The third step in dismantling democracy and establishing your authoritarian government is to control your Justice Department. If that department isn’t doing what you want, interfere and make sure they comply with your wishes.
If anyone cares to remember back when Richard Nixon was impeached, the first Article of Impeachment was “Obstruction of Justice”. This was because when the break-in at the Watergate was first reported, Nixon and his administration tried to stop the investigation.
After that incident, it was decided by the Department of Justice that they would no longer allow such actions. As such they put in place rules as to whom could be contacted by any investigation agency, like the FBI, at the White House. There were four positions on that list. The President, the Vice President, The White House Counsel, and the White House Counsel Deputy.
And then, that contact could only be made if it was necessary in order to help the President do his job in matters of national security. In other words, the Justice Department was not to discuss ongoing investigations with the White House.
Even in the George W. Bush administration, violation of these rules resulted in an Attorney General and a White House Chief of Staff being forced to resign. So, even though these “rules” aren’t really laws, they are set precedent and are intended to make sure the Justice Department remains independent from White House Influence.
We have already seen instances where trump and his staff ignore rules. This is no exception. The New York Times has reported that the trump campaign staff was in “constant contact with Russian officials” throughout the campaign. Naturally, the White House has denied these allegations even though Russian Officials have said they were true.
Although we don’t know for sure, it has been reported that the FBI has three different investigations on the Russian Hacking and interfering with our election process. One of them the report of constant contact between Russia and the trump campaign.
We have an Attorney General who was part of that trump campaign staff. He refuses to recuse himself from any investigation involving trump or his campaign. That is bad enough. Anyone with any amount of ethics would quickly recuse themselves from such investigations. However, no one ever accused Jeff Sessions of having any ethics.
But, here is where it gets more interesting, and more dangerous. It has been reported by several agencies, including CNN, that “a white house official asked the FBI to tap down the Times story about the contact between Russia and Trump’s campaign”. The FBI refused.
All fingers are now pointing to Reince Priebus as the “White House official” who made that contact. According to new reporting, Priebus reached out to Deputy Director McCabe. When McCabe turned him down, he then called Director Comey who also turned him down.
But that didn’t stop Priebus. He went on Fox News on Sunday to blast the reports as “total baloney”. Then in another interview he went further. He said:
The top levels of the intelligence community have assured me that that story is not only inaccurate, but it’s grossly overstated and it was wrong. And there’s nothing to it.
In another interview he stated that he “knew what the FBI told Congress in their briefing on this subject. I spoke to the FBI. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t know the facts. And, I have been cleared to say this.”
That raises a whole lot of red flags. The Chief of Staff is not on the list of people who can be contacted about an ongoing investigation. So, how could Priebus know what the FBI told Congress? Who “cleared him to say this”?
Former Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security official Juliette Kayyem blasted Priebus’ reported actions as “so wrong” and “so desperate.” Another Justice Department alum, Matthew Miller, called the interaction “beyond inappropriate,” adding that it “veers dangerously close to tampering with an investigation.”
Avoiding the possibility of the White House “tampering with an investigation” is what these rules are all about. They are intended to keep the investigation quiet and away from political influence.
The trump campaign made a lot of hay out of the former Attorney General meeting Bill Clinton on her plane while the FBI was investigating Hillary. But, they don’t seem to think this is such a big deal. Only it is.
House Judiciary Committee ranking member John Conyers probably said it best:
The need for an independent, bipartisan investigation into these matters has never been more clear. The Trump team has clear ties to the Russian government—and we ignore those ties at our own peril.
Yet, the House Republican Leadership still remains very silent about anything to do with Russian interference in the election. That outstanding public figure whose committee’s responsibility is to use Oversight over such matters is also very quiet. Oh, he finally decided to “investigate something” but it isn’t anything to do with Russia.
He intends to investigate a tweet from a State Park in Utah welcoming the new National Parks to the family the day after President Obama made that announcement. Chaffetz thinks they had previous knowledge of the decision and wants to know how they got it. That is really critical in his job to oversee the Government.
See, this is just another step in order to dismantle our democracy. At the “tin-hat” convention known as CPAC yesterday, Steve Bannon basically said that was the goal of the administration. Only he used different words like “dismantling the administrative government”. When you also put that in context with his statements about “our culture” you understand what he means.
“Our culture” is white supremacist speak for White Culture. And, since Bannon is a favorite of the white supremacists there was no doubt what he was referring to when he used those words.
Under an administration who is willing to defend our democracy Reince Priebus would be forced to resign, today! But, since no one at the White House thinks that is necessary, we can only argue that they are not interested in defending our democracy.
If an administration can control what the investigating agencies actually investigate, then they have more control over the people and the government. They can get those agencies like the FBI to stop investigating them, and focus more on “protesters” and “leaks” and “reporters” in an effort to make their words the only ones that matter.
If the Justice Department remains independent and follows the rules that keep it independent, then our democracy stands a chance of surviving. That is because we can count on the FBI to let an investigation go wherever it leads them.
Under normal circumstances, I would think that if trump and his cronies are so sure that they are innocent of contacting Russians during the election, they would be thrilled to have the investigation go forward to prove their case. The only reason they would try to “tap down” a story if it scares them to death.
If they would keep away from the FBI in this matter and it turns out the story is not true, they would be able to move forward. However, since they insist on keeping their fingers on the scale, it would be impossible for reasonable people to believe a report that they did not contact the Russians during the campaign.
There will be doubts if Sessions or the White House influenced the investigation to have a positive outcome. Does anybody in that administration have any brains at all? Are they that devoid of the ability of rational thought?
This is simply how it works. You put in place an Attorney General with no ethics and who worked for your campaign. You then ignore all protocols and rules in order to sway the FBI to say what you want them to say. Then you deny the reports on this attempt, and when you finally say it did happen you blame the FBI as the one who “reached out”.
If it is true that Priebus knows what the FBI told Congress, then we really do have a serious problem because that means that someone in the FBI gave him a briefing on an ongoing investigation about his boss.
That would be like the FBI calling in the head of a Mafia Family to give him a briefing on an ongoing investigation into his family about their criminal activities. That would cause heads to roll and this issue should too.
The first Article of Impeachment of Richard Nixon was “Obstruction of Justice”. Rules were put in place to prevent that from happening again. This administration has shown us just what they think of rules. They don’t like them so they ignore them.
You cannot control the Justice Department if you follow rules. And, you cannot control investigations unless you control the Justice Department. That is step three in dismantling our democracy.
And, the shirts keep marching along!