Jeff Sessions: I’m not going to appoint a special counsel for Hillary just because my party wants me to
The frustration is palpable in his response to Jim Jordan, although it’s not Jordan who’s the cause of that frustration. We all know who is. POTUS jammed him up badly by calling publicly for the DOJ to investigate Hillary. If the Department ends up launching an investigation, Sessions looks like a toady who’s carrying political water for the president rather than protecting the DOJ’s independence. That’s the source of his annoyance in being pestered by Jordan to do something. But if the Department doesn’t launch an investigation, Sessions will be seen as having defied the president and let down the GOP at a moment when it’s eager to get to the bottom of the dossier mystery and to push Democrats into the Russiagate spotlight.
On the other hand, Jordan’s got a point. A special counsel is typically called for only in unusual circumstances, when the DOJ itself has a conflict of interest in an investigation. Isn’t that the case with the FBI and the dossier, which may or may not have been used as the basis of a FISA warrant that got the Russiagate probe off the ground? From the federal regs:
The Attorney General, or in cases in which the Attorney General is recused, the Acting Attorney General, will appoint a Special Counsel when he or she determines that criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted and –
(a) That investigation or prosecution of that person or matter by a United States Attorney’s Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department or other extraordinary circumstances
We don’t know for a fact that there’s a conflict of interest here, though, notes former prosecutor Andy McCarthy. There is in the case of Russiagate; the Trump administration’s Justice Department is investigating the president and his staff for their campaign activity. In the case of the Clintons, though:
It is commonplace for the Justice Department to conduct corruption investigations involving members of the president’s opposition party (as well as members of the president’s own party who are not among the Justice Department’s executive-branch superiors). There is no structural reason to believe the Justice Department is unable to conduct a fair investigation of the Clinton Foundation. (There may be a credibility problem, which we’ll get to momentarily.)
And importantly: We do not know that the Justice Department is not already conducting a fair investigation. When the Justice Department is functioning properly, it is not speaking publicly about pending investigations, nor is it consulting with the White House about them.
Maybe the DOJ has looked at the role the dossier played in the Russiagate investigation and concluded that there’s no conflict of interest in how the FBI used it, or whether it used it at all. If so, the Clintons could be investigated through normal Justice Department channels, although ironically that might be more dubious politically for Trump and Sessions than a special counsel would be. Handing off the Clinton matter to a respected outside lawyer a la Mueller would take the administration’s fingerprints off the matter. Having Trump’s own deputies at the DOJ handle it means that any adverse finding about Hillary will be dismissed by the left as Trump running a banana-republic Justice Department that’s carrying out his political vendettas. If they’re going to investigate the Clintons, a special counsel is better for Trump and Sessions than the alternative.
Speaking of Russiagate, what’s this all about?
On Aug. 3 of last year, just as the US presidential election was entering its final, heated phase, the Russian foreign ministry sent nearly $30,000 to its embassy in Washington. The wire transfer, which came from a Kremlin-backed Russian bank, landed in one of the embassy’s Citibank accounts and contained a remarkable memo line: “to finance election campaign of 2016.”
That wire transfer is one of more than 60 now being scrutinized by the FBI and other federal agencies investigating Russian involvement in the US election. The transactions, which moved through Citibank accounts and totaled more than $380,000, each came from the Russian foreign ministry and most contained a memo line referencing the financing of the 2016 election.
Natasha Bertrand of Business Insider remembers that the infamous dossier claimed that the Kremlin was funneling money for cyberoperations through its embassies in the guise of payments to government pensioners. If that’s what this was, though, why was the memo line so blunt about the purpose of the payments? Why not use code, like “for pensions”?
Exit question via Steve Schmidt: Why didn’t Don Jr call the FBI immediately last year when Wikileaks reached out to him via direct message on Twitter?