The Grand Obstruction Party – abuse of power and corruption of the independence of the Department of Justice

Donald Trump’s general election campaign was built around two conspiracy theories that came from his chief political strategist Stephen Bannon’s partner at Breitbart and the Government Accountability Institute, Peter Schweizer, and his book “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich.” Schweizer made unsubstantiated claims that foreign interests curried favor with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by paying huge speaking fees to her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

The second line of attack was the private email server used by Secretary of State Clinton, and the claim that she recklessly exposed highly classified state secrets to computer hackers.

The FBI conducted an investigation into both matters and closed its investigations without any charges being filed against the Clintons. (For Trump, this only became evidence of FBI bias and “deep state” support for the Clintons. It was one motivating factor behind his firing of FBI Director James Comey).

These conspiracy theories, nevertheless, were daily fodder in the conservative media entertainment complex and the Trump campaign, with Trump’s characterization of “crooked Hillary” and chants of “lock her up” at Trump campaign rallies.

During the second presidential debate, Trump went so far as to threaten to jail Clinton if he wins the election: “If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your (missing email) situation,” Trump said, “because there has never been so many lies, so much deception.”

Trump initially appeared to back away from this threat after being elected president, but revived his attacks on “crooked Hillary,” the FBI, the Department of Justice and the “deep state” in a series of insane Tweets over the course of the year, largely in response to the unfolding Russia investigation.

Last week in Trump’s insane interview with The New York Times:

Asked whether he would order the Justice Department to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, Mr. Trump appeared to remain focused on the Russia investigation.

I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department,” he said, echoing claims by his supporters that as president he has the power to open or end an investigation. “But for purposes of hopefully thinking I’m going to be treated fairly, I’ve stayed uninvolved with this particular matter.”

This last statement was a lie. Trump has pressured his Attorney General and new FBI Director into bending to his will and reopening the investigations into his political rivals with the goal of prosecuting the Clintons, the kind of thing that an autocratic dictator does in a banana republic. DOJ again looking into Clinton’s email server use, while FBI probes Clinton Foundation:

The Justice Department is once again looking into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state and the FBI says a probe into the Clinton Foundation has been revived and ongoing for months.

The Daily Beast and Washington Examiner have reports about the latest email server investigation, while the Washington Post and CNN have stories about the Clinton Foundation after The Hill was first with the news.

The probe about Clinton’s server use will focus on the amount of classified information; who put the information into an unclassified environment; and how and which investigators knew about it and when, the publication writes, citing an unnamed “ally of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”

President Donald Trump has demanded repeatedly that the Justice Department investigate Clinton for using the private server, and has called for former Clinton aide Huma Abedin to be jailed.

The State Department last week released emails indicating that classified material was on a computer owned by Abedin’s former husband, Anthony Weiner, who is serving a 21-month prison sentence for sexting a teenage girl.

A former Justice Department official told the Daily Beast that leaders face challenges in conducting a probe consistent with department approaches, and avoiding the appearance that they are trying “to put Huma in jail.”

The emails discovered on Weiner’s laptop were among thousands released by the State Department recently in response to a lawsuit by the conservative activist organization Judicial Watch, Politico reported.

The Daily Beast noted that the new investigation began before those emails were released.

* * *

[A] former DOJ spokesman sees it as the result of undue influence on the agency.

“The president’s ongoing campaign to tear down the wall between the Justice Department and the White House seems to be working,” says Matt Miller, who worked under former attorney general Eric Holder.

In July 2016, FBI director James Comey said “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring a case against Clinton over the emails, though she and her staff were “extremely careless” in handling the data.

Meanwhile, an investigation into the Clinton Foundation is to see if donations are linked to acts by Clinton when she served as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, FBI agents in Little Rock, Arkansas, told the Post.

CNN, citing an unnamed U.S. official, reports that possible misuse of tax-exempt funds is also being looked at.

Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Hillary Clinton, told the Post that the investigation is a sham.

“This is a philanthropy that does life-changing work, which Republicans have tried to turn into a political football,” he said. “It began with a long-debunked project spearheaded by (former Trump adviser) Steve Bannon during the presidential campaign. It continues with Jeff Sessions doing Trump’s bidding by heeding his calls to meddle with a department that is supposed to function independently.

“The goal is to distract from the indictments, guilty pleas, and accusations of treason from Trump’s own people at the expense of our justice system’s integrity. It’s disgraceful, and should be concerning to all Americans.”

This abuse of power and corruption of the independence of the Department of Justice and the FBI, turning federal law enforcement into the politically motivated enforcer of an authoritarian president, has been supported by Tea-Publicans in Congress.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), allegedly one of the saner members of the GOP, recently called for special counsel probes of Democrat ties to Russia, Fusion GPS, Uranium One:

“I think we need a special counsel to investigate the Fusion GPS episode between the Democratic Party, Mr. [Christopher] Steele and Russian operatives,” the South Carolina Republican told “Fox News Sunday.” “I think we need a special counsel to investigate the Uranium One episode where thousands of dollars were given to the Clinton Global Fund and to former President Bill Clinton from groups tied to Russia.”

Mr. Trump said Friday that the Justice Department “should be looking at the Democrats,” but Mr. Graham said “that’s just not the way we do it in America.”

“It’s not his job to be telling the attorney general to prosecute a particular individual or group. It is the attorney general’s job to do that independent,” Mr. Graham said. “We have a rule of law that’s independent of political influence. And when you call on the attorney general to prosecute your former opponent, that is crossing a line.”

This is exactly what has, in fact, happened. Trump has crossed this line.

