When Barack Obama did what President Trump is accused of, trying to influence a Justice Department investigation, there were no calls to impeach him or to prosecute him for obstruction. At least not among “mainstream” analysts.
The reasons, in short, are that Obama is favored by the mainstream media and that he didn’t have a special counsel looking into everything from whether he “colluded” with the Russians to whether he puts out the recycling bin on Tuesdays. But Obama did exactly what Trump did.
As you probably remember, last week Trump got in Big Trouble for calling on Attorney General Session to shut down Special Counsel Mueller’s Russia collusion probe, which seems focused on everything except Russia collusion.
..This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further. Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 1, 2018
But Obama repeatedly sought to minimize Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while the Justice Department was investigating it, saying it was just a “mistake” and did not jeopardize national security. Of course, he was more subtle about it than Trump, because he is more subtle than Trump. But it is clear Obama was commenting favorably and minimizing the potential crime of the subject of an ongoing investigation, Hillary Clinton.
According to the FBI inspector general’s report issued in June, this was deeply problematic for investigators. From excerpts assembled by National Review:
Former President Obama’s comments caused concern among FBI officials about the potential impact on the investigation. Former EAD John Giacalone told the OIG, “We open up criminal investigations. And you have the President of the United States saying this is just a mistake. . . . That’s a problem, right?” Former AD Randy Coleman expressed the same concern, stating, “[The FBI had] a group of guys in here, professionals, that are conducting an investigation. And the . . . President of the United States just came out and said there’s no there there.” Michael Steinbach, the former EAD for the National Security Branch, told the OIG that the comments generated “controversy” within the FBI. Steinbach stated, “You’re prejudging the results of an investigation before they really even have been started. . . .That’s . . . hugely problematic for us.” Department prosecutors also were concerned. Prosecutor 4 told the OIG that Obama’s statement was the genesis of the FBI’s suspicions that the Department’s leadership was politically biased. This prosecutor stated, “I know that the FBI considered those [statements] inappropriate. And that it . . . [generated] a suspicion that there was a political bias . . . going on from the Executive Branch.”
Attorney general Loretta Lynch didn’t like it either.
She told the OIG that she did not think the President should have made the comment on 60 Minutes. She stated, “I don’t know where it came from. And I don’t know, I don’t know why he would have thought that either, to be honest with you. Because, to me, anyone looking at this case would have seen a national security component to it. So I don’t, I truly do not know where he got that from.”
And don’t think that Obama was necessarily just protecting Hillary out of the goodness of his heart. By communicating with her on an unsecured email system, which he did, he too may have engaged in misconduct.
In fact, this is in some ways worse than what Trump did. Obama is trying to influence a probe that is going on within his own Justice Department. That’s a lot easier to do than to have an effect on an investigation being conducted by a special counsel, who has a much greater degree of independence.
What’s more, Sessions can’t even shut down the probe. He’s recused himself. I’ve heard some suggest Trump is uninformed or mistaken because the person he should be targeting is Deputy Attorney General Rod Sessions, who actually oversees Mueller.
But maybe Trump knows exactly what he is doing. Because how do you accuse someone of trying to obstruct justice when he’s trying to “influence” the wrong person?