by Alex Seitz-Wald and Benjy Sarlin
If Donald Trump leaves the Republican Party divided after the election, a Hillary Clinton victory could bring the party back together, as the party prepares a flood of potential congressional investigations against Clinton, who is poised to be the first woman president.
The daily drip of hacked emails from Wikileaks, the exposure of Clinton’s email server and pay-for-play allegations about the Clinton Foundation may not cost her a victory in the current contest, which has largely become a referendum on Trump’s fitness for office. But the allegations won’t magically disappear after Nov. 8 either, and Republicans are determined to cut short any potential honeymoon period.
In the last few weeks alone, dozens of House Republicans have demanded that a special prosecutor investigate the Clinton Foundation for possible conflicts of interest. Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz has called for a “serious criminal investigation” into a Democratic operative featured in a sting video by conservative activist James O’Keefe. And Speaker Paul Ryan has promised “aggressive oversight work in the House” of an alleged “quid pro quo” deal between the FBI and the State Department over reclassifying an email on Clinton’s private server.
Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who would likely serve as the chief antagonist of a second Clinton White House as chair the House Oversight Committee, told Fox News last week the “quid pro quo” claim alone was worth at least “four new hearings,” claiming it was a “flashing red light of potential criminality.”
Both the FBI and State Department say no quid pro quo took place, and that the incident was a misunderstanding. But the episode is one of many that conservative commentators, watchdog groups and lawmakers will almost certainly return to well after election day.
“You’re going to still have a clamor for a serious criminal investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s conduct with respect to her emails and the [Clinton] Foundation,” Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, which has spearheaded legal efforts against Bill and Hillary Clinton for years, told NBC News. “There’s been no systematic investigation of various issues.”
Trump has spent months telling the party’s base the election is rigged. As a result, Republicans in oversight roles will face tremendous pressure to expose Clinton’s perceived corruption if she prevails on November 8.
At least one Hillary Clinton antagonist has floated the idea she may be impeached as president.
“I know this generation of Republican leaders is loath to exercise these tools, but impeachment is something that’s relevant,” said Fitton, who has criticized GOP lawmakers for failing to pre-emptively impeach Clinton. “They see [the oversight process] as an opportunity in some measure to keep their opponents off-kilter, but they don’t want to do the substantive and principled work to truly hold corrupt politicians, or the administration, or anyone accountable.”
A Republican House impeached Hillary Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton, in 1998 for lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
Politically, there are strong incentives for Republicans to dig into Clinton, both to slow Democrats’ agenda and to keep the warring factions of the GOP together while they work through tougher disagreements on policy, tone and tactics.
“I do think being a check on Clinton is an important objective to unite the party and get control of Congress back in 2018,” said Republican strategist Tim Miller, a leading critic of Trump who also previously helped direct opposition research against the Democratic nominee.
GOP oversight efforts have ramped up during the campaign as Trump’s poll numbers fell. Since July alone, when FBI Director James Comey announced he had recommended against prosecuting Clinton for having classified material on her email server, Republicans have issued 17 subpoenas and 54 letters of inquiry probing Clinton, according to House Democrats.
Ian Prior, of the conservative super PAC American Crossroads, said scandal has followed Clinton “like a shadow” throughout her career. “If Hillary is elected president, her willingness to bend the rules to satisfy her own ambitions make it a virtual certainty that the abuse of power and endless drama that are part of the Clinton baggage will continue,” he said.
The weaponization of the oversight process has become a predictable part of the political landscape, and has thus lost some of its punch. But constant probes, even when they amount to little, can have a corrosive effect on any White House, as Clinton herself knows all too well.
“The purpose of the investigations was to discredit the president and the administration and slow down its momentum. It didn’t matter what the investigations were about; it only mattered that there were investigations,” Clinton wrote in “Living History,” her memoir about her time as first lady. “[O]ur lives and the work of the President were disrupted over and over again.”
Even President Obama, who has faced virtually no major scandal during two terms in the White House, has been bogged down at time by Congressional investigations.
