Email #325: “impartiality”?

Once again I agree with your stated principles. You said Tuesday in a press release announcing a joint investigation by the House Judiciary and the House Oversight committees:

“The impartiality of our justice system is the bedrock of our republic and our fellow citizens must have confidence in its objectivity, independence, and evenhandedness. The law is the most equalizing force in this country. No entity or individual is exempt from oversight… Congress has a constitutional duty to preserve the integrity of our justice system by ensuring transparency and accountability of actions taken.”

But what in your opinion is the greatest threat to American confidence in the impartiality of the Justice Department? What subject requires your most immediate attention and exercise of your constitutional duty?

“Decisions made by the Department of Justice in 2016 have led to a host of outstanding questions that must be answered.”

And of all of the decisions the Department made last year, you list only four, all regarding the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails. Even the stated goals of your new investigation seem oddly limited:

“The Committees will review these decisions and others to better understand the reasoning behind how certain conclusions were drawn.”

Admittedly, I too would like to better understand former FBI Director Comey’s decision. I wrote to you about this in January days before President Trump took office:

“The Justice department announced yesterday it’s investigating FBI Director James Comey’s actions during the campaign. What steps will you be taking to investigate him too? As you obviously know, Comey broke against decades of tradition and against all legal and professional advice when he revealed that he was reopening the FBI case into Hillary Clinton’s emails. He did this less than two weeks before the election, and Clinton’s polls, which were averaging far above Trump’s, immediately dropped. Comey announced less than two days before the election that the investigation was closed again, but Clinton’s polls never recovered to their previous levels. Given that Trump won his three upset states by under 1% each, there’s an obvious case to be made that Director Comey not only interfered in the election but actually caused its outcome. Since the Hatch Act makes any election interference a crime and since you are the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, I assume you are already investigating the Director. I am, however, confused why you haven’t spoken about this yet. Your silence creates the impression of your putting your party allegiance above your Congressional and ethical responsibilities. When will you make a statement regarding Director Comey?”

Your response has taken nine months and follows a full-year after the actual incidents. Comey’s letter was dated October 28, 2016–a year from today. Should we expect the same reaction time for your other investigations into the Justice Department? The President fired Comey on April 9, 2017. Will you begin investigating that potential obstruction of justice in April 2018?

Although I agree that these incidents remain relevant, your focus on them now and your continuing refusal to investigate other more pressing concerns undermines an appearance of integrity. You look like a Trump ally, trying to divert attention away from the administration’s current misconduct.

Not only does this undermine your stated principles, it’s an ineffective political strategy. When calls for impeachment mount over winter and spring, you will not be able to assume a posture of principled resistance. Your refusing to parallel your Republican counterparts in the Senate Judiciary Committee and join the House Oversight Committee in investigations of the Trump administration already create an appearance of extreme partisan bias. Now by focusing yet again on the Clinton emails—the top political topic of last year’s election—you further erode any appearance of impartiality. If you next ignore evidence of impeachable offenses and refuse to proceed with articles of impeachment, you will secure your position in our history books as a partisan stooge.

Is this how you want to be remembered?

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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