Saturday, July 2, 2016

Recusal Refusal

By now you're probably familiar with the latest of a long string of scandals besetting the Obama administration - the administration, we might recall, which promised it would be the most open and transparent in history.

In the event, however, that you haven't been following the latest, former President Bill Clinton, whose wife is embroiled in a criminal investigation conducted by the FBI and who is himself on the hook for possible illicit dealings with his charitable foundation, just happened to be arriving in Phoenix recently to play some golf and who should he find on the tarmac getting ready to depart but no less a personage than the Attorney General of the United States, Loretta Lynch. What a coincidence! So the affable former president rung up the putatively impeccable Attorney General and invited himself over to her plane to talk and their grandkids. Happens every day.

Well, the official account of the meeting is this: The two discoursed for thirty minutes or so in private (Ms Lynch has been careful to note, Mr. Clinton's reputation for lechery doubtless being on her mind, that her husband was present) concerning several innocuous topics, and then the former president deplaned. Nothing at all, we are to believe, was said about Mr. and Mrs. Clinton's legal jeopardy, despite the fact that these matters must surely press hard on Mr. Clinton's mind.

There are several things about this official account which give pause. First, no one but the most gullible, credulous Clinton- worshipper believes that the topic of conversation was unrelated to any of the several investigations involving the Clintons' chronic malfeasances. Why go to all the trouble to choreograph a thirty minute audience with the AG, on the tarmac, no less, just to talk about grandchildren?

Second, even in the highly improbable event that social chitchat was indeed the topic of conversation, it's a serious breach of ethics for the AG to have a personal contact, or worse, a thirty minute conversation with a man hip-deep in the slop that is being investigated by her department.

That she would risk her professional reputation for ethical rectitude to meet Clinton for any reason whatsoever is astonishing, much more is it astonishing to admit him to her plane for such a banal reason.

Democrats have admitted that this was indeed "bad optics," but as David Harsanyi remarks at The Federalist the Democrats don't have an "optics" problem, they have a corruption problem:
Rather than conceding that such a private encounter is at the very least a conflict of interest, Democrats preemptively complained about the “optics.”

Do [these] ... politicians “groaning” about the optics of the meeting understand that they’re arguing for Lynch to recuse herself from the Clinton investigation? As Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who’s been pushing for a special counsel for a while, pointed out, there is a clear ethical duty for an Attorney General to recuse herself at the mere appearance of impartiality—a standard this little meeting clearly meets.

From the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual: "The requirement of recusal does not arise in every instance, but only where a conflict of interest exists or there is an appearance of a conflict of interest or loss of impartiality."
If ever an incident gave the appearance of a conflict of interest or loss of impartiality this one does, as a piece at the Daily Caller makes clear:
Former U.S. Attorney Joseph DiGenova told the Daily Caller News Foundation the former President “is at least a witness in two criminal investigations, probably a subject in two criminal investigations. He is a person of interest officially to the Department of Justice,” he said flatly.

Both the FBI and Justice Department have launched investigations into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server and email address for official U.S. government business during her tenure as the nation’s chief diplomat.

But investigators also are reportedly investigating “public corruption” links between Hillary’s work at the State Department with large foreign donors to the Clinton Foundation, many of which were orchestrated by her husband.

DiGenova said the problem with the secretive meeting at the private aircraft section of the Phoenix airport had nothing to do with appearances, but was a violation of the Justice Department’s policies.

“It’s very important to realize this isn’t just a question of her judgment. The question is the Department of Justice policy on communicating with a side in a case,” DiGenova told The DCNF.

Given Bill Clinton’s legal status as a party to the federal investigations, DiGenova said Lynch should not, under any circumstances, have met with him because strict Justice Department rules require impartiality among federal prosecutors and department officials. As AG, Lynch is the nation’s top law enforcement official.

“Bill Clinton, according to the department is a person of interest. What... is she doing meeting with a person of interest, no matter what the reason,” DiGenova said. “There is no reason to believe her representation about what transpired in that conversation. The whole set of circumstances surrounding how they met on the tarmac, in a plane with no witnesses, is simply appalling.”

DiGenova added that Lynch “cannot be that unaware of who she is and what her role is. It’s beyond belief. There is no reason to believe her representation about what transpired in that conversation.”

“There’s no good reason for her to have met with him. None. Zip,” he said.
Ms Lynch, however, has subsequently announced that she's not going to recuse herself at all from the Hillary Clinton legal imbroglio. Instead she's going to accept the recommendation of the FBI Director and career prosecutors as to whether to proceed with an indictment. Of course, career prosecutors are her employees and, if Hillary Clinton wins in November, will also be Ms. Clinton's employees. What are the chances they'll risk their government salaries to bring an indictment against the woman who may well determine their future in the DOJ?

Harsanyi writes:
This will give millions of Americans who already assume the Department of Justice will let Hillary slide no matter where the evidence leads quite a bit of evidence of corruption in the Obama DOJ. If you’re Hillary Clinton and you’re truly innocent, Bill’s little get-together creates even more questions about your shady conduct. Mostly, though, if you want to know why Americans don’t trust their government, this meeting is a pristine example of why.