Political Investigations and Their Purpose
When Vladimir Putin seeks to eliminate a political rival, he has them assassinated. China’s President Xi has his dissidents tossed into hard labor prison camps. North Korea’s Kim Jung-un has been known to have those he disagrees with literally blown apart, sometimes using artillery.
That’s not the American way, however. When an outspoken group or individual runs afoul of leadership in the United States, insiders use the machinery of the federal government, and abuse taxpayer-funded agencies and departments, to engage in financial and legal harassment to fight them.
There is a great deal of frustration with the fact that outsiders have challenged Washington’s political hierarchy. The opposition of the Tea Party was met with stiff resistance by the Obama Administration, which violated numerous legal and ethical standards when it employed the Internal Revenue Service to prevent those involved from fully organizing. The American Center for Law and Justice notes that:
“As a tidal wave of grassroots activism began to roar throughout the country, the Obama Administration attempted to quell this activism by everyday Americans by beginning to develop an unconstitutional and illegal system of targeting and abuse. The Administration’s IRS began pulling some tax-exempt applications out of the normal screening process for additional scrutiny (including the issuance of onerous demand letters for additional information) of organizations seeking tax-exemption whose names included the terms ‘Tea Party,’ ‘Patriots,’ ‘9/12,’ or other conservative-sounding names, such as ‘We the People’ or ‘Take Back the Country.”
There are significant examples of attempted federal intimidation outside of the Internal Revenue Service. Harassment of centrists and conservative think tanks were a significant strategy of the Obama administration. Attorney General Loretta Lynch “referred to the FBI” the proposal to criminalize any disagreement with Obama’s environmental policies.
Jonathon Hauenschild, writing in The Hill reported that during the Obama Administration,
“Efforts to curtail online political speech were not limited to one federal commission or agency. Rules proposed by The [Federal Communications Commission] FCC, Federal Election Commission, [FEC] and considered by the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) all threatened online political speech. In the Open Internet Order of 2015, the FCC proposed something called the ‘general conduct standard’ or the ‘Internet conduct standard.’ The former chair of the FEC repeatedly called for federal regulation of online political speech and nearly persuaded the FEC to sanction Fox News for merely sponsoring a primary presidential debate.”
Tom Basile, in a 2014 Forbes article reported:
“…government has grown so large, so complex, so involved in virtually every aspect of their lives, that it is now being used as a weapon by a small segment of the ruling political class. The weaponization of government is happening and it’s time Americans took notice…Those tactics reduce every Americans’ personal and economic freedom. There is a dangerous arrogance of power among …President Obama and senior-level Democrats that should concern every American.”
Sara Carter, in a Circa expose, found that during the Obama Administration,
“The National Security Agency…routinely violated American privacy protections…and failed to disclose the extent of the problems until the final days before Donald Trump was elected president last fall, according to once top-secret documents that chronicle some of the most serious constitutional abuses to date by the U.S. intelligence community. More than 5 percent, or one out of every 20 searches seeking upstream Internet data on Americans inside the NSA’s so-called Section 702 database violated the safeguards Obama and his intelligence chiefs vowed to follow in 2011, according to one classified internal…”
This surveillance had little to do with national security and everything to do with spying on political opponents.
The current use of a special counsel, Robert Mueller, who has now empaneled a grand jury, to investigate the Trump campaign—despite a distinct lack of any evidence of a crime being committed, or, indeed, even a discussion of what federal law or regulation may have been broken, fits neatly into this pattern. It is a clear continuation of the harassment by political insiders of those, like the Tea Party, who seek to challenge the monopoly of political professionals.
The Democrats were quite successful in abusing and violating their own internal party procedures to prevent an outsider, Bernie Sanders, from gaining their 2016 presidential nomination, an act which has not received the judicial scrutiny it deserves. The GOP leadership held a more open process, allowing outsider Trump to win. His campaign capitalized on the growing unease of the American electorate that the political game was increasingly rigged and Constitutional rights were being trampled, to insure the election of insiders.
Without the support of GOP insiders, and facing the anguish of a Democrat Party that has virtually been driven from power on the federal and most state levels, Trump is exceedingly vulnerable. The goal of the political insiders—to hobble his administration—is achieved not by the potential results of the Mueller inquisition, but by the very fact that it exists, and that it hampers the agenda he campaigned on.
There is another non-legal reason for the hysteria and hyperbole surrounding the as-yet unsubstantiated allegations about the Trump Campaign. There can be little doubt that numerous Constitutional violations occurred during the Obama Administration. There are also serious legal questions about Hillary Clinton’s obvious violation of the law and endangerment of American national security in her personal profit from the sale of uranium to the Russians, as well as her felonious mismanagement of classified emails. But Obama and Clinton are ultimate insiders—they don’t get investigated or punished for their misdeeds. The Mueller investigation effectively distracts the public from those offenses, and gives the media an excuse to ignore them.
After all, during the past eight years, we have learned that political investigations are aimed at outsiders who have the temerity to challenge the insiders.
Originally published on the New York Analysis of Policy and Government.