More dangerous still, probes into any issue can stumble across explosive finds. The Whitewater investigation led to the exposure of President Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky, while the House Oversight Committee on Benghazi helped uncover Clinton’s email server.
Clinton’s campaign is already girding for a potential fight with Chaffetz and his colleagues, drawing battle lines that will likely harden very quickly if Clinton takes office.
“This is exactly what Americans hate about Washington. Before the election has even taken place, Jason Chaffetz is already planning to further abuse his office and waste more taxpayer dollars on political witch hunts against the potential President-elect,” said Clinton campaign spokesperson Brian Fallon. “Hillary Clinton is running against this exact type of partisan gridlock. And if she wins, she intends to reach out to try to get things done, even if Congressman Chaffetz intends to ignore the public’s clear desire for the two parties to work together.”
Clinton’s first line of defense may be Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on both the Oversight Committee and Benghazi Committee, who has been running interference since 2011 against what he sees as the GOP majority’s trumped-up attacks.
“For the past six years, they have squandered millions and millions of taxpayer dollars on partisan attacks that do absolutely nothing to improve the lives of our constituents, and now they already seem to be plotting to continue this pattern if Secretary Clinton wins the election,” said Cummings.
David Brock, a former right-wing Clinton antagonist-turned-Clinton defender, is expected to continue to play a major role outside government defending her.
Nearly a trillion dollars embezzled by Silicon Valley and the White House in the Solyndra and Cleantech scandals and not a single arrest
Today, mainstream publications have become willing accomplices in suppressing the same type of information they worked so tenaciously to expose all those years ago.
It has now been more than four decades since the Washington Post and New York Times led the charge to bring down Richard Nixon and his administration’s massive web of corruption and political subterfuge schemes. They did so by aggressively and tirelessly seeking out the truth, and reporting back to the American people clearly and comprehensively.
Today, both publications have become willing accomplices in suppressing the same type of information they worked so tenaciously to expose all those years ago. By openly and unapologetically acting as institutional surrogates for the Clinton campaign, these same institutions, and nearly every other mainstream media outlet in America, have gone hands-off in exposing what may very well turn out to be the most explosive and damaging corruption scandal in American politics since “Tricky Dick” was reelected back in ’72.
Not by coincidence, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have stepped in to fill the void. And boy, are the “truth seekers” mad about that!
My, How Times Have Changed
On June 17, 1972, five men were arrested for breaking and entering the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, both reporters for the Washington Post at the time, unflinchingly pursued the complete truth behind the break-in. Little did they know that summer how vast was the network of lies and corruption their investigation would eventually uncover.
The editors at the Post initially put the story on the back burner, while the Nixon administration deftly stonewalled the reporters’ probes. By September, though, the Post and New York Times were fully on board with the investigation, and the administration had gone into full cover-up mode. Even though the FBI had confirmed that the administration had conducted a political sabotage conspiracy, it was not enough to keep Nixon from being reelected in a landslide in November. But the die was cast. The American press made it clear this story would not end until all the facts were in and Nixon and his henchmen were fully exposed.
Fast-forward to 2016. We are now two weeks away from the general election, and once again a potentially devastating story appears to be developing, related to a web of corruption and deceit that could eventually rival the Watergate scandal. Just like 1972, the Post and the Times are fully engaged. Except this time, the “two lions of journalism” have little interest in covering the avalanche of revelations pouring forth against the Clinton campaign. Instead, both publications are working around the clock to bring the Democratic nominee to power. That’s not all. Nearly every other mainstream media outlet in the country has jumped on the bandwagon.
p class=”western” style=”line-height:120%;orphans:2;widows:2;” align=”left”>It would be incorrect to think that until now the mainstream media has been a relatively objective source for news. This has been going on for a long time. Few could argue that back in the ’70s, editors Ben Bradlee at the Post and Abe Rosenthal at the Times were not absolutely salivating at the chance to bring Nixon down. But they achieved this objective in relentless pursuit of the facts, not the willing suppression of the same.