Enough: The DOJ Must Show Its Cards to the American Public

The country is heading for a constitutional crisis, and only clarity can resolve the two competing Russia narratives tearing us apart.

Many have raised concerns over the constitutional crisis that would ensue if President Trump tries to exercise his presidential authority, as he has threatened, to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of possible Trump-Russia political “collusion.” Those concerns are well-founded.

Other voices warn of a constitutional crisis if the Justice Department and the FBI continue to stonewall congressional committees exercising their oversight function in seeking information on the origins of that investigation. Again, the expressed concerns are entirely apt.

But the fact is that the country is already in a constitutional crisis, spawned by the Russia investigation and all of its surrounding swirls and eddies. It is a crisis of two narratives. One is the narrative of possible collusion and what is perceived as the legitimate investigation that ensued after evidence of that collusion reached the FBI. The other is a narrative of out-of-control law enforcement officials who sought to drum up what is seen as a phony investigation to thwart Trump’s campaign and then to undermine his presidency.

The battle between the political and journalistic adherents of these two narratives is so intense, bitter, and brutal that a fundamental reality of the controversy has been missed—whichever narrative proves to be the more accurate, the American political system has been polluted in ways that can’t help but erode citizen confidence in it. Here we have official Washington and nearly all of its figures, high and low, divided into two factions that define themselves by their allegations of bad action and evil intent on the part of the other faction.

In other words, we seem to have moved into a new era in which our political system is subject to insidious manipulation of a magnitude never before seen or suspected. We just don’t know yet which faction is the more culpable. For ordinary Americans, it’s a case of “pick your poison,” not a very palatable choice.

The two fundamental challenges facing any polity based on the consent of the governed are the succession challenge and the legitimacy challenge. The two are intertwined. Regular and peaceful power transfers, based on elections, have given Americans a strong sense of stability and a sturdy faith in their system. That’s translated into a strong sense of legitimacy throughout the American experience. But now a large segment of official Washington is pushing the notion that Trump and/or his minions stole the election through an unholy alliance with a foreign power. Another large segment argues that, no, the investigation into that whole thing is a sham, begun with a stealthy resolve to undermine and perhaps destroy a duly elected president.

This isn’t a debate about what level of immigration we should allow or what should be federal policy on late-term abortions or even whether we should go to war in Syria. It’s about who’s trying to subvert American democracy—and the subversion of American democracy is a given. When the ordeal finally ends, however it ends, Americans’ faith in their national succession regimen and the legitimacy of their regime will almost surely be eroded to some extent and possibly to a considerable extent.

Indeed, American politics has sunk to a level at which this isn’t really a debate at all. It is a kind of combat of political destruction—akin, one might note ominously, to what emerged in the Roman Republic as it entered its long crisis of the regime that eventually snuffed it out. The end game here isn’t focused on winning a congressional debate by mustering a majority of votes in Congress. It’s about putting people in jail. But how do we ever reclaim the national ethos of old if the two factions can’t even talk to one another and refuse to consider any arguments that don’t bolster their particular narratives? And when the stakes are defined in terms of prison time?

Those clinging to the collusion narrative, for example, are so convinced of malefaction on the part of Trump that they refuse to see anything amiss in the FBI initiating an investigation into the presidential campaign of the opposition party—even when the impetus for the probe seems rather sketchy. It strikes them as the most natural and necessary thing in the world. And when the FBI sends an “informant” to insinuate himself into the opposition campaign to gather evidence through sly means, and perhaps to even induce wrongdoing in the process, what’s the problem with that?

Meanwhile, the anti-FBI faction refuses to take seriously any evidence—and there are plenty of disturbing signs—that gives rise to concerns about the Trump campaign’s association with Russia, including a meeting held by top campaign officials with a Russian lawyer billed as someone who could provide dirt on Hillary Clinton.

And so on cable TV we have Sean Hannity’s breathless rants countered by Rachel Maddow’s snide rants. Nobody seems interested in a neutral, dispassionate pursuit of the truth.

