Email #272: “fair and impartial”?

Why in your Sunday Roanoke Times editorial about the Special Counsel investigation into our current President do you focus your attention instead on our former President?  You mention “Obama” by name three times, but “Trump” only once and then only indirectly when you say the Special Counsel is investigating “individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.” Why are you promoting the verifiably false claim that Special Counsel Mueller is not investigating the President too?

You mention the Obama administration three more times, but not the Trump administration at all. Your logic is most contorted when you refer vaguely “to the past history of the Department of Justice’s inaction during the previous Administration” as justification for your support of Special Counsel Mueller’s appointment now. You more vaguely claim that “confidence in American institutions has waned in recent years,” implying the eight years of Obama’s terms, while ignoring the more severe drop in confidence during the last eight months. You insist that we should not “ignore possible crimes committed by a previous Administration,” even as you ignore the possible crimes committed by the current Administration.

You explain that you are not “interfering with the special counsel’s work” but that you “will continue to closely monitor this investigation and exercise appropriate oversight as necessary.” This means that you have not exercised any oversight yet—even though you also claim to “look forward to providing rigorous oversight.” The descriptions “rigorous” and “as necessary” are contradictions. And though “monitor” and “oversee” are synonyms, you say you will “closely monitor” in order to determine whether you then need to “oversee.” What exactly does “monitor” mean then? Are you just reading the news like the rest of us? You say the Special Counsel must not “proceed under … lax oversight,” and yet from your own account you have provided no oversight, lax or otherwise.

You say you want to “assuage any concerns that the investigation might be swayed by political considerations,” “regain much needed trust and confidence in our law enforcement and political institutions,” and “restore integrity to the system.” Despite this noble, non-partisan rhetoric, the content of your editorial communicates the opposite. You say you want a Special Counsel investigation that is “guided by facts” and “unimpeded by political motivations” including “politically-motivated whims”—and then you announce your own politically-motivated whim by calling for a second Special Counsel to investigate the Obama administration. This contradicts your own opening statement that you “thought the career officials at the FBI were able to conduct a fair and impartial inquiry into” relevant issues.

While I understand your editorial was targeted at those who already support you and President Trump, your focus is short-sighted. How will your editorial be judged six months from now–or six years? You are writing the defining documents of your quarter-century congressional career, and they portray you as a doublespeaking partisan propagandist evoking the very principles you violate.

Email #166: “this important step”?

Thank you for your form letter regarding the President’s firing of Director Comey and the investigations into Russia’s interference in the election.

Like you, I also “support Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s decision to appoint a special counsel to lead an impartial investigation.” I am confused though why your May 17 press release, which is dated two days before your letter to me and uses some of the same language, includes the sentence: “I applaud the Trump Administration for taking this important step ….” As you stated above, the decision to appoint a special counsel was the Deputy Attorney General’s, not the President’s. According to news reports, Rosenstein did not even inform the White House prior to the announcement. The President also sharply criticized Rosenstein decision, telling reporters:

“I believe it hurts our country terribly, because it shows we’re a divided, mixed-up, not-unified country.”

He also tweeted:

“With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!”

“This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”

Your letter also states that “the House Judiciary Committee will continue to exercise oversight over this investigation as necessary.” Since you previously stated that calls for oversight by the Democratic members of your Committee were “unnecessary,” I’m not sure what you now mean. The only action regarding the investigation that you have taken as chair was to co-write a letter to the Justice Department about leaks of Michael Flynn lying. You were not concerned with the investigation itself but with the disclosure of details to news agencies. Is this what you mean when you say you “will continue to exercise oversight”?

It is also difficult to take seriously your ending promise: “Rest assured I will work to ensure this investigation is conducted in an impartial and appropriate manner.” While I am hopeful that Robert Mueller will behave as impartially and appropriately as he did as FBI Director under Presidents Bush and Obama, I do not understand how you will “work to ensure” that. Your May 17 press release shows the opposite. After falsely applauding the Trump Administration, you characterize the appointment of a special counsel as a step that “the previous Administration repeatedly declined to do in other matters.” Using the investigation of the Trump administration as an opportunity to criticize President Obama months after he has left office is hardly “impartial.”

We do, however, appear to agree that “Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and alleged ties with Trump campaign personnel” need “a fair and independent investigation in order to root out the facts.” But it is in part because of your failure to meet the constitutional responsibilities of your office that such an investigation is only now underway.

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?