Attorney General Jeff Sessions is weighing whether to name a special counsel to investigate any links between Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, the Clinton Foundation, Vladimir Putin and the Uranium One deal. That convoluted deal resulted in Russia's Rusatom owning 100 percent of Uranium One, a company that Bill Clinton helped set up to mine uranium in Kazakhstan.
This story has been in the news for several years, and in fact was buried by most of the media and left alone by the Obama DOJ. Now President Trump has tweeted that he wants the DOJ to open an investigation. From that's there's been pushback about "longstanding political norms" of a president refraining from going after his predecessors. And true to form, Trump is taking the public lead on making public statements and credit for this.
That's Trump. He's all about himself. But that doesn't mean the president is setting some awful precedent "weaponizing" the DOJ as former Hillary Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said.
On this, as sometimes happens, Erick Erickson and I disagree.
It's not Trump who requested the DOJ investigate Uranium One. It is the House Judiciary Committee. And that request came in July, and was followed up at the end of September with another request. Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte has done yeoman's work in this investigation, turning up FBI records and lining them up with other timelines. The results are troubling.
It should be investigated. I think the problem people are having with this isn't that it should be investigated or that a special counsel should be appointed , but that Trump is acting like the peanut gallery and the instigator of the whole affair.
Investigating previous administrations is a two-edged sword: it cuts both ways. If we don't investigate, that's simply giving a pass to any administration to be corrupt and cover it up, with no accountability in the future when the corruption is discovered. Like a Roman "Dictator," all actions during the term of office are automatically forgiven upon the end of the term, and cannot be questioned during the term.
If we do investigate, we open ourselves up to every possible source of corruption--after the fact--being examined after a new president and administration occupies the office. This means that actions which were defensible when they occurred could be made to look like they were self-dealing or corrupt later.
I think, in this case, the risk of not investigating outweighs the risk of investigating. I think the biggest problem people are having here is that Donald Trump won't shut up and won't stop tweeting as if he personally is ordering this. Or maybe he's using it to goad Jeff Sessions into quitting. What he's not doing, I believe, is attempting to lead an investigation that he should have no direct role in. I believe the DOJ retains enough independence to keep the president out of it.
But a more self-aware president, like Barack Obama, would have quietly signaled his intentions, without causing a stir. A president with better media relations, like Obama, would have covered up the story and had the press report talking points and customized leaks. If investigating a previous administration could result in a future, unfriendly administration doing the same thing, then what will stop a future administration from doing more Uranium One deals in the future, if we don't investigate?
I think we need a special counsel on Uranium One. I think Trump's self-aggrandizing on it isn't helping his cause (as it never does).
If there's something there on the Clinton-Uranium One deal, we should find out what's there. Then, if Trump wants to be the merciful, beneficent ruler, he can pardon Hillary. That would be a better precedent than letting bygones be bygones, even when they're corrupt.