We have, of course, the independent counsel. Former FBI director James Comey tells us he leaked a story to the press about a conversation he had with Trump specifically to get Justice Department officials to appoint such a special prosecutor. If we embrace the collusion narrative, perhaps this was a justifiable action aimed at getting to the bottom of those allegations and suspicions.

But this probe has been going on for two years now, and we still can’t seem to get to the bottom of it. The current national ordeal has only crystallized the reality that independent counsels almost always exacerbate the crises they are appointed to resolve. The reason is that there are so few limits on how much time and money they can expend in pursuing nearly endless leads in investigations that always seem to expand inexorably in scope. The all-important principle of prosecutorial discretion goes out the window. As the American Founders understood so well, unchecked power often leads to power abuse.

Consider the case of Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who was appointed independent counsel (by James Comey, by the way) to investigate who leaked to columnist Robert Novak the fact that Valerie Plame, wife of a Bush administration antagonist, was a CIA agent. Almost immediately he discovered the identity of the leaker, but withheld action against him for nearly two years in order to set his sights on Vice President Dick Cheney. To get Cheney, he needed Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby. And to get Libby—not for the leak, as often happens, but for perjury—he withheld material information from New York Times writer Judith Miller, who subsequently, because she was operating under a false understanding, testified against Libby in ways that she wouldn’t otherwise have done. That sealed Libby’s fate. In the meantime, Fitzgerald had instructed the real leaker to maintain silence on the matter so the prosecutor could continue his expansive gotcha crusade. It was a stunning bit of malfeasance perpetrated by an independent counsel.

Whenever such open-ended investigations are directed at a president, a constitutional crisis almost always ensues. A president, whatever his culpability, has to protect his office so he can do his job, but when an independent counsel is involved any effort to do so just gets him more and more tethered in legalisms and accusations of wrongdoing. It becomes a vicious cycle. The presidential office is inevitably attenuated.

How will this thing end? It’s difficult to see an outcome even approaching that of Watergate, when Richard Nixon finally realized his options had narrowed down to one: resignation. In that context and in that time, the country generally accepted the justice of it all. Today the narratives are both too powerful and stark, and too fervently embraced by the two factions involved, for any such national acceptance of that kind of an outcome.

Without embracing either of these competing narratives, I will declare myself in one area: I decry the actions of Justice and FBI officials in withholding from Congress the information that has been subpoenaed by relevant congressional committees. That information could likely get to the heart of which narrative may have the most veracity. The country needs those answers.

Thus Trump should declassify as much of the relevant documents on the matter as possible, consistent with genuine national security considerations, strictly construed. Some have questioned what those Justice and FBI officials are trying to hide when they stonewall legitimate congressional oversight inquiries. The same could be said of Trump if he doesn’t move to get that information out to the American people.

Such a move wouldn’t resolve the crisis now besetting the nation, but it might alleviate it a bit. In these times, that may be all we can ask for.

Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington, D.C. journalist and publishing executive, is editor of The American Conservative. His latest book is President McKinley: Architect of the American Century.

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75 Responses to Enough: The DOJ Must Show Its Cards to the American Public

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  1. Tzx4 says:

    It appears to me that this is about rule of law vs rule of man.
    Mueller is uncovering law breaking.
    I seriously wonder how many Trump backers commenting here would choose to ignore any proof that Trump broke laws, if in fact it is found to be fact that he did.

  2. EliteCommInc. says:

    “Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”

    I have addressed this. That is muckraking for damaging info one one’s political opponent — that is not collusion to damage, or in any way undermine the electoral process. While it may be unseemly that both candidates engaged in this tactic.

    It did not undermine the electoral process as in treason.

  3. EliteCommInc. says:

    “Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”

    I have addressed this. That is muckraking for damaging info one one’s political opponent — that is not collusion to damage, or in any way undermine the electoral process. While it may be unseemly that both candidates engaged in this tactic.

    It did not undermine the electoral process as in treason.

