Monday, April 20, 2015

Contempt of Congress? These Days, It’s No Big Thing

In a sane world, destroying subpoenaed evidence would end a politician’s career
notes Benny Huang.
What Hillary Clinton did was a crime yet she won’t pay any legal penalty any everyone knows it. She’ll play it off, deriding it as a FOX News story that only the nutroots still talk about. “Email server” will probably become a sexist code word, much the same way that “Obamacare,” “golf,” and “apartment” have become racist code words during the Obama years. Hillary will intimidate those few reporters who have the nerve to ask her about it and she will then waltz effortlessly to the Democratic nomination, if not the White House.
There was a time when flipping Congress the bird was considered something of a serious transgression, but no longer. Hillary Clinton is the third Obama administration official or former official to blow off congressional investigators and the third to escape legal punishment. The first two were Attorney General Eric Holder and IRS official Lois Lerner. In both cases, the accused party was charged but the Justice Department refused to prosecute.

Attorney General Eric Holder was charged with contempt of Congress in 2012 when he refused to furnish the House Oversight Committee with tens of thousands of pages concerning the Fast and Furious gunwalking scandal. Operation Fast and Furious was an ill-conceived initiative involving the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that deliberately allowed straw purchasers to buy more than 2,000 guns and transport them across the Mexican border to drug cartels. One of those guns was used to murder a US Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry. The total number of Mexican victims is more difficult to calculate but can probably be counted in the hundreds.

Holder doesn’t think he should be required to provide any additional Fast and Furious documents because he’s already provided thousands of pages. The fact that he’s withholding tens of thousands of pages isn’t supposed to matter. He willingly gave up the ones he wanted Congress to see, so what difference does it make if he’s still clinging to the incriminating ones? At one point, his Justice Department even offered to furnish a “fair compilation” of the outstanding documents if congressional Republicans agreed, in advance, to end their investigation.


 … Lois Lerner has about the same amount of respect for Congress as Holder, which is to say none at all. When she was at the IRS, her office deliberately targeted conservative organizations for special scrutiny, often failing to grant their status after years of examination while similar liberal groups were rubber-stamped. Groups that contained the words or phrases “Tea Party,” “patriot,” or “9/12” were singled out, as were groups that were critical of government policy. Groups were asked if any of their leaders had intentions of seeking public office in the future, even what they prayed about.

The whole operation had the appearance of either an intelligence gathering operation, a fishing expedition to find any excuse to deny the tax-exempt status, or an attempt to keep opposition groups tied up with onerous paperwork. A combination of all three is certainly not outside the realm of possibility.

 … Last week we learned that Eric Holder is exercising his “discretion” in the Lerner case. He has decided that her unqualified declaration of innocence does not preclude her pleading fifth amendment. She can have her cake and eat it too.

So Hillary Clinton is in good company. She won’t go to jail; she won’t even be forced out to pasture, as disgraced old politicians used to be when caught violating the law and their oaths of office. She’s a new breed of politician, characterized by her shamelessness, just as we are a new kind of voting electorate, ready to elect her the next president. Congress is a joke and defying its subpoenas carries no penalty.