Email # 159: “the President’s prerogative”?

In 1993, you co-sponsored a bill directing six House committees, including the Judiciary which you now chair, “to commence hearings on issues within their jurisdiction relating to the Whitewater Development Corporation and related issues.” In 1994, President Clinton directed Attorney General Janet Reno to appoint a special counsel to investigate Whitewater too, and, in order to further avoid any conflicts of interest, a three-judge panel appointed a new special counsel the following year. Though Kenneth Starr’s investigation found that the Clintons committed no crimes in their Whitewater real estate transactions, it did lead to President Clinton’s impeachment for perjury in 1998.

You have since co-sponsored three other bills calling for the appointment of special counsels. In 2009, you wanted one “to investigate allegations regarding the organization ACORN.” In 2011, you wanted one “to investigate Operation Fast and Furious and the Attorney General’s knowledge and management of Operation Fast and Furious.” And in 2013, you wanted one “to investigate the targeting of conservative nonprofit groups by the Internal Revenue Service.”

You clearly value the role of special counsels. And for good reason. As stated in the act authorizing them, a special counsel should be appointed when the investigation of a “matter by a United States Attorney’s Office … would present a conflict of interest for the Department.” This allows the special counsel to “determine whether and to what extent to inform or consult with the Attorney General or others within the Department about the conduct of his or her duties and responsibilities.” Such independence is essential for any investigation of the executive branch, since the FBI and all other members of the Justice Department report to the Attorney General who in turn reports to the President.

Director Comey announced in March that the FBI was “investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.” Since campaign collusion with a foreign nation to influence a Presidential race is a far more serious allegation than any surrounding the Clintons’ Whitewater real estate transactions, I assume you will now apply the same principle to the Trump administration. You even stated after the President fired Comey: “It is clearly the President’s prerogative to remove the FBI Director.” This is precisely why a special counsel is so necessary.

So why have you not yet called for a special counsel? You co-sponsored three bills demanding special counsels during the Obama administration. Do you now view those bills as politically motivated and so attempts to abuse the role of special counsels? Do you think only investigations into Democrats in the White House require independence? Or do your core principles change with each election?

When will you recognize that your hypocrisy is damaging the democratic norms of our country?

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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