The scandal behind the probes

The investigations of the Trump campaign, Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, and Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation of Russian collusion were and are so incestuous, conflicted, and dirty that they constitute a Watergate-level scandal.

Consider Mueller’s special counsel investigation of alleged Russian collusion. Mueller was appointed after former FBI director James Comey leaked confidential notes about his conversation with President Trump. The leaking is likely a crime, but he’ll get a pass. Comey admitted that he was hoping to appoint a special counsel to investigate Trump whom Comey admitted, under oath, he was not investigating. This makes no sense. Department of Justice officials held over from the Obama administration (swamp creatures) chose Mueller who was Comey’s longtime friend and co-worker. Given that Comey is a potential witness in the case and could be, in effect, an accuser, this conflict of interest stinks.

There are incestuous relations between Mueller’s team, Hillary Clinton’s legal world, and those who investigated her email scandal. The Hoover Institution’s Victor Davis Hanson points out that at least six of Mueller’s staff of 15 lawyers donated to the Clinton campaign. He reports that the team includes Jeannie Rhee who provided legal services to the Clinton Foundation and who generously donated to the Clinton campaign. He also notes that it includes Aaron Zebley, who represented the IT staffer who set up Clinton’s server and reportedly smashed Clinton’s cell phones with a hammer to prevent them being searched.

Most spectacularly, the Mueller team included an FBI investigator Peter Strzok who was later thrown off the team reportedly for nasty texts about Trump with another member of the Mueller legal team (Lisa Page) with whom he was having an affair. Strzok was at neck deep these investigations. He was the lead investigator of the Clinton email scandal and helped draft the memo recommending that Clinton not be prosecuted for her server. He deleted language in the memo that said that Clinton was “grossly negligent,” the requirement for the relevant crime. The memo was drafted and Strzok changed it well in advance of interviewing some of the people involved, including Hillary Clinton. Now this is an investigation one can believe in.

Strzok was present in all three investigations. He led the investigation of and interviewed Hillary Clinton about the server (not under oath — a sweetheart deal) and interviewed Trump Administration official Michael Flynn about Russia. Flynn is now being prosecuted for what he said in the interview. Strzok made suspicious comments in a text about a plan to save the country were Trump elected. He made these comments in response to what appears to be a meeting with Page and the second in command at the FBI (Andrew McCabe).

Another member of Mueller’s legal team, Andrew Weissman, has a checkered past and there is evidence of his being incredibly biased against Trump.

A Justice Department official, Bruce Ohr, was demoted in part because he concealed meeting with the firm (Fusion GPS) that produced an opposition research document (Steele dossier). It is widely reported that information from the dossier was used to get a FISA court warrant to monitor people in the Trump campaign, this despite the fact that Hillary Clinton’s campaign paid for the dossier and that it was quickly discredited. Ohr’s wife worked for Fusion GPA and, of course, Bruce Ohr failed to disclose this as well.

The investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email was awash in sweetheart deals, conflicts of interest, and obstruction of justice. It was overseen by Andrew McCabe, the second in command at the FBI. He did not recuse himself until one week before the presidential election despite the fact that his wife received almost $700,000 from the Clintons’ longtime moneyman Terry McAuliffe (specifically, from his organizations). The investigation involved a refusal to apply the statutory standard (gross negligence), a refusal to prosecute Clinton and company for what others have been prosecuted for (see Kristian Saucier and David Petraeus), immunity deals handed out like candy, looking past destruction of subpoenaed evidence, failure to subpoena relevant parties, and on and on.

There are several lessons to be drawn from all of this. First, the FBI and Justice Department are conflicted, unethical, and, at times, dirty. The place needs to be cleaned out like a basement with a rat infestation. Swamp creatures such as Comey, McCabe, Mueller, Strzok, Weissman, and those high level officials who recommended or tolerated their hiring need to have their name blackened and never again be allowed to hold a government position. Making things worse, the Justice Department and FBI refuse to hand over documents to Congress regarding the Mueller investigation.

Second, we should have no confidence in the ability of the government to investigate itself. The failure to prosecute former Presidents (for example, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton), their underlings (for example, Eric Holder and Lois Lerner), and dirty members of Congress (for example, Charley Rangel) is a mistake. This sends the message that government officials are above the law. The shocking decision not to charge Bill Clinton with obstruction of justice, perjury, and witness tampering and spoke volumes. Clinton merely had to pay a fine for contempt of court and surrender his law license.

Third, this Watergate-level scandal needs to be investigated and evildoers punished. Using a dubious opposition research document to get a FISA warrant (if this occurred), using the warrant to collect information on Trump campaign members, and then using this information to get a special counsel appointed involves naked aggression against political enemies. This cannot be tolerated. We saw earlier instances of this when, under the Clinton and Obama administrations, the IRS was weaponized and the Justice Department looked the other way. The past and holdover Obama administration officials’ actions threaten American democracy. This threat is similar to that posed by the Nixon administration’s lawless behavior.

Unfortunately, between the Congressional sissies and the cowardly Attorney General Jeff Session, this will all be shoved down the memory hole.

Stephen Kershnar is a State University of New York at Fredonia philosophy professor. Send comments to