The moment may be upon Barack Obama, perhaps sooner than he realized, to make a decision on whether to issue a pardon to Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump’s appointment of Sen. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General (Larry covered it here) puts him in charge of the Department of Justice and the FBI — and both have some forms of open probes into Hillary. Sessions has been openly critical of the FBI’s handling of the Clinton scandals, and in October called for an outside review of the way that investigators and DoJ prosecutors issued immunity agreements:
Central to the FBI’s mismanagement of the scandal investigation is their preferential treatment of Mills, he said. Mills was Clinton’s chief of staff at the State Department, an attorney in the administration of her husband President William J. Clinton and is now a member of the Clinton Foundation’s board of directors.
Howie Carr asked Sessions how is it that the former first lady could have Mills treated by the FBI and the Department of Justice as her attorney, while Clinton also had another team of lawyers from Williams and Connolly.
The efforts to cover up and protect everyone involved in the email scandal were blatant, Carr said. “Richard Nixon never dreamed of doing things like this.”
In the same interview with Carr, Sessions said that he’d lost confidence in FBI Director James Comey after his report in early July and the subsequent revelations about immunity grants. On that point, Sessions might find broad agreement with his soon-to-be-former Senate colleagues. Democrats in the upper chamber blame Comey for Hillary’s election loss already, so any move to push Comey out probably won’t get too much political blowback.
What this does show, however, is that Sessions wants to get a lot of answers on the Hillary scandals — both on potential criminality and why the DoJ and FBI made the decisions they did. Nor is the e-mail scandal the only Clinton issue on which Sessions has demanded answers. In August, Sessions told Alyson Camerota on CNN’s New Day that he wanted a special prosecutor appointed to investigate pay-to-play allegations about the Clinton Foundation and the State Department:
Does that sound like Sessions wants to let bygones be bygones? Had Trump picked someone with more of a political-consensus groove — like Chris Christie or even Rudy Giuliani — the outgoing administration might have had reason for a more sanguine approach. Sessions, on the other hand, threatens not just to keep pressing on Hillary and Bill Clinton, but perhaps upend the DoJ to look for official and unofficial instructions to curtail the probes into the Democratic nominee. He’s not interested in political niceties as much as he is in restoring his vision of the DoJ — and his mood’s not likely to be improved by his confirmation hearing in January, either.
The appointment of Sessions makes that peril very clear. It’s possible that Sessions will opt to put his focus and energy elsewhere, but that’s become a much riskier bet. If Obama and his administration have anything to hide, the pardons will almost certainly begin emerging in the next eight weeks. James Comey had better start refreshing his resumé, too.