Email #118, Subject: “witch hunt”?

“When you are given immunity, that means you probably committed a crime,” Michael Flynn said last September when Hillary Clinton’s aides were granted immunity during the FBI’s investigation into her private email server. Donald Trump echoed the opinion: “The reason they get immunity is because they did something wrong, if they didn’t do anything wrong, they don’t think in terms of immunity. If you are not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for? Right.”

Flynn has since been forced to step down as National Security Advisor after reportedly misleading the administration regarding his communications with Russia, and now he has requested immunity himself to testify in the investigation of Russian ties to the Trump campaign. Like Flynn, President Trump now supports immunity: “Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!”

I do not know if Flynn committed a crime, but the reversal is disturbingly hypocritical. Even the use of the phrase “witch hunt” is embarrassingly familiar. The Washington Post warned last November that “the GOP’s Clinton witch hunt could backfire.” The Guardian reported in July: “The tirades against Hillary Clinton at the Republican national convention this week have resembled a witch trial more than a political event.” And even former Secretary of State Colin Powell called the Benghazi controversy a “stupid witch hunt.”

I do not know if Clinton committed a crime, but I do know that FBI Director Comey concluded that she did not.  While this would seem to settle the issue, you were not satisfied, demanding in a letter to Comey: “What sets Secretary Clinton apart from [other] persons prosecuted for mishandling classified information?” You were also unsatisfied with her aides who received immunity, writing to the Attorney General for explanation for why “side agreements” were approved for their testimonies.  “Like many things about this case,” you said on TV, “these new materials raise more questions than answers.”

While some may characterize your actions toward Clinton as part of a “witch hunt,” I am willing to view them as part of your Congressional commitment to policing the executive branch. Or at least I would be if you applied equal vigilance to all executive investigations. You, however, have shown little interest in the spreading allegations that the Trump campaign may have colluded with Russia during the election.

While the mishandling of classified documents is criminal—you cited an example of an individual being fined and serving a two-month jail sentence—collusion with a foreign government to influence a Presidential election could be treasonous. I would think that given your vigilance in pursuing Secretary Clinton you would now feel an even greater duty to investigate the current administration.

Unless of course your motivations are not based on principles but simply politics. In which case, rather than fulfilling your role as chair of the House Judiciary Committee, you have been abusing it. Do you believe in the integrity of your office, or were you just a Hillary witch hunter as hypocritical as Flynn and the President?

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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