Yet Senator Lindsey Graham and other Tea-Publicans in Congress are aiding and abetting Trump’s abuse of power and corruption of the independence of the Department of Justice and the FBI by focusing congressional attention on the conspiracy theories concocted by GOPropagandists in the conservative media entertainment complex to distract from the Russia investigation that Congress is supposed to be investigating. Republican Senators Raise Possible Charges Against Author of Trump Dossier.

Tea-Publicans in Congress are attacking the Special Counsel, the FBI, and the Department of Justice. Trump’s year-long attacks on his Attorney General for properly recusing himself from the Russia investigation under DOJ ethics guidelines, resulting in the appointment of a Special Counsel, rather than acting as the president’s consigliere to block any Russia investigation are coming to a head.

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) recently called for a ‘purge’ of the FBI and Justice Department.  As USA Today  noted, “purge” is “a term more commonly associated with authoritarian dictators than democratic societies.”

The Washington Examiner published an opinion piece from House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and former House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — two of Congress’ most far-right members — calling for Sessions’ ouster.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the Russia investigation, but it would appear he has no control at all of the premier law enforcement agency in the world. It is time for Sessions to start managing in a spirit of transparency to bring all of this improper behavior to light and stop further violations. If Sessions can’t address this issue immediately, then we have one final question needing an answer: When is it time for a new attorney general?

Sadly, it seems the answer is now.

As Steve Benen explains, “Meadows and Jordan aren’t hoping to replace Sessions because they’re dissatisfied with his job performance; they want him gone so that a new attorney general can take office, assume oversight of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation (which Sessions has recused himself from), and shield the White House from any further consequences.” “In other words, this is the latest step in the campaign to obstruct the Russia scandal investigation.”

Jeff Sessions days are numbered. His firing is imminent.

This is part of the broader plan by Tea-Publicans in Congress to shut down the Russia investigations, so that no one will ever be held accountable for what Stephen Bannon called an act of  “treason.” These Tea-Publicans are aiding and abetting a conspiracy in a cover-up and obstruction of justice.

Paul Krugman of the New York Times, describes the Faustian bargain the GOP has made with the devil Trump. Faust on the Potomac:

I haven’t yet read Wolff’s book – do I really have to? — but the basic outlines of his story have long been familiar and uncontroversial to anyone with open eyes. Trump is morally and intellectually incapable of being president. He has also exploited his office for personal gain, obstructed justice, and colluded with a hostile foreign power. Everyone who doesn’t get their news from Fox has basically known this for a while, although Wolff helps focus our minds on the subject.

It seems to me that the real news now is the way Republicans in Congress are dealing with this national nightmare: rather than distancing themselves from Trump, they’re doubling down on their support and, in particular, on their efforts to cover for his defects and crimes. Remember when Paul Ryan was the Serious, Honest Conservative? (He never really was, but that was his public image.) Now he’s backing Devin Nunes in his efforts to help the Trump coverup.

As Brian Beutler says, Republicans have become the Grand Obstruction Party. Why?

The answer, I think, is that the cynical bargain that has been the basis of Republican strategy since Reagan has now turned into a moral trap. And as far as we can tell, no elected Republican – not one – has the strength of character to even attempt an escape.

The cynical bargain I’m talking about, of course, was the decision to exploit racism to advance a right-wing economic agenda. Talk about welfare queens driving Cadillacs, then slash income taxes. Do Willie Horton, then undermine antitrust. Tout your law and order credentials, then block health care.

For more than a generation, the Republican establishment was able to keep this bait-and-switch under control: racism was deployed to win elections, then was muted afterwards, partly to preserve plausible deniability, partly to focus on the real priority of enriching the one percent. But with Trump they lost control: the base wanted someone who was blatantly racist and wouldn’t pretend to be anything else. And that’s what they got, with corruption, incompetence, and treason on the side.

Nonetheless, aside from a handful of Never Trumpers, just about everyone in the Republican establishment decided that they could work with that. They knew what Trump was, but were willing to overlook it as long as they could push their usual agenda. What about the populism? They guessed, correctly, that this wouldn’t be a problem: Trump didn’t even hesitate about abandoning all his campaign promises and going all in for cutting taxes on the rich while slashing benefits for the poor.

Early on, some speculated that this would be a temporary alliance – that establishment Republicans would use Trump to get what they wanted, then turn on him. But it’s now clear that won’t happen. Trump has exceeded everyone’s worst expectations, yet Republicans, far from cutting him loose, are tying themselves even more closely to his fate. Why?

The answer, I’d argue, is that they’re stuck. They knowingly made a deal with the devil, and can’t back out.

More specifically, Trump’s very awfulness means that if he falls, the whole party will fall with him. Republicans could conceivably distance themselves from a president who turned out to be a bad manager, or even one who turned out to have engaged in small-time corruption. But when the corruption is big time, and it’s combined with obstruction of justice and collaboration with Putin, nobody will notice which Republicans were a bit less involved, a bit less obsequious, than others. If Trump sinks, he’ll create a vortex that sucks down everyone involved.

And so we now have the Republican party as a whole fully complicit in Trump’s crimes – because that’s what they are, whether or not he and those around him are ever brought to justice.

What this means, among other things, is that expecting the GOP to exercise any oversight or constrain Trump in any way is just foolish at this point. Massive electoral defeat – massive enough to overwhelm gerrymandering and other structural advantages of the right – is the only way out.

Krugman’s argument assumes that there will be another election, and if there is, that the GOP will not rig the election results to maintain their one-party rule (they have learned this from the Russians). GOP authoritarianism is running amok right now, and being complicit in aiding and abetting Trump’s crimes, why would they ever allow themselves to be put in the position of being held accountable? These are dangerous days for our democracy.

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