The Other Shoe

Donald Trump continues to advertise his itch to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, presumably in hopes of short-circuiting Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian probe. There is another reason replacing Sessions is a bad idea.  The practices of the Clinton Family Foundation during the period Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State remain under investigation by the FBI.

The existence of the Clinton probe was established a week before the 2016 election by reporter Devlin Barrett in The Wall Street Journal. A few months later, Barrett left the WSJ for The Washington Post. Earlier this year, Barrett and Matt Zapatosky reported that the investigation had continued after the election.

Confidence in the attorney general’s decision-making is thus doubly important. Sessions has shown himself to be sturdily perpendicular with respect to the Russia investigation; there is reason to expect his judgement will be level with respect to the Clinton matter as well.

Meanwhile, sniping at the FBI has continued, from Congress and in the conservative press. The feud within the Bureau apparently continues as well. Last week the Post’s Zapatosky reported that federal prosecutors had been using a grand jury to investigate charges that former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe had lied when he denied authorizing the disclosure of the Clinton investigation in the first place, placing his own interests above those of the Justice Department, at least according to Michael Horowitz, the DOJ’s Inspector General.

If the provenance of the FBI’s Russia investigation was somewhat tainted – Hillary Clinton’s campaign paid for the so-called Steele dossier, which helped prompt the investigation of Russian influence on the Trump campaign – the predicate of the Clinton Foundation investigation was apparently equally suspect. Agents in four FBI field offices had read copies of Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, by Peter Schweitzer, president of a foundation created by Breitbart editor Steve Bannon, and financed by the right-wing Mercer Family Foundation.

It has been clear since the 2016 election that the political legacy of Bill and Hillary Clinton is due for a full-scale reappraisal, as background to the 2020 campaign and beyond. Too few experts are working on the narrative of their foreign policies, chiefly NATO expansion and various humanitarian interventions; fewer still on the successes of their domestic policies; and fewest of all, I suspect, on the sources of the virulent opposition they faced, and their reaction to it. The Clinton Foundation seemed like a bad idea since the beginning. Whatever it concludes, the FBI investigation won’t make it any easier to begin to locate the Clintons in American history. That process will take decades.

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