The Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee used a company of lawyers as a cut-out to hire researchers versed in “the political dark arts” to dig up dirt on Donald Trump. Well, duh. It happens all the time. Democrats do it, Republicans do it, probably political fleas do it. Even the Republicans who are making hay of Democratic embarrassment at getting caught doing it know that such behavior, unseemly as it may be to most spectators, is nevertheless politics as usual.
But what is definitely unusual is how Hillary and the Democrats got caught at it after months of posing as virginal innocents trying to make a case that Donald Trump was the great colluder with the Russians. Now it’s Hillary Clinton and the Democrats who may be the great colluders with Russians. Most embarrassing of all is that the information disclosed in the so-called dossier produced by Christopher Steele — described as a former British intelligence operative with ties to the FBI and CIA — was largely responsible for persuading Democrats to climb aboard their high horses to demand the appointment of a special counsel to investigate whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to swing the election in their favor.
There’s persuasive evidence now that the Clinton campaign, with help from the fading Obama administration, drew the United States national security apparatus into the political arena where, we have been told time and again, it does not belong. Hillary Clinton herself pronounced this as holy writ again and again when she worked on the staff of the House committee preparing the impeachment charges against President Richard Nixon for high crimes and misdemeanors in the scandal called Watergate. Mr. Nixon resigned with the promise of a pardon before charges were filed.
But the most embarrassing of all is that the fairness and objectivity — the very integrity — of Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor investigating allegations against President Trump, has been called seriously in question. Can he now lead an investigation into the conduct of the FBI, an agency which he and his principal witness, James Comey, both directed?
What did the FBI do with the Steele dossier once they were made aware of it? What did the Clinton campaign and the DNC do with the information once it was relayed back to them through the attorney they used to pull it all together? To reprise a famous question from the Watergate era, what did Hillary and the Democrats know and when did they know it?
Investigators trying to find out must surmount the obstacle of the attorney-client privilege, one of the most sacred canons of American jurisprudence. There is a direct way around it, but only if the Clinton campaign — or what remains of it — and the Democratic National Committee agree to waive that privilege. Only political pressure can accomplish that. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, could make a lasting reputation as an independent Democrat and stickler for justice, no matter where the search for it goes, by applying that pressure. Once privilege is waived, communications involving the law firm Perkins Coie of Seattle, whose Washington office is led by Robert Bauer, once President Obama’s lawyer, and the full range of Democratic campaign organizations, would be reviewable by investigators.
There is one other way to get to the bottom of things, but only an unpredictable president with little to lose would think of attempting it. At his direction, the attorney general could appoint another special counsel, this one to investigate Robert Mueller’s investigation. Competing investigations would be wild, unprecedented and so bold, so audacious, that only a president like Donald Trump would even think of it. But watching all that fur fly would be entertaining, and we live in entertaining times.
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