  4. EliteCommInc. says:

    excuse the double post — unintentional.

  5. JeffK says:

    Here is a very interesting interactive website tracking 315 people associated with the Russia investigation.

    https://www.politico.com/interactives/2018/trump-russia-investigation-ties/

  6. Myron Hudson says:

    I’ve been following this from the start and have yet to read or hear a Mueller “narrative”. The writer does not speak for this country re his “need” for answers about two narratives; one of them is a straw man. There is one narrative, one investigation, and the usual media hyperventilation.

    Once this investigation comes halfway close to seven or eight Benghazi investigations, I’ll entertain the idea that it may be running on too long.

  7. Sooner Jim says:

    @connecticut farmer

    “In other news–whatever happened to the H. Clinton emails? Guess the news cycle came and went and that one died on the vine, eh?

    And for the umpteenth time, exactly WHAT did AG Lynch have to say to the Husband of Record inside the airplane hanger at Sky Harbor? Guess we’ll never know the answer to that one either, right?”

    If there was anything to this, aside from being a feeble effort at distraction, it would be catching fire as an investigation right? Must be that those dastardly dimmiecrats are burying all efforts to investigate becasue they’re in power right?

    Oh wait!

    I know you must cling to this with a good deal of desperation but really…….

  8. Egypt Steve says:

    @Connecticut Farmer: Possibly the Pony Express has not made it out to your spread with the news that Hillary Clinton actually lost the election and is not President.

  9. eheter says:

    “Meanwhile, the anti-FBI faction refuses to take seriously any evidence—and there are plenty of disturbing signs—that gives rise to concerns about the Trump campaign’s association with Russia, including a meeting held by top campaign officials with a Russian lawyer billed as someone who could provide dirt on Hillary Clinton.”

    And yet Mr. Integrity, Bob Mueller, has not even thought of interviewing this Russian lawyer (who was let in the country under some suspicious circumstances in the first place).

    Nor has Mueller lifted a finger to subpoena the DNC server from which emails were allegedly hacked (we just have to take the word of Crowdstrike – hired by the DNC – that the server was hacked by Russians).

    Nor has Mueller lifted a finger to question the Podesta brothers, who were joined at the hip with Paul Manafort in his decade-prior dealings with the Ukraine.

    It almost leads one to believe that Mueller is not conducting a good faith investigation … imagine that (“I can” – Steven Hatfill).

  10. Clifford Story says:

    I’d be surprised if Mueller goes public before the election. But then, I was surprised when Comey intervened in the last election. Who knows?

  11. Barry says:

    Steve Pickard: “First few knowlegable individuals think that Trump personally colluded. ”

    I’m tempted to say that ‘many people say…’, but Trump’s lawers would sue me for copyright infringement.

    Note that right now it’s clear that Trump’s sons and campaign manager were happy to meet with a Kremlin agent to get dirt from the Kremlin on Clinton, and that Trump dictated a public response to this, which was a lie, and then lied about that.

    And that’s just one of many, many times where he and every single person around him seem to lie and lie and lie…….amazing that honest, innocent people do that.

  12. Barry says:

    Robert: “Many have raised concerns over the constitutional crisis that would ensue if President Trump tries to exercise his presidential authority, as he has threatened, to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of possible Trump-Russia political “collusion.” Those concerns are well-founded.”

    Robert, my Google skills aren’t strong enough to help me to find your article on the years-long Whitewater investigation. You know, the one which ended up pulling a perjury trap (‘did you have sex with this woman?’).

  13. Barry says:

    connecticut farmer says:

    “In other news–whatever happened to the H. Clinton emails? Guess the news cycle came and went and that one died on the vine, eh?”

    Where ‘news cycle’ means ‘the press went apesh*t for months over this, and has never had a problem with anything Trump has done with shady servers’.

