Sounds great. Anyone buying this, though? Attorney General Loretta Lynch told a House committee that the Department of Justice will conduct a review of any recommendations from the FBI on its probe of Hillary Clinton’s secret e-mail system, and that the review would be “independent.” That doesn’t mean external, however — it means that the review will be handled by career attorneys at the DoJ. The actual decision will remain in Lynch’s hands:
Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Wednesday promised that any Justice Department review of possible criminal charges connected to Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information would be “independent,” without regard to politics or outside influence.
While a recommendation from the FBI about how to proceed could be months away, Lynch promised House lawmakers that the Justice Department’s course of action will be guided by the law alone.
“That matter is being handled by career independent law enforcement agents — FBI agents — as well as career independent attorneys in the Department of Justice,” Lynch told a House Appropriations subcommittee. “They follow the evidence, they look at the law and they’ll make a recommendation to me when the time is appropriate.”
“This will be conducted as every other case, and we will review all the facts and all the evidence and come to an independent conclusion as to how to handle it,” she maintained.
Few people seem very concerned about the FBI’s part of the probe. They have assigned scores of agents to the investigation, and broadened it out to issues of public corruption as well as improper handling of classified material. James Comey has a sterling reputation as a no-nonsense, apolitical law-enforcement executive. Congress respects Comey enough to put aside any of its own investigations into the secret server, as a way to keep from handicapping Comey and his team.
The issue, at least for now, is the decision process that Lynch describes. The decision to charge will not be made independently, as Lynch claims. Those career attorneys still report up the chain of command to political appointees, including Lynch, who owe their positions to Democrats (which is otherwise not problematic). An independent review would mean having a decision-maker outside of the DoJ review those recommendations and choose whether or not to prosecute Hillary Clinton, her aides, or all of the above.
This is a nearly unprecedented situation — a criminal probe involving a former Cabinet Secretary currently running for the presidential nomination of the party in control of the executive branch. That should prompt a truly independent review, not with a political appointee as the final say but with a Comey-like figure with no ties to the administration who can generate the public trust to render a sound and reliable judgment. The fact that the Obama administration continues to resist this option calls Lynch’s claims today into serious doubt.