‘Lock her up,’ re­vis­ited

Los Angeles Times - - OPINION - E live in a coun­try

Wof laws and no one should be above them. That in­cludes the pres­i­dent. And it also in­cludes Hil­lary Clin­ton, his for­mer cam­paign op­po­nent. Where there is rea­son to be­lieve that laws have been vi­o­lated, there should be an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and if nec­es­sary a prose­cu­tion.

But the calls by some Repub­li­cans for a spe­cial coun­sel to in­ves­ti­gate Clin­ton smack of some­thing other than a de­sire for even­handed en­force­ment of the law. Rather, they are part of a des­per­ate ef­fort by the pres­i­dent, his al­lies in Congress and the rightwing me­dia to take the fo­cus off the tan­gled in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the Trump cam­paign’s con­duct, and par­tic­u­larly into any pos­si­ble col­lu­sion with Rus­sia.

Ear­lier this month Trump tweeted: “Ev­ery­body is ask­ing why the Jus­tice De­part­ment (and FBI) isn’t look­ing into all of the dis­hon­esty go­ing on with Crooked Hil­lary & the Dems.” Mean­while, Repub­li­can mem­bers of Congress have of­fered up a grab bag of in­ci­dents and in­sin­u­a­tions they claim jus­tify the ap­point­ment of a spe­cial coun­sel.

This du­bi­ous bill of par­tic­u­lars in­cludes Clin­ton’s (min­i­mal) role as sec­re­tary of State in the ap­proval of the pur­chase by a Rus­sian com­pany of a con­trol­ling stake in Ura­nium One, a ura­nium com­pany whose ma­jor in­vestor had con­trib­uted to the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion; the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Clin­ton’s use of a pri­vate email server (yes, they’re still on about that); and the Democrats’ fund­ing of the so-called dossier about Trump and Rus­sia.

On Tues­day Atty. Gen. Jeff Ses­sions told the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee that any de­ci­sion to name an­other spe­cial coun­sel would be guided by law, not pol­i­tics. But his comments were only partly re­as­sur­ing.

To his credit, Ses­sions told the com­mit­tee that any de­ci­sion about an­other spe­cial coun­sel would be based on Jus­tice De­part­ment reg­u­la­tions and “the facts.” Af­ter Rep. Jim Jor­dan (R-Ohio) sug­gested that it “looks like” a spe­cial coun­sel is jus­ti­fied, Ses­sions replied: “I would say ‘looks like’ is not enough ba­sis to ap­point a spe­cial coun­sel.”

But Ses­sions sent a mixed mes­sage on an equally im­por­tant ques­tion: whether he would be in­volved in the de­ci­sion about whether to ap­point a spe­cial coun­sel and, if so, who it should be. Clearly he shouldn’t be.

At his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings, Ses­sions promised the Se­nate that, be­cause of his role in the Trump cam­paign, he would re­cuse him­self from mat­ters re­lated to Clin­ton or the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion. But on Tues­day he tes­ti­fied that “I have di­rected se­nior fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors” to de­ter­mine if al­le­ga­tions re­lated to Clin­ton jus­tify fur­ther ac­tion by the de­part­ment.

More­over, Ses­sions de­clined to say whether he would re­cuse him­self from cases that might arise from fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Ses­sions needs to prom­ise to re­cuse him­self from the is­sues Repub­li­cans are cit­ing in ag­i­tat­ing for a spe­cial coun­sel (in­clud­ing the orig­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Clin­ton’s emails) as well as the de­ci­sion about whether to ap­point such an of­fi­cial.

From the be­gin­ning, Trump’s “lock her up” at­ti­tude to­ward Clin­ton has been cyn­i­cal and ir­re­spon­si­ble, rem­i­nis­cent of the way lead­ers in au­thor­i­tar­ian so­ci­eties treat their po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents. The Jus­tice De­part­ment must not act in a way that sug­gests it is do­ing his bid­ding.

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