  14. MarkedMan says:

    Mr. Merry is posing as an odd sort of Solomon here. In the original story of his wisdom there was a duplicitous liar who had kidnapped a baby, and a mother beseeching for Justice. Solomon tried a ruse where he suggested cutting the baby in half to ferret out the liar. Mr. Merry, in contrast, seems to be seriously suggesting cutting the baby in half as the actual solution to the problem. Because, I don’t know, “Both sides do it”? “The truth is always in the middle”? “Whaddabout”?

    It is depressing just how quickly our Republicans turned Vichy, collaborating with the criminals and looters in return for being allowed to hold their offices. They have given up all responsibility and authority in exchange for simply being allowed to keep their salary and their titles.

  15. MM says:

    JeffK: “Here is a very interesting interactive website tracking 315 people associated with the Russia investigation.”

    Typical amateur hour at Politico. They neglected to mention the voluminous amounts of Russian cash that have flowed to Clinton and Podesta over the years.

    Also, no mention of President Obama’s hot-mic exchange with Medvedev before the 2012 election, and his praising of Putin after the Iran deal was negotiated.

    I’d call that sort of thing collusion, by any other name. I wonder if the Russians intervened to help him beat Romney last time?

  16. MM says:

    Youknowho: “You are free to hold on the presumption of innocence = the FBI cannot afford to. Part of its job is to think the worst of everyone.”

    Thank you, J. Edgar Hoover in a dress.

    If Trump somehow uses the intelligence community to spy on his 2020 Democratic opponent, it’s good to see he can count on your full support, or indifference, in the matter…

  17. JeffK says:

    @MM “MM says:
    June 12, 2018 at 9:48 pm

    JeffK: “Here is a very interesting interactive website tracking 315 people associated with the Russia investigation.”

    Typical amateur hour at Politico. They neglected to mention the voluminous amounts of Russian cash that have flowed to Clinton and Podesta over the years.”

    Blah, blah, blah. Typical Right Wing Nut Job demagoguery. Constantly falling back on ‘the emails’ or ‘the Foundation’.

    This exemplifies the use of the Logical Fallacy ‘Whataboutism’. Adds absolutely zero support and credibility to your position. But keep using logical fallacies if it makes you feel good. And I will keep calling it out.

    As I said before “Republican President with Republican US Attorney General with the full power of the DOJ and the FBI working for him. Have the investigation. Then have the hearings.”

    Your tribe is in charge. Have the investigation and the congressional hearings. BTW, 7 Benghazi hearings and 11 hours of testimony before Congress. How did that work out? Zero indictments and a bunch of dumb looking Republicans.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whataboutism

  18. MM says:

    MarkedMan: “It is depressing just how quickly our Republicans turned Vichy, collaborating with the criminals and looters in return for being allowed to hold their offices.”

    Uh, the other party rigged its own primary and tried to install the Clintons back in the White House.

    That was a capital mistake, nominating someone with an odious track record, and then pretending she’s as pure as the driven snow.

    Voters will always choose the crook they don’t know vs. the one they already know.

  19. Adam says:

    Mr Merry, I wonder whether you think the FBI should share their investigations and the evidence they’ve gathered in all their other ongoing investigations too?

  20. Alex says:

    And the silence from Nunes after seeing the evidence continues. The positive confirmation by other Republicans that the evidence indicates the FBI acted properly.

    How can one still cling to the Trump narrative when even his allies who have seen the evidence do not?

  21. MM says:

    JeffK: “7 Benghazi hearings and 11 hours of testimony before Congress. How did that work out?”

    Right, that was a complete waste of time. It only exposed lying about the assassination of an ambassador at the highest levels of the Executive Branch.

    And the Secretary of State compromising national security intelligence via her private server.

    Whataboutism may be a fallacy in some instances, but if you talking about the U.S. criminal code and equal application of the law, then it’s absolutely essential to point the inconsistencies and misconduct of federal law enforcement.

    We have an IG report concluding that a former deputy director of the FBI perjured himself. And we will soon have another IG report that will most likely conclude that a former director of the the FBI engaged in insubordination.

