratic AG’s Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch. But for some reason Henry ignored the glaring omissions in Blakeman’s revisionist history.

An ethical journalist would have pointed out that Sessions was rejected for a judgeship due to blatantly racist behavior. That information is directly relevant to the duties of the Attorney General who has jurisdiction over the federal justice administration. But on Fox News it is potentially damaging to their mission of right-wing propaganda. Consequently, it’s left out of the discussion and their viewers remain blissfully ignorant. So even in the Age of Trump, some things never change.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.