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The Rot in American Law and Justice

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

The awful paralysis of four armed deputies, who sheltered outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School while inside, an unchallenged lunatic murdered children, should dwell in the national mind. Whether it resulted from shared cowardice, bad orders, or poor training at the Department, Sheriff Scott Israel must account to his community and the report should inform the nation.

The atrocity in Parkland is the most recent and tragic of high profile failures in American law and justice. But it is not the most representative or troubling sign of rot in once-trusted institutions. Recent events have revealed a long train of flawed officials with personal and political motives, engaging in conduct severed from Constitutional oaths, from ideals of service, and even from basic lawfulness and decency.

The roster of infamy reaches to the top of government. But, its particulars haven’t entered America’s general consciousness because we’ve lacked a shared belief that scandalous acts are in fact scandalous. Political scandal depends on an aggressive, tenacious media pursuing, uncovering, and reporting misconduct, and loudly seeking accountability. That kind of reportage engages the public and spurs demands for response. 

Such a media went malignantly missing for nearly a decade and is still AWOL if the derelict are Democrats. As a result, a number of acts and events are dimly in public awareness, but cause no grasp or revulsion at the decay they reveal. 

Recall the infamous Phoenix tarmac meeting between Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the nation’s top law enforcer, in charge of investigating Hillary Clinton for alleged national security crimes. There is no innocent explanation for that huddle. There is no non-corrupt explanation. Dirt was done but we’ll probably never know what. 

A local reporter coincidentally discovered the rendezvous and the national media grudgingly relayed, but without any determined pursuit of the obvious, damning implications. The press managed to cap the outbreak at DEFCON Embarrassing. Lynch quickly announced she’d unlawfully punt her charging authority to FBI Director James Comey.

Comey was already playing charades with the stillborn investigation of Hillary’s lax server and vanishing emails. President Obama himself had used a pseudonym to share secrets with Clinton on the same setup. There was never a chance he would stand by for justice to run its course. Comey gamed the famously futile probe, eschewing conventional tools like subpoenas and grand juries, handing out immunity like candy, tying investigators’ hands, and drafting his she-gets-out-of-jail-free speech before the team had even talked to the target.

While Comey was the public face of the farce, the office boss was Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. McCabe took charge of Clinton’s fate under the curious circumstance that a few months prior, Clinton money man Terry McAuliffe had given McCabe’s wife Jill $700,000 to run for a Virginia state senate seat. The stench of that conflict is so sulphurous it would humble the geysers in Yellowstone, but it eluded the bloodhounds of America’s canine press. 

McCabe supervised from behind a desk while the agent on the ground was the exceptional Peter Strzok, who reportedly is a skilled counter-intelligence agent and admittedly a vehement Trump hater. He and his FBI attorney pal Lisa Page exchanged some 50,000 texts (which the Bureau absurdly claimed were lost until the Inspector General reported they were found). Contrary to the mitigating spin, the messages did not merely express political preference. They evinced intense loathing for Donald Trump and burning desire for Hillary Clinton to win. This should not be the man deciding who to press or how hard to chase.  But, he is the man McCabe chose and he was only too happy to work with the velvet gloves imposed from above. 

That is, he was until he took off his pussycat hat and exchanged it for brass knuckles to chase Trump in the Russia collusion investigation. 

The collusion narrative was spawned under disputed parentage, but we have recently learned more about the extraordinary role played by another compromised power couple, Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie, a former Russia specialist at the State Department. In twists too sordid and contrived for a credible spy novel, the Hillary! campaign used intermediaries to hire the political intrigue shop Fusion GPS for opposition research on Trump. 

Fusion hired Nellie for undefined assistance in its research. Fusion also hired former British spy Christopher Steele who reportedly relied on Russian sources to produce the salacious dossier.  Nellie passed information onto Bruce, who conveniently ran it up the flagpole at FBI, which conveniently tossed it at the wall in the FISA court, after repeated tries, securing one or more warrants to spy on Trump associates. Ohr did not disclose to officials at Justice that his wife was paid by Fusion. FBI did not disclose to the FISA court that the dossier originated with the Hillary campaign, or that FBI subsequently fired Steel for pimping the story to the media. It’s a slick loop, with Hillary! paying both for Steele’s collecting and for the Ohrs’ info relays. 

President Trump lost patience with Comey’s double act of assuring the president he was not a target, but hinting in public that Trump sat fat in the middle of a bull’s eye. Trump fired Comey, who shrewdly leaked government documents (his own self-serving memos) to pressure for the appointment of a special counsel.

Enter Comey pal and consummate FBI insider, former Director Robert Mueller. Mueller assembled a merry band of conspicuously partisan crusaders, including Strzok, and set out in pursuit. Things went very differently for the targets of Team Mueller then they had for the Clinton camp. Paul Manafort, who was fully cooperating with authorities, was awakened with his wife in a pre-dawn no-knock raid, agents bursting in with guns drawn. Nasty, unnecessary tactics from the guy the media praises as a no-nonsense Eagle Scout. National Security advisor Michael Flynn was squeezed until he copped a plea to lying to the FBI about post-election transition contacts that were perfectly legal. Without explanation, before Flynn’s sentencing, the judge in the case was removed.

The new judge has shown considerable skepticism toward the government’s case against Flynn, delaying sentencing for six months and ordering Mueller to turn over all exculpatory and mitigating evidence in his possession. Since ethical rules already require prosecutors to do that, the new order might be a sign of specific wariness.

Every step in the sequence of events looks suspect, from Clinton/Lynch, to Comey’s phony probe, to McCabe’s richly supported wife, to Strzok’s animus, to the Ohrs’ Fusion money connection to Mueller deciding investigators should be snarling pit bulls, after all. 

The double standards and suspect dealing cannot be ignored But, maybe they can be compartmentalized into a box labeled “partisan combat.” Maybe administrations will play dirty, but the pros in the field still uphold the highest traditions of American justice. It would be comforting to believe, but that takes us back to the massacre in Florida. It was reported shortly after the atrocity that the FBI had received specific warnings about the danger the killer posed and disturbing, concrete signals he was sending. The FBI failed to follow up or intervene. 

It was reported also that local law enforcement and social services had had innumerable contacts with and about the killer, and failed to make meaningful response. And on that awful day, four armed deputies crouched outside doing nothing while blood flowed in the halls. It forces us to ask, and should force the media to explore, does anything in the system, from top to bottom, still work like it should?  

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