    It doesn’t matter whether they were registered GOP or not. They’re part of the careerist bureaucratic tribe, and you can continue to support it uncritically all you want, sir. It would reflect badly on your credibility, but since you don’t have any…

  22. JeffK says:

    @MM says:
    June 13, 2018 at 10:37 am

    “Uh, the other party rigged its own primary and tried to install the Clintons back in the White House.”

    Actually, the other party did not rig it’s own primary election (no matter the super delegates). From the Nate Silver article below: “According to The Green Papers, Clinton won 16.8 million votes to 13.2 million for Sanders, or about 55 percent of the vote to his 43 percent, a 12 percentage point gap”.

    It’s interesting that you allege the Democratic primary was rigged, when HRC beat Bernie by 3.6 million more votes. But the presidential election was not rigged (influenced by Russia) when greater than 3 million popular votes were cast for HRC over Trump. And only 77,000 votes spread across 3 states (MI,OH,PA) won Trump the presidency via the electoral college.

    Somehow, with the indictments delivered and guilty pleas accepted, all of this Russian collusion stuff is nonsense.

    Full disclosure, Even though I voted HRC I sent Bernie a donation and bought his t-shirt. I wear it with pride, and get many thumbs up when wearing it.

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/was-the-democratic-primary-a-close-call-or-a-landslide/

  23. MM says:

    JeffK: “Actually, the other party did not rig it’s own primary election.”

    Right, nothing rigged here:

    http://observer.com/2017/08/court-admits-dnc-and-debbie-wasserman-schulz-rigged-primaries-against-sanders/

    Keep believing everything was fair and proper, that’s fine by me. I don’t work for the DNC, but they’re counting on millions of saps to believe that in 2020.

    JeffK: “Somehow, with the indictments delivered and guilty pleas accepted, all of this Russian collusion stuff is nonsense.”

    I never claimed it was nonsense. But leaving aside the fact that collusion is not a crime and none of the indictments of former Trump officials involve the 2016 election, I’m just asking the question out loud with nobody hearing apparently:

    If meeting with Russian nationals during the campaign in order to get dirt on your opponent, but where no cash or information was exchanged, is collusion…

    How is paying foreign nationals in cash for dirt on your opponent, using Russian sources of information, indeed even having a staffer (Chalupa) on your payroll and sending her to the Ukrainian embassy to dig up dirt on your opponent, which the DNC and Clinton campaign did in spades, not collusion?

  24. MM says:

    JeffK: “But the presidential election was not rigged when greater than 3 million popular votes were cast for HRC over Trump. And only 77,000 votes spread across 3 states (MI,OH,PA) won Trump the presidency via the electoral college.”

    Your math and reasoning are way off, pal.

    Trump won in Ohio by 450,000 votes. Methinks you meant to say Wisconsin, which he narrowly won along with those other Blue States. But he also lost Minnesota, Nevada, and New Hampshire by about the same number of votes, which would’ve given him +20 electoral votes. He’d still be President if you lost those other 3 states.

    And Clinton won the popular vote by 2.9 million votes, not over 3 million. And she won that entire margin + another million votes just in California.

    I can play these electoral math games all day. Of course, the Russians did it, or the FBI is to blame, but never the candidate herself, who called 30+ million Trump voters “scum” BEFORE the election.

    That had nothing to do with it, right?

    Look, I can make a very compelling case that this whole Russian hacking business, which the Clinton campaign started pushing the night they lost the election by the way, is just an excuse to explain why a very well-funded establishment candidate whom everyone presumed in advance would win ended up losing the election.

    It’s simple, really. How did the government respond to previous hacking of various departments by foreign powers?

    They didn’t spy on anybody’s campaign or appoint a special counsel, that’s for sure. And they never claimed such hacking was an act of war on par with Pearl Harbor and 9/11.

  25. EliteCommInc. says:

    “Your math and reasoning are way off, pal.”

    it doesn’t really matter that the count is on target or off base,

    they apparently don’t understand the country’s electoral process of popular by state translated into electoral votes.

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